The snowbird migration is about to begin with RVers from the Pacific Northwest working their way through the Los Angeles basin south to San Diego then turning east on I-8 toward the Southwestern deserts.
Most of the I-8 freeway flyers miss tiny Finney Lake, 25 miles north of El Centro on SR 111, which is used mostly by local fishermen. But it has two of the ingredients that are difficult to find in the desert: a bird refuge that has lakeshore camping. Except for the cacophony of birds, it is a quiet spot and an ideal stop over for a few days on the way to your snowbird destination.
Finney Lake is a major resting place on the Pacific Flyway for migratory birds and an ideal and protected habitat for nesting birds. Non-motorized boats for fishing or birdwatching can be launched from lakeshore campsites or from the boat launch.
An adjacent off-limit pond during nesting season has crags and snags crammed full of Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and a scattering of Cattle Egrets and Cormorants. Around the lake raucous Yellow-headed and Red-winged Blackbirds vie for the best spots, shy Soras poke through the shoreline reeds, Northern Shovelers and Green-winged Teals (photo) feed on the lake’s delectable water plants, and squadrons of White-faced Ibis fly in at dusk.
There are a few miles of level dikes to walk, bike, and bird watch and a public dump station and water fill are within a quarter mile–and it’s all free. Just sign in, kick back in your camp chair, and spend your time adding to your bird list and enjoying the sunsets.