I was bicycling on one of many bike path miles in Tucson, AZ and this particular section paralleled the Rillito River, and then the Santa Cruz River. Fascinated by the number of birds I saw, I also realized this is where the coyotes and javelina run through at night. I have heard coyotes; they are awesome and a reminder wildlife is nearby!
While some people may shutter from such a thought, I welcome it. I love seeing the young hawk on the bike railing as I approach it on my bike. I had one hawk swoop away from me and fly 50 feet, to discover I was traveling in the same direction, so it chose to swoop away again, another 50 feet down the path…finally flying across to the other side of the riverbed. A white heron caught my eye while I was riding when I noticed it in a stalking position. Sure enough, it captured a grasshopper! Poor thing was caught in the heron’s beak, bounced around in various positions before the final gulp! Or the roadrunner darting in and out of bushes along the bike path. I am never fast enough to hop off my bicycle, grab my camera and focus on a roadrunner …someday.
The riverbeds as passageways for the wildlife are important. The rains will come, there will be snow melt in the springtime, the riverbeds will take on water and attract other wildlife; I will be here to see them all, whether they are simply traveling through or choosing to stay.
Last week I visited the Salton Sea, about one hour south of Palm Desert, CA. I had seen a Sunday Morning television program discussing the importance and the hopeful future of the Salton Sea, thus when I was in the area it was important for me to check it out.
My first stop along its water’s edge was at a campground that had a coastline a half mile long of seabirds comfortably landing, swimming, eating, and with no concern about the people watching them. Fortunately in many places there was greenery growing so we could hide behind and let the birds do their thing. (Interesting to see the various people watching the birds too…some photographers had amazing lenses on their cameras, but the reality is one simply needs to observe.)
The Salton Sea is an important migratory flight path for the birds that travel north and south. Without this water the birds would not survive. They need the water, the tilapia (a fish that seems to do well in the salty water), algae and other food within the sea, and a place to land comfortably.
It is true the sea is getting smaller because there are three inlets and no water leaving by way of an outlet, but its water is evaporating. The sea is located in an area where air temperatures can easily reach 100 degrees plus in the summer, and in the winter it never gets cold….except at night when the sun goes down! Thus the water’s edge has been diminishing and you will see fish carcasses and skeletons when you walk closer to the water. Even though the water is 50% saltier than the Pacific Ocean it is only 1/3 the saltiness found in the Great Salt Lake in Utah.
Many people study the sea; many are passionate about its importance for birds; many are happy to be living almost off the grid in their small communities around the sea. Agricultural entities have produce grown and shipped around the world. I had never seen so much hay in my life….piled high with numerous trucks driving it out. There are also 11 geothermal plants using the energy from deep within the earth.
I spent all day driving the entire distance around the sea, with the first stop being the best to see the birds. There are excellent educational exhibits and films to see so one can learn more about the sea, its future, and to talk with people who care about it. If you have a day to visit the Salton Sea, consider a visit!