We visited Jared's family in Mesa Arizona but stopped at the Salton Sea along the way on Wednesday of Thanksgiving Week.
Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge
We arrived pretty early in the morning and started spotting birds by the visitor center, which was closed. We climb up the observation tower to look at the field full of thousands of snow geese (and some Ross's geese), which kept landing in little groups of dozens or hundreds, and kept up a loud cackle in the background.
We spotted some amazing butterflies by the bank of the canal. We spotted a kestrel and shrike on the power lines and Jared found many pieces of obsidian sticking up out of the rocky dirt road. Rock Hill is a little volcanic cone with a view over the mud flats and clear across the Salton Sea.
We saw a lot of waterfowl and shore birds on the little nursery islands.
All told we found around forty species of birds, including the quail and burrowing owl near the visitor center.
Gilbert Water Ranch (aka Gilbert Riparian)
We visited Gilbert Riparian in February when we had a long weekend with Jared's family in Arizona, and found about fifty species of birds. This year we tried to find as many bird species again and we succeeded. It took us about five hours. Jared's mom joined us in the search for birds a few hours in. Rare birds we found included a greater white-fronted goose, a female surf scoter, a chestnut-sided warbler, and norther parula (another warbler species). Some favorites that we don't see where we live in California include vermilion flycatcher, numerous Abert's towhee (they look kind of like a female cardinal with a dark face), American avocet, verdin, and many more.