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Salton Sea Summer
The Salton Sea is not exactly a summer destination. Sure, there are beaches and wildlife and endless waterfront, the usual requirements for summer lighthearted pleasure, and, a 350 square mile lake is not insignificant.
However, summer highs between 105°F and 115°F combined with a humidity range of 40% to 80%, can be amiss of essential comfort requirements. Take scarce a barrier against these uncivil elements, stir in copious time and neglect, and, these are precisely the ingredients that cook up the “days gone by” character cottage homes sprinkled around the lake. Salty breezes and austere atmospheric conditions have weathered life but not everyone has left town. You just might not want to check them out in the summer.
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Bombay Beach, Salton Sea
For A Different Nostalgia
It is doubtful someone from Mumbai got washed up on the Salton Sea beach years ago but don’t you wonder where some names come from? Although Bombay Beach is not in India, temperatures can compete with the Indian subcontinent at this Salton Sea locale. It used to be a resort but that would be a stretch that your imagination probably would have a struggle with. Here are the stats for the number folks – population: 366; elevation: -225 feet
When devastating tropical storms (who says California interior doesn’t get them?) hit the area in the 70’s the Salton Sea rose dramatically followed by flooding. There is nothing like an entire town underwater two years in a row to bring on the enforcements – completion of a dike wall in front of the sea. Locals lost the famous shoreline bar, “The Waterfront” along with a popular mobile home park. You don’t play around with Mother Nature in these parts.
Made up of a square mile grid of paved streets, the majority of the remaining residents live in eclectic mobile homes. A small corner market, a bar or two, bait shop, volunteer fire station, an unmarked motel, and the flooded ruins of a once prosperous fishing and retirement mecca make up the commercial element.
With no gas station for miles, most people rely on electrical golf carts to get around town. For many years, the community was primarily made up of retirees, but in recent years a younger, mixed group have settled in to find their fortune/eke out a living. The community was founded as a private development in 1929 and quickly grew in popularity with weekend visitors and retirees. Now it is slowly deteriorating, one sunny day after another.
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The Salton Sea – American White Pelicans
There are a lot of pelicans at the sea; mostly American White Pelicans although the less common, endangered Brown Pelicans can be part of the mix. American White Pelicans rival Trumpeter Swans in the longest birds native to North America race and often it is the pelican taking the trophy by a beak (for Trumpeter Swans see also Swans A Trumpeting). You can tell it is breeding season by the vivid orange beak and iris, and a laterally flattened horn above the bill. Don’t expect much diving activity from these big birds (diving is for the Brown Pelicans); Americans catch their prey while swimming. These “fisherbirds” eat several pounds of fish a day so keeping the Salton Sea fish stocks is necessary for their continued stay at this bird resort. With plumage almost entirely bright white, American White Pelicans offer a particular photography challenge where highly reflective water or bright sky is usually the background (a similar problem finds its way into winter snow photography). Darn that 18% grey-fooled again! The Salton Sea is abundant in opportunities to practice shooting these birds if you want to finesse capturing large, white water birds often within close proximity from the beach, no bird blind required here. From March until well into the fall plan for a scorching beach made up of barnacles instead of sand. Crunch! Ouch! Crunch!
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The Salton Sea
Pelicans and Egrets and Terns, Oh My!
At least birders make this exclamation when they come to the sea.
Most bird seekers chase after the water or shorebirds although the Salton Sea supports a wide variety of others, burrowing owls, hawks, songbirds. Some migrate through and others spend the winter. That’s 30,000 (Snow, Ross’s, and Canada) geese, and 60,000 ducks hang out here from November through February. The “quack, quacking” never seems to cease during that time. Marsh birds and shorebirds account for more than 6,000,000 and then there are the endangered ones. You can’t come to the sea and miss the birds even if you aren’t looking for them.
Part of the “sea” is preserved by Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge (see http://www.fws.gov/saltonsea/). Although known for his music Bono also championed the area when he served as Congressman. The birds sing his praises daily for the refuge his efforts have left for them to enjoy.
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