I had gone 26 days here in the desert without needing to take out my little 2000 watt generator to recharge my batteries. I almost never use my larger onboard generator unless I need to bake something in my large electric toaster oven, so that hasn’t been used either. This has probably been the longest streak of 100% solar power electricc I have ever gotten where I have never even dropped the batteries below 70 %, much less the 50%.
But finally that streak came to an end this week as we had three straight days of pretty much solid cloud cover with the last two days actually producing rain, the last day several hours of real rain, as in steady showers, not just a sprinkle here and there.
With some more dramatic skies I did venture out and drive over to the north shore of Senator Wash Reservoir here at the LTVA and shot a few desert shots looking north over the wilderness area adjacent to the LTVA.
This reservoir is used to store water for irrigation in the valley. The power station pumps water from the river to the reservoir during times of high flow and releases it to the irrigation canals when river flow is low, same principle as the pumped storage projects for hydro electric power back east (I worked on two such facilities construction way back in my youth).
Pearl, the intrepid Desert Explorer.
After more than 40 years of owning this breed of dog, I still get a kick out of how they act like, and obviously truly believe, they are real dogs. Let her off leash and she bounds off, nose to the ground, fearlessly tracking scents, for exactly what purpose I’ll never know.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Windblown spray from the irrigation system tints the greens of a field of salad greens.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
A few House Finches are now using the feeders, but nowhere near the number I had here last year.
They seem to really like the oranges I put out hoping to lure in some other more colorful birds.
This ground feeding Albert’s Towhee shows up every day.
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.
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.
Male and female sometimes will share the feeders and the same goes for two females … sometimes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So far, only a lone pair of House Finches has shown up along with …
… a few 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.
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.