Below is an account of my trip to Baja with Kurt Radamaker, Bill Tweit, Michael San Miguel, and Steve Ganley. As with most of my reports, this is part story, part directions, and part rarity notes. For those interested in merely the highlights, skip to the tabulation at the end. My notes re: directions and locations are not as detailed as normal. Hard to do with two cars and five people, especially when I'm not driving. So, I apologize. Also, if you are going to bird Baja and are not familiar with it, the Baja California Almanac (can be bought at www.baja-almanac.com) is essential.
I flew home from San Diego to Seattle next to a girl named Eff. Actually, her name was Thea, but she walked up to me and said, "Hi, my name is Eff," and so she was for the rest of the trip. Actually, I'd have given her a solid "A", but if she said her name was "Eff", she was Eff; who was I to argue. I ascribed it all to poor self-esteem. I'm sure it had nothing to do with her having the window seat.
She, of course, decided that I was "Dee" and told me just that. Not terribly flattering, but heck after a week of ratting around Baja, I'm sure a looked worse. And don't ask about poor Eee. He tried introducing himself as "Steve," but I told that wouldn't do, as that was already my name.... When I'm not Dee, that is.
The trip did not start well for me. I was battling a migraine, and though Ibuprofen and Imitrex kept the headache at bay, I was definitely NOT on my game during the first 3 days; my brain felt thick and sticky. I was slow to pick up on birds, made an embarrassing mistake here and there. I felt like an ageing sports star - the slugger who couldn't quite catch up with the 90+mph fastball anymore. It wouldn't have been so bad if it had just been Kurt and Bill, who know me well, but Mike and Steve hardly knew me at all. I'm sure they were thinking "D" as well. But enough hand-wringing.
As with the trip to Baja in 2003, we started by hitting a few places just across the border. A sunrise crossing into Mexico took no time at all, and just after 7am we (Kurt, Bill, and I - for the first day, Mike and Steve went there own way). Interestingly, both parties were in gray 4Runners. Shortly after crossing the border, a cop car zoomed up along side of us. I thought we were toast. For what, I wasn't sure, but I was glad Kurt was driving. The policia merely took a close look at us, and then sped off. Not much later on, a motorcycle cop waved at us as we drove by. We pretended not to see. A few moments later, he too was there by our side, peering in at Kurt. I guess he liked what he saw, because he veered off. We figured that Mike had probably been up to no good, and the policia were looking for him. We wished him well and hoped that we'd see him at Punta Banda.
The first stop was to bird the farm land and riparian scrub along Rio El Descanso (p.4 of the almanac). Go east from Mexico-1 and head towards the riparian strip along the creek. Here are many typical coastal scrub residents (Wrentit, Bushtit, Lesser Goldfinch, etc), plus many typical migrants (Orange-crowned Warbler, Gambel's White-crowned Sparrows, etc.). No vagrants though.
Stop 2 was about 10 km to the south, at a lake at the mouth of the Rio Guadelupe near La Mision, which had hosted a Hudsonian Godwit for many weeks. The lake is on the highway's east side, so you need to actually drive past and then take a turn around a short distance to the south and then head north back to an ample parking lot. The lake had lots of common stuff (American Wigeon, Willets, Coots, a few Mallard, Gadwall, teal, etc) but nothing rare. We walked to the lake's east side, where the godwit had been hanging out, but apparently it had departed during the past week. One does walk through some Salicornia along the way, producing both Belding's and Large-billed Savannah Sparrows, and some of the yards we passed were quite birdy, producing our first vagrant: a Tennessee Warbler, plus a Nashville Warbler (uncommon).
Stop 3 was La Salina about 6 km to the south. This is also on the road's east side. The pond here (easily visible from hwy) is not the main attraction. The target at La Salina is the small housing development on the lake's eastside. Here tower many Eucalyptus trees, plus there are scattered hedges, weeds, and a big pine tree. This visit produced nothing beyond scads of Audubon's Warblers and Anna's Humms, a few Cal Towhees, but little else.
So far, so-so. Last year at this point, we'd not even had Tennessee Warbler, and the 2003 trip turned out just grand, so we weren't too worried. But we were itching to get into some good birding. So, we wound our way through Ensenada (which seems to take forever, but really only takes half that. Plus seeing a 15 foot tall head of Colonel Sanders painted on the windows of Kentucky Fried Chicken was worth something). Just after Ensenada, the road drops into ag land known to birders as the Maneadero Plains. There is a lot of area to explore out there. Perhaps too much in some ways. Lots of Eucs and Tamarisk rows, olive orchards, weedy edges. One of the best spots is reached by taking the first right after dropping down into the plains. Go about a block on this dirt road (ag fields on both sides) and you reach an area where there is a home ahead and to the right, a row of olive trees to your left, and scrub (with some running water) along the road's right side. Last year, this spot had produced Painted Bunting, Magnolia Warbler, and Tropical Kingbird. On this first day, we had naught (though you are now in Vermilion Fly territory, and that's worth something). On our last day (24 Oct), headed north, we stopped here and had a Bell's Vireo. Elsewhere on the Maneadero, we had a Rufous Humm and, at the "Recreativa" (on the main road between Maneadero and Punta Banda), American Goldfinches (first found by Mike and Steve earlier in the day).
In the town of Maneadero, we turned of Mex-1 and took BCN-23 to Punta Banda and La Bufadora. We headed straight to La Bufadora at the road's end. This unprepossessing spot has proven to be a great vagrant trap, and in 2003, provided us with Red Fox Sparrow, Gray Catbird, and Chestnut-sided Warbler among other goodies. The week prior, Kurt had a Least Fly there. To get to the actual birding spot, you go past Punta Banda, and as the road heads into a small piece of tourist hell, you'll see a sign pointing to the left for Rancho La Bufadora (or something very similar). Veer left and wave confidently as you go past the small ramshackled guard shack. To do so, you may need to dodge various hawkers trying to lure you into the parking lots. If you were to go straight (not left) you'd wind up on a narrow road lined with stalls (if you are there mid day, you'll have passed some of this just to get to the turn mentioned above) and restaurants whose primary offering is cerveza. Anyway, you're past the guard shack, and you'll notice in front of you a pleasant looking neighborhood. The best area is the only real grouping of trees around what is euphemistically known as "The Zoo." The name comes from the small enclosure in which live a number of guinea fowl, chickens, peacocks, plus a couple deer. Interestingly, La Bufadora means "The Snorter" in Spanish, and is named for the blowhole here, which can be quite impressive when the surf and wind are right. One of the deer (one which tends to walk up to the fence edge endearingly), will refuse all attempts at feeding/petting and then will let out a most impressive and lengthy snort. Hence his nickname, La Bufadora.
Anyway, back to the birds. As soon as we exited the car, Kurt found an odd-looking Empid that he thought might be the Least from last week. I got a short and poor look, but enough to get my juices flowing. We called Bill over. As we searched hard for this bird, a weird call arose from a short distance to our left. I muttered "that's an odd call." The odd thing is that I don't recall actually saying those words, just thinking them; but Bill and Kurt swear I said something. Getting old is hell, even my mouth is becoming incontinent. In any case, the bird called again. I think Bill said it first, but we were all pretty close in simultaneously proclaiming, "Cordilleran Flycatcher." Given the total and utter lack of precedence, we just stood around stunned. It called again. And again. Always sounding perfect for Cord Fly. At one point, a Pacific-slope Fly called, and I think we all had a brief moment of doubt (though the call came from another direction). But in almost immediate response, the Cord Fly called again. Overall, it called about a dozen times. It stopped when a Sharp-shinned Hawk cruised through. There at least 3 Western type Flycatchers there in all. We wandered off through the neighborhoods and found the noteworthy-but-dull-by-comparison Palm Warbler.
We retreated towards Punta Banda, where we met Mike and Steve plus Robb Hamilton, and sent them off in search of the Cordilleran. They found an odd-looking Western Fly, which was most likely the same bird. We birded the impressive estuary a bit, swarming with Marbled Godwits, Willets, Western Sands, Dunlin plus a couple Reddish Egrets and Tricolored Herons (the turn off for the estuary is just before entering the town of Punta Banda itself). A short ways east of Punta Banda, on the marsh side of the road, is the Mini Motel, our favorite place to stay in this area. They've got a couple rooms with two beds, a room with three beds, plus The Bus - a former touring bus of Loretta Lynn's (see last year's story for more details). The rooms vary in price a bit from time to time, and some haggling is okay. The owner is an American from New York (but he hates the Yankees, so he's okay). Though the sign says Mini Motel, the actual name is Bay Shores Inn and Resort. Their email address is email@example.com and website is www.bayshoresinnbaja.com. The telephone number from the U.S. is 011-52-646-154-2687. It is nice to stay at a place where you can here Clapper Rails calling out the windows. We dined happily across the street at the bar/restaurant. The food here is good, though the waiter is terribly serious. The restaurant is nice, but as happened last year, it was baseball playoff time, so we sat in the bar and cheered on the Red Sox against the Yankees (and seemingly, all odds). The Carne Asada Tampiqueno-style was superb. Bill went wild over their cilantro salad dressing. Mike uncorked a bottle of very tasty wine he'd brought along. A fine end to the day.
The next morning (17 October) started at Patty's (or Paty's, depending at which sign you look at) in the town of Punta Banda. It is on the right hand side of the street as you head from the motel to La Bufadora and opens for breakfast at 6:30am. The food is very good and served reasonably quickly. And there's lots of coffee. Try a couple breakfast burritos or the quite fine machacas (shredded beef scrambled with eggs and served with tortillas and frijoles). The locals that have breakfast here are worthy entertainment. They are mostly 55+ year old men who happily reminisce about how horrid their wives/ex-boss/siblings are and occasionally mention the reason they are not living in the U.S. (usually because they're avoiding their wife/ex-wife/ex-wives/U.S. government/etc). Once learning that you are birders, they regale you with endless tales about the town's celebrities, a pair (now with a youngster) of Black-throated Magpie-Jays that escaped from a cage and set up residence several years ago.
October 17th also started very windy and rainy, the rain being most unusual for this area during October. We tried to bird the town of Punta Banda, but as drizzle turned into torrent, we bailed. Usually, after breakfast, one would bird the Eucs just outside Paty's and then walk across the street and head up into the neighborhoods. The small park in Punta Banda is quite good. A week or two before, Marshall Illiff had a Yellow-throated Warbler there. But because of the rain and stiff onshore wind, we headed back to the La Bufadora, hoping to find an area with some protection from which to seabird. In 2003, beyond scads of Black-vented Shearwaters, we had many fulmar and a Harlequin Duck here. The wind was working its magic, and Black-vents streaked past joined occasionally by a more leisurely Pink-footed Shearwater. Bill found a small to medium size alcid flying southbound. We all tried to get on it. I couldn't find it, but just as Bill yelled, "Buller's Shearwater" I saw a slender-winged shearwater, intermediate in size between BV and PF, arc above the horizon. Along with Bill, we tracked the bird as it headed south. At one point, it gave us a brief but crisp view of its back, revealing the gray mantle framed by dark on the wings. I saw it arc above the horizon 10 or so times, for a few seconds on each arc. Sadly, it disappeared without anyone else seeing it. There are only 3 or 4 previous Baja records, though some of that rarity is undoubtedly due to a lack of pelagic trips off Baja. The bay below us held its usual assortment of Pelagic, Brandt's and DC Cormorants, plus a fine mixture of Black, American, and hybrid Oystercatchers. Last year, we also had Surfbird and Black Turnstone here. Landbirding in La Bufadora provided little except a Nuttall's/pugetensis White-crowned Sparrow that gave stunning views. Neither bird should occur so far south.
Interestingly, around Punta Banda both Ladder-backed and Nuttall's Woodpeckers occur, and in 2003 we found a hybrid as well. The chaparral-covered hillsides harbor many Cal Thrashers, Rufous-crowned Sparrows, and a few Bell's Sage Sparrows.
We were headed south again. We birded along the Rio Santo Tomas, spending most of our time at the west end, a large riparian area known as La Bocana. The oaks along the way produced White-breasted Nuthatch and Oak Titmouse. La Bocana had many migrants, but nothing unusual. The trees near the parking area proved more interesting than the expanse of willows, though a Hutton's Vireo there was somewhat out of habitat. We then split up briefly, with Kurt, Bill and I headed for the town town of San Vicente we stopped at the town park along Mexico-1. The park mostly consists of widely scattered scraggly trees, and being a Sunday, it was surrounded by vendors, guys cruising in their cars with music blaring, etc. But, the scraggliness of the trees was partly a key, because the Eucalyptus were infested with Lerps, yes, the dreaded Lerps. Not good for Eucs, but great for hungry warblers and the birders who watch them. You can tell a Euc has lerps by looking for small white (or sometimes black) lumps under the leaves. Anyway, the park had a lot of birds, the highlight being a Black-and-white Warbler. Kurt did much better in the nearby neighborhoods, where he found a Scarlet Tanager that eluded Bill and me. Also of note, San Vincente has acquired a swarm of hybrid Eurasian Collared x Ringed Turtle-Doves.
At milepost 122 south of San Vicente, we again hooked up with Mike and Steve. The tree clumps and Lerpy Eucs here had been good during the week or two prior, but uneventful that afternoon. Together we proceeded past the town of Jaramillo (no relation to Alvaro) and took the turnoff to the west to Mesa de San Jacinto. The fields here a traditional Mountain Plover wintering spot, and we found 25 there. At the road's end is a good location for seawatching, and we had our best jaeger concentrations of the trip, with about 15 Parasitic and 2 Poms. There is a very scenic wrecked ship there, covered with pelicans and cormorants and just waiting for a booby. We spent the night at the La Pinta in San Quintin, which is easy to miss as its well off the highway (its down by the seashore) and the signs are not well marked. The turnoff is towards the south side of town. La Pintas are uniformly clean and well run, much like a Best Western, but they are also somewhat expensive (usual asking price is about $70 per night), but often a bit of bartering will drop the price some. The restaurant was decent and the Yankees/Red Sox game was on. Another good evening, though there was certainly some frustration at the best birds (Buller's Shearwater and Scarlet Tan) having been missed by most of the group.
The next morning, our first major birding destination were El Socorro and El Socorrito (bottom of p. 13 in atlas). This was the site of our great Siberian Pipit/McCown's Longspur/Red-throated Pipit/CC Longspur/Lapland Longspur find in 2003. Also, the yellow "A" frame house at km marker 18 is worth birding for passerines. El Socorro did have 15 pure-looking Eur Collared-Doves. We found these at many stops; amazing that we found only 3 hybrids and no pure birds during our entire 2003 trip.
The real treat was our next stop, El Rosario. For numbers of migrants and rarities, this has been the premier stop, both in 2003 and on this trip. Basically one birds the neighborhoods that border the ag fields. Some of the best areas area behind the elementary and high schools (towards northeast part of town), the neighborhoods west and southwest of where hwy 1 takes a sharp 90 degree bend, and then the ranches on the way to the seashore. Our stop on the afternoon of 18 October provided Canada Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 2 Tennessee Warblers, and Pygmy Nuthatch (plus one "pure" Eur Coll Dove and 5 hybrids). The river mouth (Bocana el Rosario) had a nice smattering of shorebirds, a few White-faced Ibis and a Pectoral Sandpiper. The nuthatch was undoubtedly part of the massive movement of montane birds occurring throughout the west. It was on odd sight on an olive tree along a dusty open desert road, but it seemed to be quite successful in pulling little grubs from the tree.
After feasting on El Rosario, we headed to the La Pinta in isolated Catavina. This region is quite arid, and the countryside is filled with boulders strewn about like a giant's playthings. We birded the palm oasis just south of the hotel, and found nothing beyond a Red-breasted Sapspucker. This area seems to have gone downhill from its Olive-backed Pipit and Dusky Warbler days. Note that birding behind the hotel is worth a shot, though we found little there this time. The food at the L a Pinta was decent, there was baseball on the telly, another bottle of wine courtesy of Mr San Miguel, and the lobster was superb, I must say, even if the drawn butter arrived late.
On Oct 19, we started at Catavina (and the nearby Santa Ines ranch) with a big yawn, excepting a Yellow-breasted Chat and a hybrid RN X RB Sap. We headed south to Nuevo Rosarito (labeled Rosarito on map, p. 22). Birding town yielded Lawrence's Goldfinch and Black-chinned Hummingbird, both reasonably rare for this location. As we headed south, we entered a wonderland of magnificent Saguaro-like cacti named El Cardon plus an odd Ocotillo relative with the enchanting name of The Boojum Tree.
Our next stop was a wettish ag field just north of Villa Jesus Maria. Robb Hamilton had 2 Red-throated Pipits there the week before. We pulled up and found the classic RT Pipit marker- Cattle Egrets. Kurt immediately heard one, and we all eventually got decent views, in flight anyway. There may have actually been as many as three birds, but they were frustratingly uncooperative, uncharacteristically landing in tall (2-3") vegetation, making it very hard to see them on the ground. And they appeared to fly off. So there may have been more elsewhere close by. We also had 4 Bobolinks there. The only highlights in Villa Jesus Maria itself were an Eurasian Collared-Dove and a Palm Warbler. Morelos (full name Ejido Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon) proved more interesting. Mike and Steve had gone there while the rest of us worked Villa Jesus Maria. They had found an interesting warbler, but it had flown off. We rushed over and Kurt eventually relocated it back in the Tamarisks in which it was first found. An ad male Grace's Warbler - Baja's 2nd and the first for Baja California (Norte). The bird was reasonably cooperative and we got some fair photos plus Bill found a Lucy's Warbler.
Guerrero Negro was next. That was, after we crossed the border into Baja California Sur, paid the fees, etc. The gentleman in charge was quite pleasant but was a far cry from the Bondesque Latina beauty that had worked that station the year before. At least I wasn't speechless this time around. The first stop was shortly after crossing the border. Keep a look out for a sewage treatment plant-like dike on your right. This spot had a reasonable assortment of ducks (Cinn and BW Teal, L Scaup, Pintail, Redhead, etc) plus Western, RB, Cal, Herring, and 2 Glaucous-winged Gulls. We then entered the town of Guerrero Negro itself. On the southeast side of town, there are some tasty neighborhoods with a bit of wetland behind them. This is a great spot for Northern Waterthrush, and we had 5 there plus three Black-and-white Warblers and a few American Redstarts. Nearby is the town's central park, which has acquired a sizeable (up to 10) wintering American Redstarts. We had a few redstarts there, plus 2 more Black-and-white Warblers and Steve Ganley got a quick look at a Gray Catbird (which, as it turns out, a local birder Antonio had found a couple days earlier; as an aside, Antonio is exceptionally nice and would be most interested in meeting visiting birders. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org). And oh, 2 more Eur Collared Doves. The day ended with a sunset drive out to Puerto Viejo Carranza (see map). This road takes you out past the famous Guerrero Negro salt works out into the most wonderful tidal marshes. Just as you enter this wonderland, there are some ponds bordered by Salicornia, and the Salicornia is filled with Belding's and Large-billed Sav Sparrows. Farther down the road, thousands of Marbled Godwits and Willets, a variety of herons (YC and BC Night Herons, Little Blues, Reddish Egret, Tricoloreds). We stayed at the Malarrimo Hotel (or motel?). A fairly well established place that runs tours, so I'm sure it's find-able via the internet. It's on the main road into town on your right not long after you enter town. Its reasonably priced with a fairly good restaurant. I had scallops with Guerrero Negro style crunchy sauteed garlic. Quite nice. And the Yankees lost. Better yet. The Malarrimo has a gift store with a few trinkets and tee-shirts you can buy for folks back home. Nothing extraordinary. There is also a small mini-mart next door to stock up on breakfast food for the next day.
Oct 20 was spent hitting the two towns (Bahia Asuncion and Bahia Tortugas) and the numerous small ranches on the Vizcaino Peninsula. Our first stop was a small ranch just outside Vizcaino (not truly out on the peninsula yet) at Santa Teresita. Mike had some real goodies there the week before, including Blue-headed Vireo, but it yielded naught for us. Bahia Asuncion was next. The road out there takes you through some impressively barren desert, some areas getting an inch or less of rain per year. Some areas look an abandoned parking lot, just dirt and stones. The strategy out on the Vizcaino was the same as that in many desert locations. Walk around towns and ranches looking for Lerpy Eucs (sound like the name of some peculiar Irish band, doesn't it?), dense thickets, and any water (even run off from washing a car or clothing). Last year we had several good birds at Bahia Asuncion, but this year we had only one - an Eastern Phoebe, only the 6th or so for Baja. A Blue Grosbeak was also somewhat disoriented so far out on the point. The beach at Bahia Asuncion seems pretty good for roosting shorebirds, and we had a nice variety including Black Turnstone, Surfbird, Whimbrel, and Wilson's Plover in addition to the abundant BB Plovers, Mar Gods, and Willets. The various ranches (San Jose de Castro, Santa Monica, San Miguel- all on the atlas) were all pretty devoid of birds. And this is typical of birding the Vizcaino Pen. You don't see much. Migrants don't want to be out on this absolutely barren terrain. The ones that are out there messed up. Of course, that means the percentage of vagrants is higher, but it's a lot of work, and a lot of rough dirt road, for few birds. We also visited a ranch we call "Twin Ranches." It's not on the map. It is off to the north just before the turn off for the town of Malarrimo. You can just see the tree tops from the main road. Keep an eye out for a dirt track running off in that direction. The habitat here is as good as at any of the ranches, and this year it yielded a Lucy's Warbler. Finally, the day's birding ended at Bahia Tortugas, which has much less in the way of trees, etc., than Bahia Asuncion. Bill did find a Broad-winged Hawk here, and I had a somewhat displaced Anna's Humm (they are hard to find much past Guerrero Negro), but there wasn't much. And we were all getting a wee bit tired of barking dogs, staring into people's yards, explaining our peculiar behavior, and praying that the next tree actually had a bird in it. The seemingly endless and jarring drive back took us into the town of Vizcaino where we lucked into a fabulous small hotel the Hotel Kaadekaman, which apparently is the native Indian name for the nearby village of San Ignacio. The rooms were beautiful, inexpensive ($35/night), and the restaurant (named Afrodita) was superb. Mike had fabulous scallops in some sort of scrumptious sauce. Bill had a Chicken Cordon-Bleu dish with a Mexican twist, and I had Camarones Afrodita (camarones=shrimp), which consisted of plump fresh tasting prawns wrapped in bacon and sauteed in a white-wine and garlic. The young couple running the restaurant were absolutely charming (her father owns the hotel); also, the paintings on the restaurant walls were interesting modern/Mexican. Just great ambience. Their email is email@example.com and their phone number is 011-52-615-156-4112.
The next morning started just outside of town. A barb-wired enclosed packaging plant (on north side of road) is close by (just outside of Vizcaino) on the road back out onto the Peninsula. Along the east side of the compound runs a line of Eucs and a field that is very weedy and sometimes flooded. This spot was full of birds. There were 2 Eur Collared Doves (yea, again!), hundreds of Orange-crowned and Audubon's Warblers, 30 or so Clay-colored Sparrows plus even more Lincoln's. We then hit the town of Ordaz (fully named Ejido Gustavo Diaz Ordaz), which was also quite birdy and was quite clearly THE place for Hooded Orioles (at least 20) plus it had 2 more Eur Coll Doves. Overall, between our first stop and this town, we saw approx 300 Orange-crowned Warblers (about 15:1 lutescens:orestera). We also had 4 late Western Kingbirds there, scads of Common Ground-Doves, etc.
Bill, Steve G, and Mike then returned to Guerrero Negro while Kurt and I investigated Benito Juarez (just n of Mex-1, map p. 27). It, too, was quite birdy, but the only notables were more collared-doves (3) plus one hybrid and a Black-chinned Humm. While we were so entertained, Bill and the gang found a Red-shouldered Hawk at GN, a major rarity in BC Sur. We headed north. Just past the border we stopped at a Pemex to get gas. A small tamale stand next door served up a spectacular lunch. We went back to the RT Pipit fields and had one Bobolink and 2 RT Pipits that performed nicely, one of which appeared to be an adult (returning from last year???). The Grace's Warbler was still at Morelos and there was a female Rufous/Allen's there. We were shocked to get some light rain as we headed north, a most unusual event in the Vizcaino Desert, and perhaps the greatest rarity of the trip. A long drive put us back at El Rosario. The farther north we went, the greater the evidence that a substantial storm had passed, but see below. We stopped at a couple places on the way back, the most interesting of which was Santa Rosalillita (turn off is at top of map p. 20). The beach was beautiful and there were a reasonable number of seabirds about, though nothing interesting. At El Rosario, we stayed at the Earthquake Motel. Okay, its real name is Motel La Cabana (phone 011-52-165-8615). It is right on Mex-1 and some rooms are very noisy. Definitely don't take room 13, which has a window facing the highway; that is, unless your fond of the sound of compression brakes. Probably better than my snoring, but that's another tale. Next door is Restaurant Mama Espinoza, which apparently is a big stop over spot for the Baja 1000 folks. The food is fairly good, and I had a Chile Colorado with chopped cactus that was fairly nice (perhaps a tad bland). Mama's opens at 6:30am, so you can get coffee and couple sweet empanadas to go. The trees behind the hotel are great, and so we started there. I won't give the blow-by-blow, but the neighborhoods treated us very well that morning (we birded from 7-1:30 in town). Consider the following list: Yellow-green Vireo, 3 Tennessee Warblers, a nominate Orange-crowned Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, 2 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, 2 Black-and-white Warblers, and a Balitmore Oriole. We also had 4 Pine Siskins in town and 16 just outside town. Notably, El Rosario had had a lot of rain. The fields were muddy, and I'm sure the pepper crop was destroyed. There was standing water everywhere, including most of the roads in town. All that precip had fallen 24-36 hour before, and apparently, that same storm dropped an amazing 4" on Los Angeles.
From El Rosario, it was to El Socorro, where we worked our way around the fields and to the beach. We came across a Tropical Kingbird on some wires, but the best was the seabird activity on Bahia Santa Maria (viewed from El Socorro/El Socorrito). A purse seiner was pulling in sardines and was trailed by a parade of gulls. But the entire bay was full of activity. We had about 2000 Black-vented Shearwaters and 400-500 Elegant Terns. A flock roosting on the beach had two late Common Terns. Three Pom Jaegers and a few Parasitics pursued the various feeding seabirds. Our last stop of 22 Oct was the park at San Vicente, which again proved its worth by producing Black-throated Blue Warbler and Plumbeous Vireo.
Our last two nights were back at the Mini Motel at Punta Banda. We poked around Punta Banda and La Bufadora quickly on the am of 23 October and satisfied ourselves that there was nothing much around. So, we went up to Laguna Hansen, which is reached by taking Mex-3 east from Ensenada up hill. The signs are pretty well marked after you leave town. Laguna Hansen is reached by driving 35 km from hwy 3. Follow signs for Parque Nacional. Along the way there are oaks with WB Nut, Oak Tit, and Acorn Woods. The Laguna itself is sometimes dry, sometimes wet. This time it had some water, but much probably had just recently accumulated. We had a few waterfowl, the most interesting of which was Canvasback. When the lake is full, it can attract loons, geese, and Bald Eagles. Weird for a basin-type pond at approx. 5000 feet in pine woodlands. When dry, it can attract longspurs, none of which were present that day. Two flocks of Pinyon Jays did appear, totaling around 125 birds. The area was also filled with Pygmy Nuts plus a few Mtn Chickadees, Western Bluebirds, etc. Working the Manzanita/Pinyon edges away from the lake, I turned up 5 Slate-colored Fox Sparrows and a Thick-billed Fox. On the way back, we birded the park at Ojos Negros, which was filled with Audubon's Warblers, but little else. A flooded field just outside town had a nice group of shorebirds and ducks, including 67 Mallards, a nice total for so far south.
Mike split that afternoon. We had the next day to make him pay for his insolence. Punta Banda and La Bufadora gave us little help, though 2 Red Crossbills flying over Punta Banda were nice. The Maneadero provided the aforementioned Bell's Vireo. Not something to make him terribly envious. Our next spot was the Estero Beach Hotel on the south side of Ensenada (find Estero Beach at the s. end of map 7. It's reached by turning where there's a sign for hotel Kuku (or was it CuCu- something like that). When reaching the guard station, just tell them you're headed for the restaurant. We picked up Common Loon and Black Skimmer for the trip list, but better yet, we found 3 Aleutian Geese, a most rare bird in Baja. Also the mudflats here were packed with Marbled Godwits, Willets, Dunlin, Western Sands, etc. The beach had our only significant concentration of Red Knots - 55. We stopped at La Salina, however, gave us a wonderful finishing touch. We nabbed our 24th warbler species, Magnolia, plus 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches, nicely filling in some holes in our trip list, and the latter providing a nice Mexican tick.
So, many thanks to Kurt (our fearless leader), Bill (my homey), Mike (fine birder and oenophile), and Steve G (one-liner extraordinaire) for their wonderful companionship and for putting up with my snoring/puns/hyperdrive.
Clark's X Western Grebe hybrid: Rio Guadelupe, 16 Oct (SM, BT, KR)
Pink-footed Shearwater: 8 from La Bufadora 17 Oct; 2 from beach at Mesa Sand Jacinto 17 Oct.
Buller's Shearwater: one from La Bufadora 17 Oct (BT, SM)
Black-vented Shearwater: max of 2000 at El Socorro 22 Oct
Aleutian Cackling Goose: 3 at Estero Beach Hotel 24 Oct (KR, BT, SM, SG)
Mallard: max of 67 at Ojos Negros 23 Oct
Red-shouldered Hawk: Guerrero Negro 21 Oct (BT, MSM, SG)
Broad-winged Hawk: Bahia Tortugas 20 Oct (BT)
Wilson's Plover: 2 at Bahia Asuncion 20 Oct (MSM, KR, SG)
Mountain Plover: 25 at Mesa de San Jacinto 17 Oct
Red Knot: max of 55 at Estero Beach Hotel 24 Oct (KR, BT, SM, SG)
Pectoral Sandpiper: La Bocana 18 Oct
Pomarine Jaeger: 2 at Mesa de San Jacinto 17 Oct; 3 at El Socorro 22 Oct
Parasitic Jaeger: max of 15 at Mesa de San Jacinto 17 Oct.
Glaucous-winged Gull: 2 at Guerrero Negro STP 19 Oct
Common Tern: 2 at El Socorro 22 Oct
Eurasian Collared-Dove, Ringed Turtle-Dove and Hybrids: these seemed to be everywhere. Extremely odd given that we had only 3, all hybrids, at Villa Jesus Maria last year. Phenotypically pure ECDs (at least a couple were heard giving ECD songs) were as follows: 15 at El Socorro and on at El Rosario 18 Oct; 2 at Guerrero Negro and 1 at Villa Jesus Maria on 19 Oct; 2 at Vizcaino, 3 at Benito Juarez, and 2 at Ordaz on 21 Oct; 1 at Maneadero on 23 Oct. Hybrid type doves (at least one of these gave a RTD song) were noted: 20 at San Vicente on 17 Oct; 5 at El Rosario on 18 Oct; 1 at Benito Juarez on 21 Oct. We had one pretty much "pure" looking Ringed Turtle-Dove at Maneadero on 16 Oct. This (these) birds' explosion onto the peninsula seems most impressive.
White-winged Doves: late for so far north was one at Punta Banda 16 Oct (KR, SM, BT) and one at Ojos Negros 23 Oct.
Anna's Hummingbird: Bahia Tortugas 20 Oct (SM)
Black-chinned Hum: imm males at Nuevo Rosarito on 19 Oct (SM) and Benito Juarez 21 Oct (SM).
Rufous Humm: one at Maneadero 16 Oct (BT, SM, KR); Rufous/Allen's at Maneadero 16 Oct (SM, BT, KR) and Morelos 18 Oct (SM).
Red-naped Sapsucker: One at El Rosario 18 Oct and 2 there 22 Oct.
Red-breasted Sapsucker: One at Catavina 18 Oct
RB X RN Sapsucker: One at Catavina 19 Oct
Western Wood-Pewee: latest of trip (and fairly late for Baja) was at El Rosario 22 Oct.
Willow Flycatcher: one at Catavina 21 Oct- heard calling
Gray Flycatcher: one at Catavina 21 Oct
Cordilleran Flycatcher: one calling at La Bufadora 16 Oct (BT, KR, SM); probably same bird seen later that day and early next day (MSM, SG, R. Hamilton).
Eastern Phoebe: one at Bahia Asuncion on 20 Oct.
Tropical Kingbird: one at El Socorro 22 Oct
Western Kingbird: late birds incl 4 at Ordaz 21 Oct and one at El Rosario 22 Oct (MSM).
Plumbeous Vireo: one at El Rosario 22 Oct
Cassin's/Plumbeous Vireo: one at El Rosario 22 Oct
Yellow-green Vireo: one at El Rosario 22 Oct (SM, KR, MSM)
Hutton's Vireo: La Bocana 17 Oct (SM)
Bell's Vireo: Maneadero Plains 24 Oct (SM)
Red-breasted Nuthatch: 2 at La Salina 24 Oct (KR, BT, SM, SG)
White-breasted Nuthatch: one along lower Rio Santo Tomas, apparently unusual at this location.
Pygmy Nuthatch: El Rosario 18 Oct
Swainson's Thrush: At least 9 on 4 dates. Seems high.
Gray Catbird: one at Guerrero Negro's central park 19 Oct (SG).
Red-throated Pipit: at least 2 at Villa Jesus Maria 19 and 21 Oct
Tennessee Warbler: 1 at Rio Guadelupe 16 Oct; 2 at El Rosario 18 Oct; 3 at El Rosario 22 Oct.
Orange-crowned Warbler: one celata at El Rosario 22 Oct (MSM, SM). Ratio of lutescens to orestera about 19:1 in BC (ie, BCN). In Guerrero Negro, about 30% were orestera. Around Vizcaino, Ordaz, etc ratio of lutescens to orestera about 15:1.
Nashville Warbler: Exceptionally well represented with at least 12 birds seen.
Lucy's Warbler: one at Morelos 19 Oct (BT) and one at "Twin Ranches" on Vizcainon 20 Oct (SM).
Chestnut-sided Warbler: one at El Rosario 18-22 Oct
Black-throated Blue Warbler: San Vicente 22 Oct
Myrtle Warbler: I had only 3 (and Bill had one more) out of about 1000 Yellow-rumpeds total.
Black-throated Green Warbler: El Rosario 22 Oct
Grace's Warbler: ad at Morelos 19-21 Oct
Prairie Warbler: El Rosario 18 Oct
Palm Warbler: one at La Bufadora 16-17 Oct; one at El Rosario 18 Oct; one on 19 Oct Villa Jesus Maria (BT).
Blackpoll Warbler: one at El Rosario 22 Oct (BT, SG)
Black-and-white Warbler: one at San Vicente 17 Oct; 5 at Guerrero Negro 19 Oct; 2 at El Rosario 22 Oct.
American Redstart: one at Rio Sto Tomas 17 Oct; 2 at El Rosario 18 Oct; only 5 at GN 19 Oct; 5 at El Rosario 22 Oct; 1 at La Bufadora 24 Oct.
Northern Waterthrush: 5 at Guerrero Negro 19 Oct
MacGillivray's Warbler: one at Maneadero Pig Farm 23 Oct; one at La Salina 24 Oct.
Canada Warber: one at "Rancho Cruz" in farmland w. of El Rosario 18 Oct.
Yellow-breasted Chat: one at Catavina 19 Oct.
Summer Tanager: one at Punta Banda 16 Oct (MSM, SG); one at El Socorro 18 Oct; one at Punta Banda 23 Oct; one at La Salina 24 Oct.
Scarlet Tanager: one at San Vicente 17 Oct (KR).
Clay-colored Sparrow: max of 30 in Vizcaino area 21 Oct.
Slate-colored Fox Sparrow: 5 at Laguna Hansen; one on road to LH- 23 Oct.
Thick-billed Fox Sparrow: 1 at Laguna Hansen 23 Oct (SM).
Nuttall's/Pugetensis WC Sparrow: 1 at Punta Banda 17 Oct (SM, BT)
Oriantha WC Sparrow: none n. of Nuevo Rosarito. Gambel's still predominated in Guerrero Negro/Vizcaino area.
Golden-crowned Sparrow: 1 at Rio El Descanso and 1 at Punta Banda 16 Oct (PB bird also 17 Oct); 3 at El Rosario 18 Oct.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak: 2 at El Rosario 17 and 22 Oct (none seen by me, alas).
Blue Grosbeak: Bahia Tortugas 20 Oct.
Bobolink: 4 at Villa Jesus Maria 19 Oct; one there 21 Oct.
Hooded Oriole: 20 at Ordaz and 2 at Benito Juarez 21 Oct; at least 4 others on trip.
Bullock's Oriole: at least 3 on trip.
Baltimore Oriole: El Rosario 22 Oct (SM, MSM).
Scott's Oriole: at least 3 on trip; most northerly at Punta Banda 24 Oct
Red Crossbill: 2 at Punta Banda 24 Oct
Pine Siskin: 1 at Catavina and 2 at Santa Inez 19 Oct; 16 at Rancho Cruz outside of El Rosario and 4 in El Rosario on 22 Oct. At least one at La Bufadora 24 Oct.
Lawrence's Goldfinch: 1 at Nuevo Rosarito on 19 Oct.
American Goldfinch: 20 at Recreativa (Maneadero area) 16 Oct.