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.

May 3, 2018 Hunter Cove, Alma, Nebraska

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

Snowy Egrets at Cheyenne Bottoms

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

A couple posts ago I mentioned that I had found some Snowy Egrets gathered at an outflow the refuge, but the afternoon light was all wrong for getting any great shots of them, as illustrated in the above image. I vowed to return the next morning when the rising sun would be at my back and hoped that the birds would also return in the morning.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

And return they did. I hit the bonanza here!

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

I spent two hours here, shooting hundreds of shots, as the egrets fought for position, grabbed minnows, and sometimes larger fish that were stunned as they tumbled over the rocks.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

At times, I felt this scene was almost too perfect, the birds often positioned themselves in perfect composition, the light was bright enough to give me some depth of field and yet still shoot at a high enough shutter speed to freeze wing action, and at one point, even a great Egret joined the fray.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

And the action was continuous.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

Love the “hair” of the bird in the lower right.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

Aerial battles sprang up from time to time.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

Finally the show had to come to an end …

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

… and that presented me with a couple more nice opportunities. A morning to remember!

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February 14, 2018 Grand Isle, Louisiana

Roseate Spoonbills
Roseate Spoonbills

Finally!

After twelve straight days and nights of rain and fog with what must be about 100% humidity, I stepped out of the motorhome around 5 AM for Sam to do her thing … and I actually saw stars above. For the first time in two weeks! And that was followed by a visible  sunrise, and what’s more, the sun continued to be seen throughout the entire day.

I really do think I made a mistake not staying in the desert this winter. I can’t say I enjoy the fogged up windows day after day and the muggy 70 degree nights for sleeping, I guess the desert’s winter climate kind of spoils you with it’s wonderfully consistent sunny days, lack of humidity, and cool starlit night skies.

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill

Anyhow, with a return of the sun, there also was a return of some Roseate Spoonbills, a beautifully ugly wading bird that I had only caught a distant glimpse of during the last two weeks. Today I encountered a few individuals here and there and the one pair in the top image. Gorgeous pink plumage and an almost prehistoric looking head with that very unique beak.

Osprey
Osprey

The Ospreys were out in force, as usual. At times you may see one perched atop about one of every ten utility poles running along the highway, and they usually are dining on a freshly caught mullet or Speckled Trout.

Osprey with Speckled Trout
Osprey with Speckled Trout

There were a few wading fisherman below this bird who would have been glad to catch a healthy Speckled Sea Trout like this guy was dining on.

Great Egret
Great Egret
Great Egret
Great Egret

With the sunny weather, there seemed to be a few more Great Egrets out and about, prowling the shallow waters in search of breakfast.

Brown Pelican with White Pelican
Brown Pelican with White Pelican

Once again there was a single White Pelican wandering among the Brown Pelicans at their usual haunt on the south side of the highway. This morning I counted 88 pelicans gathered there with the majority of them juveniles.

Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican

Came close, but just didn’t quite get the dramatic pelican diving-for-fish shots I was looking for. But with some decent light this morning, at least I had some opportunities.

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

I get a kick out of watching the occasional chaotic action in this large gathering of Brown Pelicans. Ninety percent of the time they are patiently floating along as in the image above.

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

Then someone stumbles upon a fish …

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

… and everyone around instantly flies or paddles in …

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

… to get a piece of the action.

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

A lot of splashing and slashing, then after just a minute or so, calm returns, until someone else discovers another fish below the surface.

Tomorrow is also supposed to be rain free, so I will get one more chance to get some shots before I head up to New Orleans for a few days at Bayou Segnette State Park.

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January 7, 2015 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Vermillion flycatcher
Vermillion flycatcher

A Few Birds and a Lot of Lettuce

I took an afternoon drive out to explore the Mittry Lake boondocking area to see if I might want to move down there rather than do another 14 day, $40 stay here at the LTVA. On the way to the Mittry Lake Road I decided to go check out the Laguna Dam Road that leads into a really tiny golf course alongside the dam and the Hidden Shores Village RV Park.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Vermillion flycatcher
Vermillion flycatcher

I encountered this bright little Vermillion flycatcher hopping from post to post on the lookout for dinner on the edge of the golf course. Also was about to get a nice shot of a meadowlark hunting in the short grass of the golf course when he was scared off by an errant drive. I definitely will have to come back in here early some morning as there appear to be a few colorful birds hanging around this tiny oasis.

It is about a 5 or 6 mile drive down a wide, but washboarded, dusty dirt road to the area where boondocking is permitted along the road and along the shore of Mittry Lake. It looks like all the good sites are occupied that I could see, though there may be more setback from the road that I did not explore. Guess I will just stay where I am here in the LTVA while I have more solar work and general maintenance work done on the motorhome.

Happy Campers?
Happy Campers?

A couple of “happy campers”

Speaking of the Imperial Dam LTVA, I ran into these two happy campers ( I am assuming they are happy, after finding shade in the treeless desert on a rather warm day ) on my way down to check out the “ Liberry “ in the LTVA, an old Airstream trailer, loaded to the rafters with paperbacks, sorted by genre and author. On the honor system you are allowed to take out up to 6 books and return them when done, nothing to sign, no agreement to even bring them back, something you don’t encounter everyday.

Desolate and visually unappealing as this place may be, after 2 weeks here, it is starting to grow on me a little. It is quiet, the people are almost universally considerate, the dump station/ water filling/ trash facility, that I had occassion to use is well laid out and convenient, and the $40 for 14 days is not too bad a price either. My only complaint at this time is that I had to take in my hummingbird feeders after the bees discovered them finally and completely took them over, doing away with my hummingbird photography.

After driving through the Mittry Lake boondocking area, I decided to keep going down the road to see where it came out, rather than backtracking the 6 miles of dusty road I came in on. The road becomes the paved Laguna Dam Road not too far south of Mittry Lake and that becomes Avenue 7E that connects with Route 95 on the east side of Yuma.

Yuma agricultural fields
Yuma agricultural fields

This road took me through a small portion of the extensive agricultural fields in the area and I had the chance to take a few photos of the lettuce fields,

Baby lettuce
Baby lettuce

from new seedlings,

Why the mighty Colorado River no longer makes it to the ocean
Why the mighty Colorado River no longer makes it to the ocean

to established fields being heavily watered,

Lettuce harvest assembly line
Lettuce harvest assembly line

to a crew harvesting an older crop, and all the stages in between as the plantings are staggered to produce continuous harvests.

Lettuce harvest assembly line
Lettuce harvest assembly line

A colorful scene, might just become a watercolor some day!

Great egret patrolling the lettuce fields
Great egret patrolling the lettuce fields

Along this road, I also encountered pest control measures employed by these huge farms, both amongst the crops,

Snowy egrets
Snowy egrets

and along the irrigation canals that border these fields.

My blog posting problems finally resolved?

As of this post, I believe ( I am keeping my fingers crossed ) that my ability to do blog posts in a timely manner has finally, after a month of frustration, been resolved. For those of you who follow this blog, you may have to re- bookmark the page to this new address:    ramcquade.com

 

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When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !