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January 2013 – Chris Llewellyn's "Birds Eye Views"

Month: January 2013

Our regular Baja birds are coming back!


A few weeks ago we weren’t’ seeing our regular backyard birds we see in Baja. You know, the songsters that Chris has in his book, “Birds We See in Baja California Sur, Mexico“.

It is with great pleasure we welcome their return. But…where have they been? (we welcome your comments at the end of this post to let us know what you are and are not seeing…by comment please, not email.)  I am always curious to know what others are seeing and where.

I wanted to share with you some photos that I took the other day.  They were taken in our Llewellyn Baja bird sanctuary with the exception of the gallo (rooster).  We were cruising and stopped and asked permission to shoot it.  I held up my camera when I asked so they wouldn’t get the wrong impression!  LOL


He was being pretty cocky as there were lots of hens around.  Pun intended.


And the female Northern Cardinal.  Isn’t she beautiful?  I couldn’t resist shooting her, even tho we have soooo many photos of them already!

IMG_1695And I can’t EVER keep from shooting the Costa’s Hummingbird.  And I have to admit…the males are definitely prettier than the females.  Even tho this male was not showing his color.  But…he did eventually and I got him pretty well…


Male Costa’s Hummingbird.


And of course, what would we do without our gorgeous male House Finch?

That’s if for our backyard Baja birds today!  Hope you enjoy…


Where to bird today? How about a Baja backyard birding adventure!

House Sparrow
House Sparrow

Sometimes it’s nice to take a “breather” and just spend some time at home.  Today, me and my sweetheart Debbie, decided to hang out on the south patio, have some iced tea and shoot whatever birds we see.  Well how fitting, first bird to get in the way of my camera lens is a House Sparrow  ( in Mexico it should be called a Casa Sparrow).   The bird above is a female and isn’t she a looker!   And where there is Mrs. House Sparrow there’s usually Mr.

House Sparrow
House Sparrow

What a handsome devil!

Then came along Mr. (in red) and Mrs. House Finch.  What a joy to watch and listen to these birds.

House Finch.male.3House Finch.female.1







All of the sudden the birds split. All it takes is one squak  from Mr. House Sparrow and everyone is gone.  Debbie and I know something is up, (must be where that old saying comes from).  Sure enough, we look up and there they are!  The bird picknic spoilers, a Zone-tailed Hawk and a  Red-tailed Hawk.


Then came along another couple of bird-eating rascals.  A Sharp-shinned Hawk and a Peregrine Falcon.  The Sharpie is in molt.  See the ragged secondaries?


Sharp-shinned Hawk.w.1







All the birds have taken cover and are quiet and still.  I spot an almost rare treat perched in a Palo-Blanco tree.  Well I’ll be!  It’s a Ruddy Ground Dove.  If you don’t look close, this bird can be mistaken for the Common Ground Dove.  The Ruddy doesn’t have that scaly look about the head and chest like the Common does and it’s bill is mostly black.

Ruddy Groung Dove
Ruddy Groung Dove

Some of the little guys start coming back to the feeders first for they need to feed often.  I see a male Costa’s Hummingbird  fidgeting around.  And then a most beautiful female or juvenile Xantus’s Hummingbird  zooms by.



Everything begins to return to normal.  A female Northern Cardinal hops around looking for sun-flower seeds.  A young or female Hooded Oriole is sneaking shyly about the feeder.  Always suspicious of my watching eyes.



I’m going to end today’s blog with my shot-of-the-week.  A pretty good photo for a hand-held shot.  Isn’t he something?  An endemic Xantus’s Hummingbird.


Baja birding in San Jose de Cabo





This is probably going to be the longest post I have ever made.  So if you start falling asleep keep in mind there will be some x rated shots at the end of the blog.  No fair cheating and scrolling down to the bottom of the page!

We visited the San Jose del Cabo Estuary and were completely amazed at the changes.  Much good but like with most progress, not everyone agrees with all the things they are doing.  We met with Biol. Raul Rodriguez Quintana, Director MPAL.  A very pleasant and knowledgeable person.  Apparently, he’s in charge of directing the management of the estero.   They are cleaning up the trash, which was everywhere, putting in walking paths and in general, creating more public access.  A great effort but I don’t agree with all the brush clearing.  Some is necessary but almost all of the native plants along one side of the canal have been cleared away.  Birds need “islands” of thick brush in which to quickly hide.  Having to fly or swim too long a distance to seek shelter leaves them vulnerable to predators.  For the most part, I applaud the efforts for sure.

IMG_7678Here’s Debbie and Director Rodriguez Quintana.  The smiles they are wearing go right along with this beautiful estuary.   Raul says they have plans for an interpretive center with banos’ (restrooms) and all that. This place is well worth a visit as you will see from our photos.  There are several accesses including one at The El Presidente Hotel.


I’ll get to the birds we saw right after this.  Check out this nice, clean looking water.  I saw several turtles up to about a foot across.  Also signs of other animals like raccoons and others little critters enjoying the less polluted habitat.  Hello happy animals, goodbye garbage.


Spotted Sandpiper

IMG_7637 We saw Redheads (Ducks)                                     Blue-winged Teal

IMG_7611 IMG_7646



There were also Northern-pintails                                                         Ruddy Ducks



Ruddies are “stiff tailed” ducks.

A Great Egret was looking up in the trees?     An American Kestrel was looking down.










This beautifully marked Green Heron landed right across the canal from Debbie, WOW!

IMG_1625I’m getting so excited reviewing these shots taken by me and my sweetheart I can’t stop posting them.  We used to have to hunt and hunt to see birds like these!

Cinnamon Teal                                         The little cutie of the marsh, Pied-billed Grebe








We saw Great blue Herons


And Double-crested Cormorants







And even a Snowy Egret!!!



As you can see from this photo, there is a lot being done to improve public access to the estero.  If you have been here before you’d remember there was mostly boggy old cow trails (which I like, but not for everyone) and very few areas to view wildlife.  Pollution, trash of every sort was just killing the estero.  There are bird species such as The Beldings Yellowthroat (see in my book “Birds We See” in Baja), That live almost no other place in the world.



Warning:  If you are sensitive to seeing photos of birds mating, don’t look.

Whether you call them Common Moore Hens, Swamp hens or more correctly Common Gullinule, these birds are the voice of the marshes.  When nothing else may be heard, the squawk of these hens sets the tone of eeriness in the swamp.  Just picture this; Early morning, muggy as getting out of the shower in July in Los Barriles.  You’re walking in the estero, mist forming, it’s still pretty dark.  All alone, listening to the quiet, your boot gets stuck in the bog.  Struggling to pull free, the silence is interrupted in the distance by the eery squawk of a mud hen.



I’ve looked and looked all over the internet to find any info on the mating behavior of the The Common Gullinule, I can find none.  All I read is there is little info available.  So, I have seen the strange behavior and here it is.  The female wanders to a log thats just right.  The male is ten feet away.  She sticks her head in the water, under the water.  He gets the message.






Birding in Baja has been pretty slim pickins.

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Black-headed Grosbeak.male.6
Black-headed Grosbeak



And I’m not talking about the famous Country Star, Slim Pickins.   I’m talking about the slim pickins when it comes to seeing birds in Baja this season. This is one of our Baja birds we have not spotted this winter.  Normally we see many migratory Black-headed Grosbeaks, especially at the feeders, by now.  Where are they? Nobody seems to know but we miss them.  We miss their songs, calls and antics as they snatch sunflower seeds from the bird feeders.

Another little beauty we haven’t seen so far this season is the Green-tailed Towhee.  These birds are always a delight as first we hear them scratching around in the bushes and then they briefly pop out seemingly to say high.

Green-tailed Towhee
Green-tailed Towhee

Another one of our favorite birds we normally see a lot of is the Northern Cardinal.  These birds are non-migratory so where are they?

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

I guess I could go on and on about the birds we’re not seeing.  The birds we are seeing have been plenty entertaining.  Watching the powerful dives of the Brown Pelican.

Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican

And the buzzing displays of the Costa’s Hummingbird male as he defends his place at the feeder.

Costa's Hummingbird
Costa’s Hummingbird

But we’re still looking forward to seeing some bathing beauties like the California Towhees.

Canyon Towhee
Canyon Towhee

Debbie and I walked up the road this morning.  Saw our good friends Kay and Bill and on the way back we had a great surprise.   First we hear a peep.  Okay, that’s different than what we’ve been hearing lately.  And then Debbie spots our very first Black-throated Sparrow of the year.

Black-throated Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow

All is not lost.  I just hope the other missing birds aren’t far behind, where ever they may be.