What kind of bird are you?

Mornings at the Salton Sea are the best.

Morning sun on the mountains

The crew and I get up at first light.  Spike and Bridget jump out the door of the BLT to relieve themselves while I put the coffee on.  One thing I like about our camp here is I can let the crew go off-leash.  No matter where they wander, I can keep an eye on them.  Having to walk them on a leash first thing in the morning, required at developed campgrounds, gets tiresome.

I fix my cup of coffee, don a light jacket, and go outside to watch the show!

Bridget and Spike curl up in the dog bed or on the blanket next to my chair.  We have front row seats for the bird show.  Funny how rare it is to see anyone else up and outside in the early morning.  No matter where we camp, it seems that people sleep during the best part of each day.

People!  We aren’t nocturnal animals! 

If we were, we’d have better night vision, like owls and opossums.  Why stay awake for hours after dark and then sleep when the sun shines her glory on another beautiful morning?  I don’t get it.

The show starts with acrobatics and much caterwauling.

Maybe that should be birderwauling?  Gulls screech, pelicans dive, even the plovers careen in arcs in synchronized Top Gun formation.  So much goes on, my head turns as if I’m watching a tennis ball at Wimbledon.

Salton Sea camping is a funky experience.

Salt Creek Primitive Campground

It’s not only the smell and the dry fish skeletons on the beach.  On the back side of our campsite, across a field, semis roar on Highway 111.  Beyond the highway are railroad tracks.  Rarely do ten minutes go by without a freight train rumbling by, some with 130 cars or more.

Sometimes two trains go by in opposite directions… No, not on the same line of track!

Whereas I’m quickly annoyed by quieter human noise — a generator, a radio, too frequent laughter — I enjoy the sound of the trains all day and even when I wake and hear them during the night.

Trains go by us on the front and the back of our campsite!

A line of black birds (coots? grebes?), moving so fast I can’t identify them, fly from the north end of the sea to the south end, in a perfect line, equally spaced, like the boxcars roaring behind us.  Several of these bird trains pass by, never stopping.  At first I think they’re resuming southerly migration after resting at the north end of the sea.  Now I know they will pass by again in an hour or so, going back to where they came.

One group of about thirty birds flies on stage in V-formation. 

Then the V of birds closes to form a perfect ribbon, no one losing his equal spacing with the bird in front or the bird in back.   The maneuver is performed with a level of precision that reminds me of the Rockettes I saw on the stage of Radio City Music Hall many years ago.

The white pelicans love to be in a group.

They fly together, fish together, and float together like drifting white sailboats.  This morning I count more than forty together.  Up at the north end, hundreds congregate.  Only a few of the white pelicans float alone — loners?  outcasts?

While the white pelicans love company, the brown pelicans fly alone.

I don’t know if it’s because there are fewer brown pelicans or if they are loners by nature.  The browns don’t associate with the whites much.  All the birds — white pelicans, brown pelicans, ring-billed gulls, American coots, plovers, grebes, American avocets, bitterns, and others —  live peacefully and get along harmoniously, except for a snowy white egret who walks alone and likes to push the plovers around. What’s his problem?

The plovers like to stay near shore in small groups of four or five, like a family.

The gulls are social like the white pelicans, but in a different way.

Often the gulls swirl, helter-skelter, in a group. Sometimes they fish together. The white pelicans are mostly silent; the gulls have more to say. I see gulls flying in pairs, but not with recognizable organization, and they soon abandon each other.  One gull arrives on the scene, swings down close to a gull standing at water’s edge, and in that instant convinces that gull to join him in the sky.  When I roll out the BLT’s blue awning in the afternoons, a curious gull or two cross the beach to fly by and check it out.

Then there are the grey herons.

Three herons stand like statues about 50 yards apart, seemingly guarding his own personal territory.  Each heron stays on his “property” all day and I assume all night.  At one point the heron to the south flies up to the heron in front of our campsite.  The nerve!

Our heron meets him in the air! 

A broad swoop and both herons are over our campsite — magnificent wing spans, necks stretched straight — what a sight!  One circular chase and the intruder returns to his own stretch of shoreline.  All day, every day that the crew and I are here, the herons stay anchored to their own little piece of real estate.

Like a play reflects human experience, the birds in the early morning show of the Salton Sea remind me of many different kinds of people.  Hmm . . .If I were one of the shore birds, which one would I be?

What kind of bird are you?

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About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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79 Responses to What kind of bird are you?

  1. Barb says:

    Oh My Sue! How GLORIOUS your photos are!
    I completely agree with you, I am (and always have been) a very early riser… I like the quiet of the day, and the morning calm.
    Have a joyous rest of your day!!! I enjoy your blog so much, and have passed it on to other ‘Women with Wanderlust’ that I know!

  2. Dedra says:

    I need to re-learn how to stop hurrying.
    Thank you for the insight.

  3. How perfect!!!!! Being able to enjoy the morning, quietly, observing the birds and their ways. How absolutely perfect. I love sitting on the porch, early in the morning and watching the birds and squirrels. Lately we have had a pair of woodpeckers that have not yet figured out that our porch is not a good place to be boring into the wood. Good grief….we live in the woods. Back to your question, what bird would I be? Because I have been so short all my life, I think I would be a heron on those LONG legs. Love you

  4. jean says:

    I would be a white pelican. I love being in a group, but able to do my own thing. they are in groups, but quiet. love your beautiful pictures. maybe someday you could publish them in a book. be safe and keep an eye on Spike, he is sneaky.

  5. Gaelyn says:

    Brings back memories of my stay along the Sea. Always a wonderful bird and sunset show.

  6. Sue Malone says:

    I really loved this morning shared with you, Sue. The water birds are one of the main reasons I love the Klamath Basin so very much. I love the white pelicans most of all, they are so incredibly regal and the fact that they can actually fly is amazing. I hear they can be strange parents, however, abandoning the nest for silly reasons, a change in the weather, or just a bad mood. Surprised me to learn that this year. We had the biggest hatch of white pelicans ever on our lake, and this year, the mommas and poppas stayed around long enough to raise their broods. Maybe some of my local friends are now there on your lake.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      It’s a pleasure to share a morning with you, Sue. I’m glad you liked this post. I remember seeing those Klamath pelicans as I drove past the lake on the way to Klamath Falls. It would be very interesting if I could sit here and know where each bird originated from.

    • Connie & Mugsy says:

      Pelicans can be strange parents. There is a lake area (big slough probably) up in North Dakota where pelicans have nested for many years… a hundred or more pairs. A few years back, they laid and hatched nearly all their eggs. Then one morning, all of the parents were gone and didn’t come back. Leaving all the babies to die. I can’t recall now if it was the state or one of the universities who tried to find out why. But they couldn’t find any evidence of predator attacks or virus or anything unusual. The pairs didn’t come back for a couple years and then they returned and all has been normal since.

      • rvsueandcrew says:

        What a fascinating account! And what a mystery. The more I see, hear, and read about pelicans, the more intrigued I am.

        I’m watching several of them as I type this. They float silently. The gulls fly every which way above the pelicans, making quite a racket.

  7. cinandjules says:

    What a neat morning you and the crew had. Once again…it was like I was sitting right next to you.

    I think I would be the brown pelican. …if I was a shore bird and a hummingbird if I was ANY bird. However…….Jules has more than once called me a sh!tbird.

    What bird would you be?

  8. Pennie says:

    First off, thanks so much for your blog. I really enjoy reading it.

    In answer to your title question: I’m a night owl. In answer to your second question: “As such Why stay awake for hours after dark and then sleep when the sun shines her glory on another beautiful morning? I don’t get it.”

    I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but being a “night owl,” I don’t have complete choice in the matter. Oh how I would love to be a lark! My mom was a lark. She woke up at 5:00 or 6:00 a.m., bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and loved the morning. I think her energy level and mood was best right then, and then it slowly went down over the day until it ebbed in the evening. My Dad was a night-owl, like me (and like my brother). Oh, we may wake up at 6:00 a.m., but if we get up, we know we’re going to feel miserable and tired all day (no mystery there, we’ve only had a few hours’ sleep). We just can’t get to sleep early enough to get 8 hours by early morning. In contrast to our Mom, we feel kinda like cr-p when we first wake up (even if it is 10:00 a.m. or later). We wake up slooowly, and our energy level just builds as the day goes on. By late evening we are starting to feel like ourselves; full of vim and vigor. And so it goes.

    What I wouldn’t give to have your circadian rhythm! Because I see what you mean, scientifically. It makes sense. We are (should be) evolved to use the most daylight hours. And oh, but I have tried. I had a job for three years that required my getting up at 5:00 a.m. I thought, “sweet, I’ll get used to it and be more of a morning person!” Never happened. I felt tired the whole time and as soon as I changed jobs (and schedules), I went right back to my natural rhythm. Darnit!

    I don’t know if I speak for all “non-morning-people,” but that’s why I don’t often get up to enjoy the very beautiful, very early morning (although wouldn’t you know, I’ve had more dwellings than I can count that had beautiful sunrise views).

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I knew I’d hear from a night person! I appreciate your explanation, Pennie. I know people like you. You’re the ones who want to go somewhere at 9 p.m. when I’m ready to crash. Unscientifically speaking, it seems the number of night people is growing! When I’m up and outside in the morning, I rarely see another person. Yet the campgrounds are aglow with lights until midnight and beyond.

      There are advantages and disadvantages for both types of people. I’ve envied people who can dine at eight and go out for a night on the town, full of energy. I used to do that when I was young, but it’s impossible for me now.

      Thanks for writing and sharing a bit of the life of a night owl.

      • I thought about this question as well and realized that I am also a night owl, primarily because nighttime – after everyone else has gone to bed – is my “me” time. Oddly enough, though, when we are out with the trailer, I do get up earlier and am able to enjoy a bit of the morning, sometime even rising early enough to catch a sunrise.

        Perhaps I am a night owl now because my daytime life is not that exciting. I may evolve into a morning person once I can leave the 9 to 5 behind.

        Another great post, another beautiful location, and one more place to add to my list of places to see. One question for you: I’ve heard camping in California is very expensive. Do you have a hard time finding free or low-cost California locations to park your rig, especially locations that give you the solitude you enjoy?


        • rvsueandcrew says:

          Hi Walt!

          I can’t speak from experience about coastal California. I’ve heard it is expensive there. It isn’t expensive on the east side of the Sierra, at least what I ran into driving Rte 395.

          Equipped with solar power, finding low-cost or free camping is not difficult.

          The only time I’ve been a night owl is when my daytime job wound me up so badly I couldn’t sleep. That’s the worst. To be exhausted and not be able to sleep. If you’re anything like me, Walt, you are going to LOVE leaving the 9 to 5 behind. Enjoy your “me” time. It’s necessary and precious. Even if you require a lot of it, like I do.

      • Rattlesnake Joe says:

        I was born at night. I’m a night owl maybe because of the time I was born. If born during the day would that make you an early bird? Perhaps being born on the equator at high noon would make you an Ostrich? Maybe this is why they stick their heads in the sand, to go back to sleep always trying to catch up? But I do know one thing. If you don’t get enough sleep it will turn you into a Coo-Coo bird and if sleep deprived for too long you will become a…………wait for it………….Dead Ringer!

  9. Rita says:

    I’d like to think I’m a brown pelican…on the move & alone but I think I am more the heron. I haven’t moved from my territory since my children were young. I’ve become more of a grouch lately and want to be alone but stay in the same place (although I love to travel). If I had money, I’d be some where else weeks or months at a time but return to my nest always. The travel blogs I read allows me to travel to the places everywhere and see and experience beauty through the travelers eyes…like your photos and descriptions of events photographed. My imagination runs wild of what it must be like…or even what it must have been like i.e., before humans. Wow, it must have been a paradise!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      When you mentioned becoming more of a grouch lately, I thought of the snowy white egret (no offense!). 🙂 It’s okay to be a heron. They’re beautiful and so much fun to photograph. I’m happy, Rita, that you enjoy the travels of me and my crew.

      • Rita says:

        LOL…I might be an egret…no offense taken! While in Sarasota, FL, at in-laws place, I often hiked to a pond a ways from the house and was amazed at the number of bird that flock there…one huge bird with a wing span of about 6 ft…huge bird & protected I heard. I can’t remember the name of the bird. I’m not a bird watcher but I do enjoy seeing all that nature has to offer including the ‘smelly’ ones like the S. Sea and parts of Yellowstone Park. I love trees from different parts of US….huge oak trees in south, big sycamore in east, red woods on western coast, ponderosa pines in the north and even the junipers of SW. I’d love to see the bristle cone trees sometimes.

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          Maybe it was a cormorant. They’re black with yellow beaks and they live in Florida. You can see them sitting in the sun with their wings stretched out to dry.

  10. rvsueandcrew says:

    Question for readers…. Are any of you having problems with my photos loading? Please let me know. Thanks.

  11. gingerda says:

    . I don’t have any problems with your pictures loading. They are so neat to look at.
    I love trains too and love the sound of them. My last house was sort of close to a track and at first it bothered me at 2 or 3 am for the train to be blowing his whistle, but then I got used to it and didn’t even notice it.
    I would probably be a brown pelican.

    • Pennie says:

      Your comment reminded me of something else I wanted to say, which is, boy, can I relate to what Sue said about human noises, even if they are quieter. I love to hear trains, foghorns, ship’s whistles – and I can even tolerate traffic noise or an idling truck if I have to. But other people’s noises – ugh! Well, some are okay (like, I can’t imagine rvsue getting out with her pups for coffee would bother me at all; it sounds companionable. But screaming children, loud-talking/laughing (especially when it’s “quiet time”), TV’s, blaring music (right, we all want to listen to YOUR music)… ugh! Actually, although they are engines, I’d have to put camper generators in this category too. Guess I’m an official curmudgeon now 😉

  12. Marsha from MI says:

    Morning person here – and I so love the quiet of the early morning hours. When I was working I woke up early so I could relax and read while I drank my coffee before I hit the ground running. Now it’s a habit and the change in time is wreaking havoc on my bedtime/wakeup. I can’t stay up past 9:00 because I’m waking up at 4:00 a.m. But I get up and read because I’m not going anywhere I don’t want to go (like work). Therefore I think I’m a robin (isn’t that the early bird that gets the worm?). But I love the little black capped chickadees that come to our feeder; they just seem like such happy-go-lucky little birds!

    We have railroad tracks about a mile from our house and I have yet to see or hear a train go through during the day – maybe there’s some kind of regulation since they’re mostly coal trains. But sometimes I wake up around 2:30 / 3:00 at night and can hear and train whistle and just love it. It’s nice to see I’m not the only person who enjoys the sound of trains.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      It is interesting how birds have different traits. I can’t imagine a chickadee pushing other birds around like the egret here! It is strange how we love the sound of trains. I wake up in the night and see the train’s boxcars silhouetted in the starlight as they rumble by. That makes me smile. A guy walks by, his feet crunching the gravel, and I’m annoyed to no end.

      • Judy Bell says:

        Birds in the hand have different traits than what we normally see. When I ran a migration bird banding station, I learned that Blue Jays while blustery and a big bag of wind flying about are very easy to handle in the hand. Chickadees, on the other hand, are little feisty fighters when being banded. Jekyll and Hyde personalities, not unlike humans under stress. 🙂

      • Marsha from MI says:

        I hear you – I’m way less tolerant of the cars that go by at night or someone on a noisy motorcycle. Not quite as soothing.

      • Dominick Bundy says:

        LOL!! Oh How I so relate, when it comes to simple things that people do. Can also make me annoyed to no end as well..

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          Know what drives me nuts? A woman sitting within my field of vision has her legs crossed and she constantly swings the top leg like a metronome. I can’t focus on anything else. I have to cover my eyes or leave before I yell, “Stop that! Stop it right now! I can’t take it any more!” Have a nice day, Dominick.

  13. cinandjules says:

    I can see the fixed pictures and the slideshow just fine.

  14. Glenda Cornwill says:

    Oh Sue such bird life to photograph. I don’t know what sort of bird I would be but I do know I would like to be a pelican. I spend hours at our lake where we keep the caravan, photographing the pelicans herons etc. Have you seen the pelicans do their water dance? It is fascinating to watch as they move across the water in a large group fishing…….. at the signal from the lead bird, they all bob their heads underwater in unison. It is magical to see!! Loved your photos…………you have captured such mood and beautiful light. Glad to hear that Spike has stayed out of the water so far. Well done to Bridget who would never transgress in that way!! Ha!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’ve seen the pelican dance in a documentary, not in person.

      I guess one dip in the Salton Sea was enough for Spike! No, Bridget would never do that… Bridget gives her three reasons: 1) Good girls don’t do stuff like that, 2) RVSue would get mad, and 3) I’d get dirty!

      • Glenda Cornwill says:

        My girls relate to Bridget totally !!! Coco and Chanel send dog hugs to Spike and Bridget!!!

      • Connie & Mugsy says:

        Another entertaining activity of pelicans is wind/wave surfing. I watched them do this in Mazatlan, Mexico, a few years back. They will fly along… alined with the beach… swoop down as a wave is building – right on the edge – and as it breaks over the top – threatening to swamp them, they would swoop up in unison. It would be a line of 5 or 6… and they would do it again and again. They weren’t fishing, they never touched the water. They were obviously playing. I got a couple great pictures of them.

  15. Jim says:

    Sue I am so glad you are having a good visit at the Salton Sea. I love your pics (not just these but all of them). Where to next young lady??

  16. rvsueandcrew says:

    The Slabs! We leave the Salton Sea tomorrow.

  17. Carol Yakupcak says:

    We camped at the Salton Sea last winter 2 separate times. We stayed all of a total of 9 days. It is a magical place. We were told the Park was closing due to budget cuts. I am glad that it didn’t. I would watch the birds on the shore for hours and it would seem like only minutes had passed. Several times we saw fighter jets go over head towards Miramar and disappear into the mountain in the west. The 80 and 90 degree temps were awesome for us northeasterners hiding out from the cold. WE did drive down to the southend and the Sonny Bono wilderness area. That was really cool. Glad you got to see it before the State of California closed the park.

  18. rvsueandcrew says:

    The California State Parks website says “Due to budget constraints Bombay Beach and the upper loop of Mecca Beach will be closed until further notice.” I haven’t checked Bombay Beach. I did notice Mecca Beach’s upper loop is closed. The crew and I are at Salt Creek Primitive Area. There are still places to camp.

    I know what you mean about hours passing like minutes while watching the birds. The same goes for the sunsets here. I saw one fighter jet going in the direction you describe. Like the trains, the jets aren’t annoying. It’s thrilling to see a jet cross the sea in a few seconds.

  19. Elizabeth says:

    We had a wonderful mocking bird in NC and so far none here…hubby laments not having one. The one we had sang more songs than we could count and if we whistled, he would copy that and add his own to it…quite amazing really….and if hubby had the garage door open, he would get a scolding as the mockingbird prefered it was closed!! Glad you are enjoying watching the bird show there!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You know what’s fun? One time, when I lived in Florida, a mockingbird sat outside my bedroom window singing an amazing repertoire of songs. I set up a tape recorder and went to bed. The next day I played it back. It was unbelievable!

  20. twoscamps says:

    An osprey. Great post.

  21. Gayle says:

    Your love of hearing trains at night reminds me of the classic movie “Picnic.” William Holden arrives in Kim Novak’s small town in Kansas on a freight train, and then leaves on a freight train. At the end of the movie, she hops aboard a train to join him in Tulsa — to live happily ever after! Yes, I LOVE TRAINS! Their plaintiff whistles in the night make me think anything is possible just down the tracks!

  22. Gabrielle Becker says:

    Hi, Sue. Re: trains. One August my friend and I were tent camping from Ottawa to Calgary and stopped in Indian Head, Saskatchewan at a nice little campsite on the flat prairie, surrounded by a small hedge. All the tents and the rv’s were on one end of the campsite and the other end was empty, which suited us fine, since we were travelling with three Jack Russell Terriers. No one to bother us and we would not bother anyone. We could put the dogs on long leads and enjoy the peace of our “exclusive” site. We set up the tent, went to bed, and within 1\2 hour a screeching whistle and roar of a train came through the tent (so it seemed to us)!! NOW we knew why everyone else had been on the other side of the campsite!! Behind the small hedge was a rail line (with a road crossing); frieght trains carrying wheat across the country ALL NIGHT LONG! At least one every hour blasted through our tent that night. We laugh about it now, but as camping newbies we were really green. And, that night, sleepless. But, we did see a burrowing owl the next morning (very rare) and when we left the campsite, we drove right over the railway track that we missed seeing on the way in!
    Enjoy the trains.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Gabrielle,

      When a campsite is too good to be true, maybe it is! Your story made me chuckle. Cute, the way you told it.

      That’s why I don’t unhitch right away. I often wait until the next day. Sometimes the sun and shade isn’t right or some other factor makes the place intolerable… like a freight train on the other side of the hedge! You did find something positive about that camp… the burrowing owl.

  23. Mick says:

    I’m a night person, I enjoy a peaceful sunrise just before going to bed. LOL

  24. Sue, I Loved this post maybe the best of any. I just love observing birds as well , especially when there is no one else around and you have such beautiful scenery. Okay,it may be funky but all the more special !! I suppose tho that at certain times of the year it must be nasty. You lucked out it sounds like. Beautiful photos.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Susan,

      I almost didn’t write this post. I thought, “People will be bored with bird descriptions.” Then I thought, “Oh well, I’ve got to get it out of my system and I want to remember what it’s like here at the Salton Sea,” so I went ahead and wrote it. When finished, I looked at it and thought, “Way too long. I’ll lose the readers midway through it.”

      Funny. It seems no matter what the topic there are readers who can relate. I’ve enjoyed reading people’s responses and their own bird accounts.

      The funkiness of this place is what I’ve fallen in love with. Teeming life . . . whether birds on a mission to find breakfast or trains on a mission to carry freight… the noise, the changing sky, light, and colors, and, yes, the smell, too . .. I think it’s wonderful, especially when compared to the sterility of many RV parks and campgrounds.

  25. Judie says:

    Beautiful place ur at, looks very serene. No problems with ur pics here either. Love them all.

  26. Wonderful photos. I’ve explored a lot around there. A place others should see at least ONCE.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I agree. That was my thought when I drove over here. I figured, at the very least, I’ll take a look and keep moving. I’m glad I didn’t bypass it altogether.

  27. Joy A. says:

    You may have moved on by now but Anza Borrego State Park is near you and it allows dispersed camping “Free”. Supposedly the only State Park in the country that allows free dispersed camping, no entry fee either.

    I’d be a Goonie Bird. Far graceful flying over the ocean but look out folks here she comes in for a mighty landing. Actually it’s always been the Brown Pelican for me. I love watching them at the ocean and how they skim just inches, it appears, off the waves and white caps.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Actually the brown pelican looks a little goonie, at least while flying. The beak (pouch) is so long in relation to their small bodies.

      Yes, Anza Borrego is in my sights. Everyone has positive things to say about it!

  28. akwoman says:

    Love the pictures as always! It’s funny, but here in town I struggle to get out of bed in time to get to work by 8. When I’m at my cabin, I’m sometimes up at 4am with no help from any alarm clock. Loving where you are waking up is the key…for me at least!
    Not sure what bird I would be…probably a loon…quiet most of the time, but enjoying a good laugh now and then!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Dear Loon,

      I’m a firm believer in the restorative power of sleep to the point where waking up at the “wrong” time depletes that power. If your time to wake up is 8 a.m. and five out of seven days, you’re forced to get up at 5 a.m., that can’t be good. Making a list of what’s best about retirement . . . I’d put waking up on MY schedule near the top of the list. You are fortunate to have a place to get away from the in-town schedule.

  29. Thure Johnson says:

    Good morning ,your a lucky lady to have your freedom, enjoy and keep the animals safe 🙂

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