Black Necked Stilts in The Salton Sea~


Black Necked Stilts (BNS) are found from California to as far east as Florida, and as far south as Central America and the Galapagos.

They are waders and have the second longest leg to body proportions of any bird in the world excepting the flamingo (Cornell Lab of Ornithology).

These birds were photographed in The Salton Sea in Southern California.

The Salton Sea is the largest lake in California. It rests directly above The San Andreas Fault, and lies 71.9 meters below sea level.

The Salton Sea is under serious threat, is shrinking, and is heavily polluted.

The sea is considered the second most diverse and significant habitat for migrating birds in the US. Over 400 species have been identified here, and it is a critical migratory winter resting stop on The Pacific Flyway.

BNS populations are in decline due to habitat destruction and wetland pollution.

If the sea were to dry up, the millions of birds who rely on it during their annual migration would be imperiled.

It would become a giant toxic dust-bowl threatening the public health of millions of Californians. The shrinking of the sea is already emitting toxic dust and chemicals harming human health. Effective plans do exist to save and refresh the sea, but no plans exist to date, to implement them.

Cheers to you from the threatened Black Necked Stilts at the vulnerable Salton Sea~

(For more on The Sea read: http://www.latimes.com/science/la-me-salton-sea-20151001-story.html).

277 thoughts on “Black Necked Stilts in The Salton Sea~

  1. However, due to changes in water apportionments agreed upon for the Colorado River under the Quantification Settlement Agreement of 2003, the overall water level of the sea is expected to decrease significantly between 2013 and 2021. – Wikipedia

    Something else interfered with by humans. Shame on us!

  2. I was born and raised on the southern tip of the Salton Sea in the Imperial Valley. My Dad worked for the water district, and our family owned a 160-acre farm where we grew alfalfa for cattle feed. Two-thirds of the nation’s winter vegetables are grown in the Valley.

    The Salton Sea is dependent on agricultural runoff that flows through the Alamo and New River. The New River is the most polluted waterway of its kind in the United States. The river begins in Mexico and flows across the border heavily polluted with industrial waste, untreated sewage, chemical contaminants such as mercury and uranium, and pathogens including tuberculosis, encephalitis, polio, cholera, hepatitis and typhoid. Homeland Security has posted bio-hazard signs along the banks of the river on the U.S. side of the border.

    The agricultural runoff leaches salt from the fertile soil which is then deposited in the Sea. The salinity level — which is higher than the Pacific Ocean — is killing off mass populations of birds and fish. The Sea depends on the runoff to maintain its elevation, but the salt deposits are hastening an environmental catastrophe.

    To compound matters, the Imperial Valley water district agreed to transfer water to drought-stricken San Diego County. The agreement required that about ten percent of the Valley’s farmland lie fallow. This has contributed to higher food prices while severely restricting the amount of runoff flowing into the Sea. The receding sea level increases the concentration of salt and threatens to transform the basin into a dead body of water.

    • I knew about the inflow from the other direction, from the central valley and the pesticide and fertilizer poisoning, but I didn’t know about the inflow from Mexico and the bacterial and viral pathogens, although it is very clear that the Salton Sea is a bacterial as well as chemically noxious brew. I appreciate your enlightenment, albeit find it quite disturbing.
      As I am sure you know, we also get this sewage laden bacteria in the ocean areas of Pt Loma, Imperial Beach and Coronado Island, from Mexican sewage outflow. Beaches in these towns are routinely contaminated and often closed. People get sick from swimming even when the beaches are open. The toileting into the ocean from Mexico has always been appalling. Now I can just add The Salton Sea to the equation.
      You well know that the salinity level in The Salton Sea is ever increasing as the sea evaporates. I have walked the shores for decades crunching on the bones of fish and birds. The selling of water to San Diego is just obnoxious. One thing that puzzles me which you may know the answer to, is where do Palm Springs, La Quinta, Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage get the water to maintain their over-the-top luxurious, tropical city wide, water-hungry landscaping. You leave these lush artificial cities and arrive in Borrego to see the desert in all it’s natural, stark, austere beauty. I know they use recycled water, but we don’t have enough water to recycle do we? And why don’t we send it to the places that are dying of thirst?
      Your comments and experience are so compelling. I have been fascinated by the sea since I was a little kid. I could never understand how birds and fish could survive there. My son is trained as a wildlife biologist and recently explained to me that toxins accumulate more in living creatures the higher you move up the food chain. A mouse has a shorter life than a human for example, and thus less time to accumulate toxins and acquire disease from them. It boggles my mind that some people don’t connect the poisoning of our environment with our own disease and premature death. It just simply staggers me to see the millions of birds that winter on the sea. It is like this biological wonderland, in a post-apocalyptic, toxic moonscape.
      To me, The Salton Sea is a contained case study of how we are poisoning ourselves and the creatures around us. It will be sad, and probably pretty horrific, to watch the demise of the sea. As we drove away from the area last week, a major dust storm hit, blinding us in the car. I thought of the children in nearby schools running into the nurses office and asking for their inhalers and eyewash.
      We are such a dumb species.
      Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It is very moving to me and very sad.

      • Regarding the dust storm, the Imperial Valley has the highest rate of emergency room visits for asthmatic children in California. I also contracted asthma growing up in the dusty, agricultural environment.

        With regards to the lush landscaping in Palm Springs, I only know that the Coachella Valley Water District and Desert Water Agency are still enforcing water restrictions in the communities north of the Salton Sea. The Imperial Irrigation District, which manages water usage south of the Sea, continues to enforce conservation and levy fines for commercial and residential violations.

        There are thousands of dead lawns in the Valley due to water restrictions and the rising cost of water. Homeowners that don’t violate the restrictions may still have green lawns if they’re willing to pay the price. Most of the residents are poor so curb appeal (landscaping) has become an expensive and unnecessary indulgence,

        When I was a kid, the Salton Sea was known as Palm Springs South. It was an oasis — a literal Garden of Eden.

        • We are both native SoCal’ers. Some of my fondest childhood memories were tearing around Borrego, which oh so thankfully hasn’t changed. The northern desert cities are like Riverside County congestion now, with better landscaping.
          I was going to ask about your health but thought it presumptuous. Words fail don’t they.
          I love the desert so. It is such a beautiful, slowly-revealing place. I am so sorry this has happened, and is still happening.
          Be well, and it is wonderful to meet you.

  3. I enjoyed exploring the Anza-Borrego stagecoach stations. Have you visited Slab City and Salvation Mountain on the south side of the Salton Sea? Or the volcanic mudpots? The surrounding area is a massive reservoir of geothermal energy. It is one of the Valley’s richest natural resources.

    • I took my kids to the slabs alone when they were young which was quite an experience. I would like to go again. I have seen most of these sights, but not the mudpots, which are definitely on our list, and we wanted to see them this visit, but got side tracked on the north and east sides of the sea, which are a totally different world. We visited Bombay City and the ship graveyard and I took a lot of photos. It is sort of like the slabs. Have you been to Ghost Mountain and seen the hermit’s homestead? It is quite a climb but so worth it as his homestead is clearly visible and his story is amazing. Check out this link about him:

      https://www.desertusa.com/desert-people/marshal-south.html

    • Fascinating is just the right word for The Salton Sea. It is beautiful, amazing, wildlife rich, desolate, creepy and toxic, all of these opposing things in one.

  4. Gorgeous photos bely the sad news about the Salton Sea. Back in the late 70s, Mono Lake was close to becoming a dust bowl, and the two islands where 1/4 of California seagulls breed and nest were going to be accessible to predators. Perhaps its proximity to Yosemite helped its cause (LA water district funneled water out of the tributaries that fed the lake). Legislation finally passed to make Mono Lake a National monument (I belonged to Friends of Mono Lake for years). Perhaps something like this can happen for the Salton Sea. Seems to fit my Sunday Stills (fur and feathers) theme today!

    • Yes Mono Lake has a very similar history and was almost lost to us. Northern California has far more effective environmental advocates than we do in in SoCal. The beauty in the desert is just as incredible as in NoCal, but very different, and harder for some people to penetrate. Mono Lake looks similar to The Salton Sea, minus the eerie ghost towns with people still living there, the fish and bird bones forming the sandy grit on the beaches, the sense of apocalypse slowly unfolding, with millions of birds watching and waiting. The Salton Sea seems like the most honest place to me, which is why I keep going back to it, decade after decade. I will post photos of the living ghost towns soon. I admire the people who live there immensely.

      • Wow, Cindy, your words are heartfelt and beautiful in this comment. You definitely have the knack for the written word besides your incredible photography 🙂 The Eastern Sierra along the 395 is a wonderful place. We prefer to drive that route to enter the Tioga Pass of Yosemite.

        • You are very kind Terri. Thank you. Yes the back road into Yosemite is our favorite too, and hiking in the Sierras around Mono & June Lake is a favorite summer activity. And Mammoth in ski season forever!

  5. Imogen Cunningham once said
    “To worship beauty for its own sake is narrow, and one surely cannot derive from it that esthetic pleasure which comes from finding beauty in the commonest things.”
    And so are these beautiful pics

    • I hadn’t read this quote, but I so completely resonate with it. It is not the beauty, or lack of it, where you are that matters, it is the beauty you find wherever you are. It is always there, waiting for you to find it.
      Imogen’s images are just so preternatural, so ahead of her time. She is so under-appreciated and so influential to so many more famous photographers (and paint artists) who emulated her.
      Thank you so much for this quote. It sends me happy to bed.

  6. An important topic, Cindy, and great post. The state is so environmental-oriented and protective of animal rights. I’m surprised that no action has been taken to date. Is there a political bottleneck? (The usual culprit!! ) 🙂

  7. This is a beautiful area, I have driven through there several times, even at night it is an enjoyable drive. Cindy, I am going to reblog this article for you. Thank you for taking of your time to post such a beautiful post.

    • Thank you more for your very kind response. I am glad you have taken the time to explore this area. It is one of my favorite places, and even after all these years, it has still not revealed itself fully to me. The desert remains forever mysterious.

  8. Such dramatic features– his coloring, and those legs!! I hadn’t heard of them so thanks, Cindy, for the chance to “meet” them and for the notice about the Salton Sea situation. You are amazing. xo

  9. Fabulous photos and a fun easy nature lesson. This is a unique bird. It’s legs are like long, thin and red bamboo. Thanks, Cindy!

  10. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    I always learn something new when I head over to Cindy Knoke’s website to catch up with her latest wildlife photographs.. I had not heard of The Salton Sea and did not know it was the largest lake in California.. it is in danger as it shrinks and becomes polluted … which would rob us of these beautiful birds and the other species that rely on the water and environment around it. #recommended

  11. Bonjour ou bonsoir BELLE CINDY

    Proverbe
    L’amour doit se répandre en amitié sincère
    Pour parer aux écueils jonchés par l’adversaire
    Qui déverse, souvent, son poison dans nos cœurs

    Nous sommes voyageurs dans un monde éphémère
    Pour pouvoir l’enjamber sans beaucoup de douleurs

    Faisons de l’amitié notre constant critère
    Bonne journée mon Ami ou Amie

    gros bisous.Bernard

  12. The stilts are amazing, and the story of this lake is heartbreaking. Your photos are amazing, too. The one at the very top of this post takes my breath away.

  13. I was able to travel with my hubby and on the way somewhere one restaurant stop – they sold donated books to collect funds for something – Of course I had to stop and look.
    I found a wonderful book dedicated to just sea birds.

    Thanks for stopping by Carrot Ranch and reading the offerings of the wonderful community of writers for Literary Art.

    • Please talk to me before you come. The Salton Sea is a blighted area. There is much beauty to be found, but one needs an insiders advice. Staying in Borrego Springs is a good bet as it is just beautiful, and I can give you tips for visiting the sea and nearby areas like Joshua Tree National Park.

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