After 36 years as a librarian in the San Bernardino Library System, Karen Nelson was ready to enjoy the outdoors.
She had always hiked and backpacked on the weekends, and at one point her passion for nature led her to study botany and lead such tours at Big Bear Lake.
Upon her retirement, Nelson took the opportunity to volunteer and explore the regions outdoor activities. Her efforts have led her to become a docent at the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens in Palm Desert as well as a guide for the Sea & Desert Interpretive Association, an organization dedicated to conservation, education and awareness of the Salton Sea.
Nelson is currently coordinating guided tours for Pelican Days, the Salton Sea & Desert Interpretive Association’s Third Annual Birding Festival, Jan. 23-25, at the Salton Sea State Recreation Area (on the north shore). The three-day event offers an array of field trips, seminars, expert speakers, workshops and bird-watching experiences.
“I have always been fascinated by nature,” Nelson says. “I enjoy helping people interpret and see places. I took a fishing pole to the Salton Sea and I decided I liked the geography and geology. This sea has happened over and over again over the millennia. There are soil deposits from the Colorado River, more than 400 million living, edible Tilapia fish, and more than 400 species of birds that inhabit the wetlands and dunes.”
The Salton Sea is an important destination on the West Coast migratory path with landscape so diverse, it offers numerous refuge to many different bird species. Nelson grew up in North Dakota where she became familiar with regional species of animal and birds such as moose, owl, and the White Pelican. At the North end of the Salton Sea, she says guests can take a peek at both the White and Brown Pelican as they make their stop during their annual migration.
The Salton Sea has long been an environmental hot spot for studying the unique desert environment as it meets the water. In addition to ecological and outdoor recreation, visitors can go to the nearby Date Garden & Banana Museum, Coachella Preserve, or take a kayak tour on the water.
The Salton Sea is an important destination on the West Coast migratory path.
Nelson’s picks for great excursions:
• Go to the State Recreation Park Area. See Brown and White Pelicans, shorebirds, gulls and interesting waterfowl.
• Visit the Salt Creek area that is home to 16 miles of beach area where birds come to get fresh water and rinse off excessive salt from the sea.
• Explore the Sonny Bono Wildlife Area and see specialized Yellow-footed gulls near its sea wall.
• Take a trip to “Unit One” at the “bottom of the sea” for the spectacular sighting of a flock of approximately 3,000 to 5,000 Snow Geese.
Salton Sea & Desert Interpretive Association’s Third Annual Birding Festival, Jan. 23-25, at the Salton Sea State Recreation Area, 760-393-3810; www.seaanddesert.org