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South End Salton Sea 2023 CBC – final results

12:10 pm

On Dec 19th 29 participants took part in the 2023 South End Salton Sea Christmas Bird Count (SESS CBC). The count’s species total has been steadily and significantly declining over the past 23 years. I imagine the decline is
correlated to the receding Salton Sea, but I have not had a chance to review previous species counts to get a sense of which species we are losing and from where.


We totaled 140 species on count day and 147 species during count week. We matched last year’s species total, though we had to work for it, requiring nearly 72 party hours to get to 147 species.


Factoring in effort (measured by party hours), the SESS CBC species total has been
increasing since 2000. Though we are losing species (we used to regularly total over 160 spp. prior to the onset of the multi-year drought in 2012-13), we seem to be getting more efficient at finding the species we report. This isn’t surprising to me,
given the accrued experience of our awesome counters, and I wonder how Audubon treats this when they analyze count totals.


Some of our highlights included a great Sandhill Crane count, a count week Reddish Egret that we missed over and over on count day, a count week Eastern Phoebe, count week Mountain Plovers, and count day Short-billed Gull, Wilson’s Warbler,
Black-throated Gray Warbler, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Mergansers, Black Rail, White-tailed Kites, and a Red-shouldered Hawk.


I’d like to extend a massive thank you to the staff of the Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR for all of your help with count organizing, equipment use, and for finding a ton of great species that we really needed for the count. Our counters arrived
from Yuma, San Diego, and Los Angeles—thank you for driving all of the way out there to help with this wonderful CBC.


Everyone generously contributed eBird reports for our lists, and I created Count Week ( and Count Day (
trip reports in eBird for anyone interested. The reports include documentation of all of the rarities.


Chris McCreedy

North Park