‘Twas a good day. I fell flat on my face, lost my camera lens cap, and punctured my tire. I swear that rock (well, actually, it was a two-foot high boulder that I toppled over), chuckled as it heard the air go “Whooompf” from my lungs. The lesson: try not to count the day’s Gray Flycatchers while walking quickly, even if you are following a cowpath. Fortunately my past life as an “athlete” kicked in, and I instinctively tucked my bins against my chest while rolling, putting my right shoulder to the ground (and my camera bag to the sky). I still hit hard and spent more than a few seconds making sure all body parts were present and accounted for, not to mention trying to refill my lungs. All seemed fine, and more importantly, no damage to the optics. The lens cap and tire probs arose later.
I was walking along the wash 16.5 km up the road to San Antonio de la Sierra. It was day six of the trip. I’d made the mistake of checking my email the previous night and realized that the huge load of tasks awaiting my return had grown considerably. I needed an escape. And I was already on vacation. Sad, huh?
I arrived at the wash and parked near the small ranchero there. I was greeted by a) two San Lucas Robins; b) a howling dog; c) the rancher. His initial expression displayed some consternation, but – amazingly – he grinned enthusiastically when I told him I was there to watch birds. He then imparted information in rapid-fire Spanish, virtually none of which I understood. We did manage to converse some, discussing the recent weather and the beauty of the spot. He used the word “tranquilo.” And that spot was exactly that (minus the howling dog). And, excepting getting up close and personal with large rock-like objects, the morning’s saunter was tranquil. Big sparrow flocks, lots of Gray Flycatchers, and the absence of planes, trains, and automobiles.
As for birding highlights, the usual lower-montane specialties (Acorn Woodpecker and Band-tailed Pigeon) were present in decent numbers, there were five San Lucas Robins in total, and a couple of the local Spotted Towhees. One very bright Solitary Vireo was undoubtedly of the local breeding race. Seed-eating birds seemed more numerous than normal with 180 Chipping Sparrows and 18 Black-chinned Sparrows during my 5 hour perambulation. A goodly number of Laz Buntings were also present, plus a Varied Bunting, which I’d not seen at that elevation before. Water was still present in the washes here and there, in about the usual amount, despite the drought. The oaks and cacti on the hillsides, however, looked stressed and undergrowth was non-existent. Unlike the lowland locations I’d visited earlier in the trip, insectivore numbers were decent, with – yes – lots of Gray Flycatchers, Ash-throated Flycatchers, Black-throated Gray Warblers, etc.
It was noon before I returned to my vehicle and enjoyed a repast of mango empenadas and queso fresco. I drove up to the wash at 23 km (from the highway). My arrival was announced by a wild yakking from the local Acorn Woodpeckers. This wash was also tranquilo, despite the noisy woodpeckers. It was so quiet that a sparrow flushing from my feet sounded like a flock of pigeons. A couple times I was actually startled. I found a couple more groups of San Lucas Robins, 12 birds total. There was also a rare-for-winter Western Kingbird, another Spotted Towhee, but no Band-tailed Pigeons and only one Solitary Vireo, a duller Cassin’s type. Overhead, a saw my first Cape District White-throated Swifts, 15 or so in all. Some of these swifts flew so high I lost them in the few puffy clouds. I was pleased to get decent photos of the robins, but it was in pursuit of these birds that I lost my lens cap. I was again surprised by the difference in their vocalizations. They are as easy to identify by sound as sight. Hard to imagine they are the same species as American Robin. As for the lens cap, I improvised and placed a wad of clean tissue paper in the camera bag to protect the lens. Yep, a real pro.
I left the mountains smiling, my neurotic soul having managed to actually let go. About five km from the freeway, I noticed the tire sound was different. No flapping of a flat tire, just a different hum. Then on the freeway, a bit of a pull. When I reached San Antonio, seven km down the highway, I pulled into the small Pemex. I had a tire that was nearly flat. The owner’s son, about age 10, hopped on it and pumped air into the tire. The air hissed out almost as fast as it went in. El Nino (sorry, don’ t know how to get my program to put the proper letter in here), offered to change the tire. His father wanted me to go to the local llanteria (the tire fix/replace shop – a fixture in the Mexican countryside). But I had a good spare, and it wasn’t my tire that was flat, it was Dollar’s. So, I started the process of loosening bolts, jacking up the car, etc. El Nino snuck in to help, increasingly boldly as the process went along – almost pushing me out of the way so he could do the task. Indeed, his help sped up the job considerably, especially as the Jeep’s jack system was quite different from my Toyota’s. For instance, I had no idea where to attach the jack, and of course, there was no owner’s manual (though I am forever grateful that all the parts needed to actually change the tire were present and that the spare was in good shape). He knew exactly where to place the jack. I probably was not the first such customer. A bit grimier, I arrived in La Paz with 60 seconds to spare in my 24-hour rental. It was indeed a good day as I watched the glowing orange sun set over Ensenada de La Paz.
Okay, I started the tale in the middle. Why? Because I can. Our trip had started 6 days earlier on a flight originating from Seattle where it had rained for 40 days straight. The hammering from people building arks was starting to get to me, so we headed towards sun. The trip was uneventful, excepting that Alaska Airlines had started enforcing its 50 pound weight limit for check-in luggage. Mine: 54 pounds. But my carry-on was stuffed. 25 dollars, thank you. I’ve heard various airline employees state it’s because of fuel costs (but then why not charge if you exceed 100 pounds total, as you can check two bags of 50 pounds each). I’ve also heard it’s to protect baggage handlers from injury. Right. It’s to make money. Next time, 2 bags, more total weight, and let them buy the fuel. By the way, the weight limit for international flights is 75 pounds, but the Alaska employee told me that Mexico wasn’t considered “international.” I wonder if Vicente Fox knows?
We arrived on the evening of 20 January. It was rather windy, but we spent three happy hours birding the Estero San Jose. We started the next morning and finished the next evening there as well. The Estero continues to look healthier, with more cattails and phragmites. Waterfowl, coot, moorhen, grebe, and Sora numbers were way up. Heron numbers stable, excepting that Reddish Egrets seem to have abandoned the spot. With less shoreline, shorebird numbers seemed down a bit. And now blackbirds are present, both Red-winged and Yellow-headed; previously Red-wingeds were uncommon and this was the first time I’d seen Yellow-heads here. Also, since the Estero is one of the few places with fresh water during this drought winter, passerine numbers were excellent, as in 150 Orange-crowned Warblers and 250 Yellow-rumped Warblers. Overhead, swallows were a constant presence in huge numbers, with 500+ visible at any given time, and the make-up of the flock changing frequently. The true number of swallows using the Estero during a day must of been several thousand. In past years, swallows really only appeared in numbers to roost, and I don’t think I ever topped 1000 then. Joining the swallows were 20+ Vaux’s Swifts, perhaps a first winter record for the Cape, where they are uncommon to rare at any time. But the best thing was the evening parade of Lesser Nighthawks. At almost precisely 6pm, which is sunset, Lesser Nighthawks would start streaming in from up the wash (at the end of which lies the Estero). At first there would be a dozen. Then dozens. Then hundreds. Sweeping low over the ground, high overhead, everywhere, some coming ridiculously close. My highest count at any one time was 775, but the true number was probably two or three-fold higher. Standing on the Estero’s backside, away from people, the sky still glowing orange to the west and the air still retaining some of the day’s warmth, with nighthawks filling the sky was one of the grandest outdoor experiences I can remember. And No. I could not find a Common Nighthawk amongst the swarm.
Okay. Back to basics. A summary of how to bird the Estero is in order. Parking by the Hotel Intercontinental (for directions see previous notes), there are initially two choices – walk down towards the beach and then along the beach, viewing both the Sea of Cortez (usually not much out there) and the Estero from a relatively open angle. Choice two is to head up a paved walkway that follows one of the main channels filling the lagoon itself. From that walkway, one can either follow the channel or take a variety of dirt paths into the thornscrub and palms. Originally, when this walkway was built a year or two ago, I was really against it. A fair bit of brush was removed. Now I am not. The birds along here have become quite habituated, allowing for good viewing and photography (including excellent views of Garganey last year and Eurasian Wigeon this year). The far side has lots of vegetation to encourage the channel’s use by these birds. Better yet, the walkway has led to a proliferation of nature lovers visiting the area -- walkers, photographers, and even some birders. Given the amount of use we witnessed, its popularity will only help preserve it. The walkway eventually leads past the small sewage treatment plant and then to a road. Take a right on this road, and you cross the channel. Go past the thick phragmites, and you come to a broad open area (the wash), and shortly you’ll come upon a good sand road leading to the right (back towards the lagoon and Sea of Cortez). This road was actually easily navigated by our Dodge Neon. This back location generated 4 Red-throated Pipits for Nigel Ball last winter and is where Charlie Wright, Ryan Shaw, and I had a Fulvous Whistling-Duck last fall. On this trip, I added Snow Goose and Western Meadowlark to my “Cape District” list, plus had 4 Greater White-fronted Geese, a Grasshopper Sparrow, and two Tropical Kingbirds. There were a surprising number of passerines among the small shrubs in the wash, including a number of Savannah Sparrows (but only one Large-billed). Finally, if you visit this spot with a car, it is worth continuing along the paved road away from town and farther across the wash. There are several additional channels, one of which yielded a Hooded Merganser, one of but a few records for Baja California Sur. Last year along one of these channels, I had a Taverner’s Cackling Goose and (with apologies to those who feel these birds can not be reliably identified) a Lesser Canada Goose. Other highlights from the Estero area included a Lucy’s Warbler near the sewage plant, a third Tropical Kingbird near the paved walkway, and a male Greater Scaup among 145 Lessers in the lagoon viewed from the Sea of Cortez side.
One final word about San Jose del Cabo. It is being ruined, turned into C abo San Lucas. All properties along the water are now “all inclusive”, including our modest Best Western (El Posada Real). I used to really love this place. Nice staff, relatively few Americans, on the beach, small property (easy to get to and from car), relatively inexpensive. But the best part was a really good restaurant (better than the vast majority of expensive places in town) that allowed you to just crash after a hard day of beating the brush and slogging through marshes. The food was great (I’ll forever miss their Steak Tampiqueno) and the service good. Now, it’s a chow line not worthy of a high school cafeteria. Mystery meat in bland brownish-gray gravy, spaghetti with just enough tomato sauce to give the noodles a vague blush, and slabs of arid chicken breast. Yummmy! I was commiserating with an elderly gentleman, who also remembered the “good old days” here. As I was displaying my disgust with that night’s offerings, he added in the saddest of tones, “and it’s the same food every night.” Of course, the privilege of eating these repasts in whatever quantity you desire has led to a substantial increase in the cost of staying here. Next year, somewhere else.
We did find another easy option for meals. A “Mega” had opened nearby. Consider the combination of a huge department store plus a huge grocery store. That’s a Mega. But it is distinctly not American. The meat and fish are tendered by butchers and fish mongers serving local products (including parts of the cow and pig that most American’s wouldn’t dream of eating). The produce department was filled with luscious mangos, papayas, and some fruit we’d never heard of. Our room had a refrigerator, so we stocked up for breakfast here. There was also a small “food court,” with a tamale shop, a taco shop, and a burrito shop. Each separate. The scallop tacos were filled with sweet succulent small scallops and supplemented by an impressive salsa bar. The tamale shop was clearly the most popular among the locals. There were spicy hot tamales, sweet desert tamales, tamales wrapped in corn leaves, tamales wrapped in banana leaves. The banana ones were new to me. The ingredients were mixed in with the masa, not stuffed inside. Also, the folks working the entire place, from the store to the food stalls, were just fabulously friendly. One of the big reasons I keep returning to Baja.
We birded Caduano the afternoon of the 21st, and we went to Miraflores the afternoon of that day and the following morning. Caduano was dead. Virtually birdless, despite the presence of some water. Miraflores, which was parched, was also slow. Insectivores in particular were absent. Seed-eating birds were actually present in good numbers, especially Green-tailed Towhees, Pyrrhuloxia, and Varied Buntings. And Miraflores yielded a Mega of its own. Birding the main wash crossing, on the town side, I’d stopped and pished in a large flock of Western Scrub-Jays (I had a total of 120 at Miraflores that morning), when an oriole flew in. From its shape and orange color, I knew immediately it was neither a Hooded nor a Scott’s. That meant something good. From its initial position, I could see that its grayish-olive back had lines of dark dusky streaks. I think I gasped audibly. Or wet my pants. One or the other. I could also see it was very bright orange in the auriculars. A Streak-backed Oriole. And then it flew. Fortunately, continued pishing drew it back in, and I could see the face, bill, and underparts in detail. This was early in the day. The slow birding thereafter was irrelevant. “Good” birds produced by Miraflores included 4 Thick-billed Kingbirds (down from the usual 7 or so), 4 Spotted Towhees, 3 Ruddy Ground-Doves, 2 Acorn Woodpeckers, and a Nashville Warbler.
Casey and I found that Santiago and Agua Caliente were much the same as Caduano and Miraflores. On our way north to La Paz, we skipped Las Cuevas, excepting the small marsh on the way to La Ribera. This marsh was totally dry and had been partially burnt. There was still at least one Belding’s Yellowthroat there, amazingly. At La Ribera, we birded the lagoons along the beach. The lagoon near the parking spot (follow road until it ends in a T. Take a right. Go a km or so. Look for tracks through hard-packed sand/dirt headed towards beach. These end at a beach with a couple tables, etc) had a reasonable number of shorebirds and ducks. The lagoons a few hundred yards south along the beach were birdless, much like they had been in October and were not worth the walk. Somehow, I think October’s Juan Fernandez Petrel is unlikely to repeat itself. As a bonus, we found a Swainson’s Hawk just west of La Ribera as we were headed back towards the main highway. I thought this was the farthest south record for Baja, but alas, a couple days earlier Dan Cooper had found one or two at the Estero (which we managed to not see, of course. Dan also had found the Euro Wigeon and the geese at the Estero, plus Least Grebes, which we’d missed there. But I digress).
La Paz, as always, was a joy. Los Arcos hadn’t changed. We were greeted as old friends by the bellhops, our luggage whisked to our room, car parked, and then fed superb shrimp cocktails and steak arrachera – all for a fraction of Cabo San Lucas prices. Refined. That is Los Arcos. And they don’t sneer when we arrive in muddy birding clothes. The La Paz (or Chametla) Sewage Treatment Ponds had a fraction of the usual shorebirds and waterfowl, probably in part due to the dry conditions in the adjacent pasture, which is usually quite wet. One thing to note is that the entrance is at a new location. To get to the sewage treatment ponds, head out of La Paz towards the airport. Go around the traffic circle with the whale tail in the middle, exiting the traffic circle pointed towards the airport. At the first “retorno” sign, make a “U” turn. Keep right when the paved road forks (this happens almost immediately), and then (carefully) turn right onto the first dirt road. This all happens in rapid succession. Follow the dirt road a couple hundred yards, and you’ll see the green pastures on your right and tamarisk surrounded sewage ponds on your left. Park out of the way before the first pond. The pastures are wonderful birding and the last two (of four) sewage ponds are usually the best. The old entrance road to the sewage ponds has become a vast paved boulevard signed “to Village of Enchantment” or some such. I’m sure it’s charming.
The mudflats of Ensenada de la La Paz (stretching from La Paz through Chametla and then El Centenario) were stuffed with birds, per usual. Thousands of shorebirds and herons, hundreds of terns. Some of the “regular” rarities included Gull-billed Tern, Neotropic Cormorant, and Red Knot. The most interesting thing was a 1st year Pomarine Jaeger that visited the flats at low tide every afternoon we were there. When it wasn’t standing on the mud looking perfectly innocent, it was pirating food from Forster’s and Royal Terns. For some reason, it left the Caspians alone.
Occasionally even I will take pleasure in simple birding joys. We came across three fisherman in a small boat who were gutting multi-hued fish on a beach near Pichilingue. They were surrounded by huffing Brown Pelicans vying for the offal, with Yellow-footed Gulls hanging around the periphery and Magnificent Frigatebirds swooping in from above. In the evening sun, the fisherman’s laughter and the frigatebird acrobatics were quite a tonic.
Our last birding day was at Todos Santos. It rained. Washington rain. Cool, generally light, intermittent. And not what we wanted. We struggled through the morning. We saw much of the same pattern as Miraflores, etc, but more orioles, tanagers, and grosbeaks, including a Rose-breasted. Mostly, these birds were moving in and out of the town’s central park, hitting the fruit trees and flowering bushes. Finally, we retreated to Los Adobes where we spent two hours eating a glorious lunch (shrimp and mango do combine well, especially with a bit of heat applied). We stopped by the Hotel California and listened to a debate about whether it was THE Hotel California. And we did a little shopping for relatives and friends. If you didn’t receive your gift yet, I apologize.
General Trends: seed-eating species up, frugivores neutral, insectivores down, except at locations with permanent fresh water. There seemed to be some movement of montane species (RCKI, HETH, SPTO) into lowlands. Also had a couple lowland birds (GRTH, VABU) in the mountains, where I’d not seen them previously.
Greater White-fronted Goose: 4 at Estero San Jose 20–22 January. 14 at La Paz STP 24-25 January.
Snow Goose: 2 at Estero San Jose 22 January.
Dabblers: we found most GWTE, BWTE, CITE, NOSH in molt. Few in full breeding. In contrast, AMWI, GADW, NOPI, and Aythya ducks were mostly in full breeding. In Washington, all these species are pretty much in full breeding. I’ve not noticed this difference previously. Is it possible that there is a higher percentage of immature GWTE and NOSH wintering in Baja vs Washington (we don’t have many CITE or BWTE in winter), or do they just molt later in Baja. Why have I not noticed this before?
Eurasian Wigeon: male at Estero San Jose 22-23 January
Ring-necked Duck: 21 at Estero San Jose on 21 January; 3 at La Playita on 22 January.
Greater Scaup: male at Estero San Jose on 21 January.
Lesser Scaup: max of 145 at Estero San Jose on 21 January
Hooded Merganser: female-type at Estero San Jose on 22 January.
Pacific Loon: one off La Playita (just e. of San Jose del Cabo) on 22 Jan. My first for the Cape, though they are supposed to be regular here.
American White Pelican: max of 50 at Chametla on 27 January. None away from Ensenada de La Paz.
Neotropic Cormorant: 9 at Chametla 24 and 27 January.
Great Egret: max of 200 at Chametla 25 January.
Snowy Egret: max of 300 at Chametla 24 January.
Tricolored Heron: max of 35 at Chametla 25 January.
Swainson’s Hawk: ad light morph near La Ribera 24 January.
Zone-tailed Hawk: one at Caduano and one at Miraflores on 21 January.
Merlin: one at Estero San Jose 22 and 23 January.
Peregrine Falcon: At least 2 at Estero San Jose and 2 at La Paz.
Sora: max of 20+ at Estero San Jose 21 Jan. Far more than I’ve ever had in the Cape before.
American Oystercatcher: 2 at Chametla on 24 January.
Lesser Yellowlegs: max of 9 at La Paz STP 24 January.
Solitary Sandpiper: 2 at Santiago on 23 January. I think this is the 3rd consecutive winter we’ve found this species here or at Miraflores, making me wonder if they may winter regularly in small numbers in flooded pastures, etc.
Red Knot: 3 at El Centenario on 25 January.
Pomarine Jaeger: one 1st year, intermediate “morph”, Chametla, 24-27 January.
Western Gull: 2 at La Paz 25 January.
Gull-billed Tern: max of 4 at Chametla 27 January.
Black Skimmer: max of 45 at Chametla 27 January.
Ruddy Ground-Dove: 3 at Miraflores 22 January.
Lesser Nighthawk: max 775 at Estero San Jose 21 January
Vaux’s Swift: present 20-23 January at Estero San Jose with max of 20 on 23 January. Most, but not all, of these Chaetura swifts were actually ID’d to species.
White-throated Swift: 15 at San Antonio de la Sierra, wash 23km. 26 January. My first encounter with them in the Cape, though they are resident in the Sierra de la Laguna.
Acorn Woodpecker: 2 at Miraflores on 22 January. Had them here (near secondary wash crossing, see last year’s notes for details) last winter, but we definitely did not have them here October 2005, despite spending a lot of time at this particular spot. Also, high numbers at San Antonio de la Sierra with total count of 60 on 26 January.
Gray Flycatcher: max of 17 at San Antonio de la Sierra on 26 January.
Ash-throated Flycatcher: max of 18 at San Antonio de la Sierra on 26 January.
Tropical Kingbird: 3 total Estero San Jose, 21–22 January. One heard vocalizing.
Thick-billed Kingbird: 8 total: 1 at Caduano, 21 January; 4 total at Miraflores, 21–22 January; 2 at Santiago, 23 January; 1 at Las Cuevas marsh, 24 January. Roughly half of what I’ve found in recent winters.
Western Kingbird: 1 at wash 23km, San Antonio de la Sierra, 26 January
Bell’s Vireo: 7 total: 2 total, Estero San Jose, 21-22 January; 1 at Miraflores 22 January; 1 at Santiago 23 January; 1 at Las Cuevas marsh 24 January; 2 at Todos Santos 27 January.
Plumbeous Vireo: 1 at Agua Caliente 23 January.
Cassin’s Vireo: Only 3, all at San Antonio de la Sierra. Two very brightly colored, one not. None singing. Interestingly, Sievert Rohwer visited the Sierra de la Laguna last summer and independently noted how brightly colored the “San Lucan” Solitary Vireos are. He’s thinking of doing genetic work to see how they fall taxonomically. Also of note, all sang the burry song of Cassin’s, making me wonder if the two bright birds that I’ve had previously that sang typical Blue-headed songs were Blue-headeds. Then there was the bird that sang both songs, but such birds do occur in Alberta. Hopefully, we’ll find out if, perhaps, the local race is actually a species and if it ever sings a the sweet song of BHVI.
Tree Swallow: 10 at Estero San Jose 20-22 January.
Violet-green Swallow: max of 1000 on 22 January at Estero San Jose. Interestingly, most seemed to have the broadly white rumps, with narrow dividing line, of Baja breeding race.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow: 100 at Estero San Jose 21 January and 25 at La Paz STP 24 January.
Bank Swallow: 1 at Estero San Jose 20 January
Cliff Swallow: 10 at Estero San Jose 20 January
Barn Swallow: 400 at Estero San Jose 20 January; 2 at La Paz STP on 24 January.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet: I’ve never seen them in the Cape outside San Antonio de la Sierra. This year we had several in lowlands, 1 each at Miraflores and Caduano on 21 January plus one at Santiago on 23 January.
Hermit Thrush: Another bird I’ve never seen in the Cape away from San Antonio de la Sierra. Had one at La Ribera 24 January.
San Lucas Robin: 5 at 16.5km and 12 at 23km, San Antonio de la Sierra.
Gray Thrasher: Present in decent numbers (about 3/day) in suitable habitat, including one at 16.5km San Antonio de la Sierra, where I’ve never had one before.
Orange-crowned Warbler: Max 150 at Estero San Jose 21 January. Of approx 335 counted during trip, only about 10 appeared to be orestera. Thus, the lutescens: orestera ratio seemed rather high this year. Had a bird that gave us prolonged views and appeared to be a typical nominate celata at Estero San Jose 21 January. Description provided to Erickson et al.
Nashville Warbler: 1 at Miraflores 21 January.
Lucy’s Warbler: 1 at Estero San Jose 21 and 23 January.
Myrtle Warbler: 3 at Estero San Jose 21 January; 1 at Santiago 23 January.
Audubon’s Warbler: max 250 at Estero San Jose 21 January. 100 was my previous winter maximum.
Black-throated Gray Warbler: numbers were low in Miraflores, Caduano, Agua Caliente, etc but good in mountains with 20 at Sierra de la Sierra 26 Jan.
Palm Warbler: 1 at Estero San Jose 21 January.
Black-and-white Warbler: 3 at Santiago on 23 January.
American Redstart: only one – at Estero San Jose, 21 January.
Northern Waterthrush: in mangroves in Chametla and near Pichilingue plus 2 at La Paz STP.
MacGillivray’s Warbler: Sparse
Common Yellowthroat: max of 70 at Santiago 23 January.
Belding’s Yellowthroat: Up to 10 per day at Estero San Jose; likely could have had more if worked at it. Few at Santiago this year. None at small marsh in Caduano, one at marsh near Las Cuevas.
Yellow-breasted Chat: one at Estero San Jose 21 January; one at Santiago 23 January.
Summer Tanager: one at Santiago 23 January.
Green-tailed Towhee: 35 at Caduano/Miraflores 22 January; previous winter high count for me was 6!
Spotted Towhee: I’ve only seen one previously away from mountains, at San Bartolo. This winter, there were 4 at Miraflores 22 January and one at Agua Caliente 23 January. The Agua Caliente bird was interesting in that it had reduced spots on scaps and small tail spots compared to what I have seen among the Cape population, plus (it was a female) it had stronger brown hues to the back. If a migrant, this bird is a true mega-rarity. It looked much like the curtatus race we have breeding in e. Washington, a potential vagrant to Baja. The spotting appeared too limited and tail spots too small for arcticus.
Chipping Sparrow: Max 210 at San Antonio de la Sierra 26 Jan.
Black-chinned Sparrow: 19 at San Antonio de la Sierra on 26 January. My first encounter with this species in the Cape was just this fall at the wash at 16.5km. Have they always been here and I just missed them? Or are they present in increased numbers like several other seed-eating species?
Savannah Sparrow: 35 birds from “northern” races at Estero San Jose 21 January. I’ve never encountered this taxon group here during winter before, though I’ve seen small numbers during previous October trips. Had one bird looking like a typical rostratus at Estero San Jose 21 January. The Savannah Sparrows in the scrub at El Centenario were most interesting. I had at least 8 that gave me decent views. One or two had more slender bills, more rufous on the wings, were darker streaked below, and had noticeable back streaking (though not the white braces of the bird that we found in October at Estero San Jose). One bird had some yellow in the lores. It seems to me these are most likely NOT rostratus, but what race are they?
Grasshopper Sparrow: one at Estero San Jose 20 January.
White-crowned Sparrow: ratio of oriantha: gambelii about 12:1. This is roughly in line with previous experience. Numbers about twice normal overall. Had one (maybe 2) bird with intermediate loral pattern and pinkish bill, suggesting oriantha x gambelii.
Western Meadowlark: My first for the Cape, though they are supposed to occur here per various field guides. They can’t be too common.... one at Estero San Jose 20 January.
Streak-backed Oriole: One at Miraflores 22 October.
Greater White-fronted Goose
American White Pelican
Common Ground Dove
Ruddy Ground Dove
San Lucas Robin
OC Warbler (lutescent & orestera plus apparent celata)
BT Gray Warbler
Gambell’s WC Sparrow
Oriantha WC Sparrow
186 species, if I counted correctly