January 13, 2019 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Date Palm Shadows
Date Palm Shadows

Imperial Valley of California (and a bit of Arizona)

A little change of pace for this blog entry, a little local info. The map below, from Google Earth, shows the boundaries of the Imperial Valley, from the source of it’s life giving water, the Colorado River on the far right of the map, to the final downstream end of the water flow in the Salton Sea, where all the salt laden drainage from the agricultural fields ends up.

Imperial Valley Map
Imperial Valley Map

The map below shows the detail of the Map Inset from the top map and depicts the area where I am staying, and exploring, this winter, truly just a tiny portion of the Imperial Valley.

Imperial Valley Map
Imperial Valley Map

The map below, shows detail from the Map Insert of the map above, and depicts the dam complex where the mighty Colorado River is diverted to the All -American Canal and the two other canals that distribute water to the agricultural fields of the valley.

Imperial Dam Complex Map
Imperial Dam Complex Map
All-American Canal
All-American Canal

This shot was taken just a half mile from where I am camped and shows the volume of water diverted towards the fields in California.

Ringneck Ducks on the All-American Canal
Ringneck Ducks on the All-American Canal

The canal is the only place I have found large numbers of ducks in the area. These are Ringnecks, but I have also found Mallards, Buffleheads, Northern Shovelers, and Canvasbacks.

Shades of Green
Shades of Green

Windblown spray from the irrigation system tints the greens of a field of salad greens.

Salad Makings
Salad Makings

The text below was gathered from various websites. The Bloomberg article I found quite enlightening.

Although this region is in the Colorado Desert section of the Sonoran Desert, with high temperatures and low average rainfall of 3 inches (76 mm) per year, the economy is heavily based on agriculture due to irrigation, which is supplied wholly from the Colorado River via the All-American Canal. Thousands of acres of prime farmland have transformed the desert into one of the most productive farming regions in California with an annual crop production of over $1 billion. Agriculture is the largest industry in the Imperial Valley and accounts for 48% of all employment. An environmental cost is that, south of the canal, the Colorado River no longer flows above ground at all for much of the year into Mexico.

A vast system of canals, check dams, and pipelines carry the water all over the valley, a system which forms the Imperial Irrigation District, or IID. The water distribution system includes over 1,400 miles (2,300 km) of canal and with 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of pipeline. The number of canal and pipeline branches number roughly over a hundred. Imported water and a long growing season allow two crop cycles each year, and the Imperial Valley is a major source of winter fruits and vegetables, cotton, and grain for U.S. and international markets. Alfalfa is another major crop produced in the Imperial Valley. The agricultural lands are served by a constructed agricultural drain system, which conveys surface runoff and subsurface drainage from fields to the Salton Sea, which is a designated repository for agricultural runoff, with environmental considerations not yet solved.

A very interesting story on the history of water rights and fights in the Imperial Valley from Bloomberg can be read here.

It is estimated that more than 2/3 of the vegetables consumed in the United States during the winter months are grown here in the Imperial Valley.

Imperial County produced enough lettuce (including head lettuce, leaf lettuce and salad mix) to serve dinner salads to 2,352,000,000 people!

An acre of carrots can provide 320,000 people with a nutritious side dish.  Enough carrots were grown in Imperial Valley to serve a 1/4-pound helping to 75% of the Earth’s population!

Imperial Valley has a well-known reputation for midwinter salad vegetables. Shipments of crisphead lettuce, leaf lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage start in December and continue until March. Asparagus is in-season January, February and March. Carrots are harvested January to June.

Spring production of warm-season vegetables starts in late April with the harvest of Sweet Imperial onions, sweet corn, bell pepper, chili peppers, cantaloupes, mixed melons and watermelons.

Lotta Lettuce
Lotta Lettuce

This is a shot of a field of lettuce in in the tiny Arizona section of the Imperial Valley. The scale of the leafy vegetable growing operation of the valley is hard to imagine if one has never been here to see it.

Lotta Lettuce
Lotta Lettuce
Great Egret
Great Egret
Mixed Plantings
Mixed Plantings

I don’t know the reason for this type of planting, but it does make for an interesting change of pace from the solid green fields that surround it..

Mixed Plantings
Mixed Plantings
Anise Harvest
Anise Harvest

I had no idea what this was that this crew was harvesting, but then a timely article on the front page of the Yuma Sun on Sunday had an article called “Reap the Harvest” and had an image and text describing what the crew was harvesting.

Romaine Harvest
Picking Romaine

It is almost incomprehensible, when one sees the scale of these operations and the miles of fields, that each head of lettuce, each cabbage, each broccoli or cauliflower, is harvested by hand. The vehicle behind the pickers is where the plant is washed and packaged for the grocery store shelf, then boxed for transport, a moving assembly line platform. The white school buses on the right, usually towing one or two Porta-potties, are used to transport workers about the fields.

January 7, 2019 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail

Another Week in the Desert

Not a lot to report on my desert living this week. Weather, of course, remains consistently nice, though there is change of some showers tomorrow. This week the Gambel’s Quail, in fairly large numbers, found my feeding site, sometimes as many as 18 showing up at any one time.

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

Several Anna’s Hummingbirds are frequenting the sugar water feeders I put out. After they come in, I pull the old bait and switch on them, remove the feeders and put up the ocotillo flowers that I drizzle with sugar water. They do seem to prefer the artificial feeders though. Anyhow, yesterday the bees discovered the feeders and I am going to have to take down anything with sugar water on it since they just overwhelm the hummers , plus I get a little timid approaching about 100 bees to replenish the sugar water. Hopefully a few days without anything out will encourage the bees to look elsewhere and the hummers will come back in later.

House Finches
House Finches

A few House Finches are now using the feeders, but nowhere near the number I had here last year.

House Finch
House Finch

They seem to really like the oranges I put out hoping to lure in some other more colorful birds.

Albert's Towhee
Albert’s Towhee

This ground feeding Albert’s Towhee shows up every day.

Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail
Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail
Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail
Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail
Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail
Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail
Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail
Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail

The quail are extremely wary and at this point don’t tolerate me being out there taking photos. Just the slightest movement on my part, or even just a gust of wind, sends them scurrying down the hill and into the brush.

Pair of Anna's Hummingbirds
Pair of Anna’s Hummingbirds

The Anna’s Hummingbirds come in and out all day long and it is kind of hard to figure just how many of them there are. The males don’t tolerate one another and fly off in combat when more than one appears at any given time. There are some young immature males that come in and they are a little hard to distinguish from the females unless the sun hits their throats just so, and a little color shows up.

Pair of Anna's Hummingbirds
Pair of Anna’s Hummingbirds

Male and female sometimes will share the feeders and the same goes for two females … sometimes.

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird
Female Anna's Hummingbird
Female Anna’s Hummingbird

I don’t know why more of these little guys don’t take a break and feed like this female is doing, seems like it would save an awful lot of energy. Kind of a dicey perch because those thorns are quite sturdy and awfully sharp.

Female Anna's Hummingbirds
Female Anna’s Hummingbirds
Female Anna's Hummingbirds
Female Anna’s Hummingbirds
Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

December 31, 2018 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

Settling In at the LTVA

I am slowly adjusting to life in the desert once again after just barely making a safe escape from winter in Bend, Oregon. As would be expected, the weather has been delightful, sunny and 60’s by day and cool temps in the 40 ‘s for perfect sleeping weather at night. The constant northerly winds do make my bird photography challenging and when it gusts up to 30 mph I just give up and retreat inside.

Female Anna's Hummingbird
Female Anna’s Hummingbird

The Anna’s hummingbirds were here to greet me even before I got around to setting out the sugar water for them. A few Ocotillos are in bloom around the Yuma Proving Grounds and out in the desert surrounding were I am camped so I am able to grab a bloom now and then to get some nice shots of these guys feeding on their natural foods. I have to confess I have no idea what these little guys are feeding on right now as I can see nothing in bloom, other than the very few aforementioned Ocotillos.

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird
Female Anna's Hummingbird
Female Anna’s Hummingbird

As I recall from last year, it took a while to entice other birds in to the feeders but eventually they did show up in fairly good numbers.

House Finches
House Finches

So far, only a lone pair of House Finches has shown up along with …

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

… a few Gambel’s Quail.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

And the few quail that have come in so far are extremely wary and scatter at the slightest sound or movement, and with the constant wind here, there always is something being blown around.

Coyote
Unwelcome Observer

One very unwelcome guest is this guy, seemingly keeping a close eye on any potential meals I may attract for him, avian or small canines, in other words, Pearl.  I am keeping a close eye on Pearl any time we are outside and have a short leash on her when I let her out at night so that she can’t wander more than a few feet from the door where I stand sentry.

December 9, 2018 Bend, Oregon

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing

Still in Bend

Haven’t been able to escape from Bend … yet! Snow almost every night, though no accumulation thankfully. I managed to survive three straight nights of temps in the low teens with no freeze-ups so the minor insulating and interior changes I made to accomodate the low temps appear to have worked … again, thankfully. Glad to now know I can survive in temperatures that low, I thought for sure this motorhome was not built to allow winter camping, but am now pleasantly surprised that it up to the task.

Robin
Robin

More Parking Lot Birds

I didn’t intend to bother with anymore cedar waxwing shots from the St. Charles parking lot crabapple trees, but this morning when I glanced out the window, there were so many birds flying back and forth across the parking lot, I had to go out and see what was going on.

Sorry to bore you with still more of the same type of images, but with the roads now slick with ice every morning, me with no snow tires ( and not about to ever get any, ever again ), I am going a little stir crazy stuck here. With the winter conditions, I am now confined to quarters most every day, and have almost gotten used to being a little exited when Wednesdays come around and I have to go for chemo, this now being the only excitement iI have for the week. Pretty weird, to say the least.

Robin
Robin

A flock of around 50 Robins had joined forces with the Cedar Waxwings, now numbering close to 70 or 80 birds, to strip the remaining fruit from the decorative crabapple trees … and they were making fast work of it! So since I do dare to drive across the road to the parking lots, even with the icey roads, I took the occasion to get out of the motorhome for an hour or so.

Robin
Robin

The sheer number of birds flying in and out of the trees made getting nice clean shots of the individuals a little tough, as there was almost always a blurred bird in flight darting through the scene when I snapped the shutter.

Robin
Robin

But, of course, when you snap that shutter 600 times or so, you almost always get a few decent shots.

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing

The problem with getting decent shots here is that these small trees are all situated on little landscaping islands in the parking lot with no way of getting a suitable background for the image. I can only attempt these shots on weekend mornings because of the traffic in and out of the lots all day long. There is no place I can park the car ( needed as a photo blind to avoid scaring off the birds) on weekdays as the lots are jammed full with employees cars, except on weekends when the hospital staffing is minimal.

So even on weekends when I can park myself with the sun behind me, there still are no suitable backgrounds for these shots as the image immediately above demonstrates. That bright red background is the St. Charles Hospital Entrance sign.

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing

What I am always looking for, of course, is an uncluttered, neutral background like this one, made possible when this bird chose the very bottom branch of the tree to feed from and I got the distant pavement to serve as a backdrop.

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing

I wish there were more variety in the types of birds here to photograph, but at least these waxwings remain as one of my personal favorites.

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing

This coming Wednesday I begin my new chemo drugs that hopefully will lead to my being able to escape Bend within a few weeks before I am trapped here for the entire winter. The forecast for the next several days is for warmer temps and light snow, so the freezing up worries are lifted for a bit.

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing

I sort of promise no more Waxwing shots until I can hit the road to warmer climes. The way these flocks are growing, they will have cleaned out these trees pretty soon, leaving me nothing to shoot anyhow.