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January 2015 – Chris Llewellyn's "Birds Eye Views"
 

Month: January 2015

This Baja Birder is always bragging about

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the outstanding photographs my sweetheart Debbie takes.  Today, I’m going to show off some shots she took at the lagoon the other day.  Here’s a real beauty…A Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debbie is something else.  She has that “thing” a great photographer has.  Check this one out…An Osprey with prey.

Osprey
Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gosh, makes me smile.  I’m not the only one patient enough to pissh and wait, wait for cool birds to show up.  This Warbling Vireo is a seldom-seen bird that doesn’t just twiddle it’s thumbs while posing for it’s photo to be taken.  They hop around like their feet are on fire.  What a shot!

Warbling Vireo
Warbling Vireo

While I’m checking out my photos at my desk, patting myself on my back while gazing at a photo of an immature Eared Grebe I took at the lagoons, Debbie sends me a pic to look at. ” What’s this bird honey?” she asks me.   She has an absolutely beautiful shot of a male Eared Grebe.  A nemesis bird for me.  I’ve watched Debbie as she sneaks up on her belly in the sand to get shots like this…WOW!!!

Eared Grebe
Eared Grebe

Almost anyone can take a photo of a Snowy Egret flying around but Debbie doesn’t just “take” a photo.  I think she lives the moment with the bird.  This photograph has meaning.

Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret

Just when I think I have a picture good enough to represent the rare-to-this-area Brant in our photo albums, Debbie comes along and takes this photo.  Check out the expression she captured.  Just something about the way she looks.

Brant
Brant

Okay, I have a photograph of a bird I shot at the lagoons.  Crawling through the thorn-bushes, fighting off killer bees and jeejeenes.  Sweating after pulling my flip-flops out of a fresh, foot-sucking cowpatty, I settle in to call some birds.  This time I decide to use the call of a Black-capped Gnatcatcher.  The sound is a little like pisshing and when the wind is not blowing, the birds come-a-running out of curiosity.  There comes an Orange-crowned Warbler, then another.  Gray Flycatchers are showing up in numbers to see what the racket is all about.  I take a few shots, not really impressed with the variety of species I’m seeing.  Pulling out of the brush every move brings another snag of my shirt.  The wires from my iPod get caught up on a branch while I’m thrashing at a few yellow-jacket hornets defending their nest.  I drag myself out, bleeding, exhausted and smiling as I trip along towards where Debbie is.  “Ready to go honey?”  she asks.

After we get home and I load the day’s photographs into my Mac I see something.  A Gray Flycatcher with a weird-looking beak?  Oh-lordy, look at that!  Saw this bird in Texas but never in Baja Sur.  Not a Gray Flycatcher but a Gray Vireo.  I’m so happy.

Gray Vireo
Gray Vireo

Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie—-Don’t forget to “like us” if you do.

 

 

 

New rare bird for Baja Birders in La Ribera.

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Off to the LaGoons at La Ribera again.  Todays events actually began last night. My darling Debbie and I noticed the weather was supposed to be outstanding this day so we made plans.  We decided to get going early by having the coffee ready to perk and making sure there were bananas to take with us to eat on the way.  Water-check, cameras, back-up batteries, iPod and external speaker, check,check,check.  We like to take the back-road in which is about 15 miles.  First thing we noticed is the dunes were already forming after hurricane Odile.  Remember the pic I showed you of the shore-line there a few blogs ago?

Where the dunes were
Where the dunes were

Look now, the fore-dunes are a good 4-5feet or so higher .  All that brush that had piled up held the sand so the estuary could be better protected from the ocean’s surge.

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As usual, Debbie heads one way and I go the other.  I guess we cover more ground that way.  First thing I notice is this Whimbrel flying by and lots of geese-looking birds in the LaGoon ahead ahead.

Whimbrel
Whimbrel

What the heck?  I began my stealthful stalk towards these birds trying to be sneaky.  The sun is back-lighting the subject but with my super-duper Endeavor 8X42 waterproof binos I can tell that the birds are actually geese, these birds are Brant.  If you click on the link you will see that Brant don’t belong on this part of the planet.  I submitted this photo to eBird, the ornithology experts, and they agreed this is a rare bird for Baja Sur.

Brant
Brant

 

After I get over this amazing discovery I slap myself and move along.  Just ahead I see a few Black-bellied Plover socializing. These birds are in winter plumage so the males are not as striking in appearance as they can be.

Black-bellied Plover
Black-bellied Plover

This bird is regulating it’s own temperature by standing on one leg.  Ahead I see a gull.  Smallish, very light-colored and with a small dot on the side of it’s head.  This is a photo op. as I have never shot this bird before.  This is a Bonaparte’s Gull.

Bonaparte's Gull
Bonaparte’s Gull

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving along I am pleased to have the privilege to see an elegant-looking  Willet napping.  (smiles)

Willet
Willet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Reddish Egret is hunting in the Shallows.  If you ever have the chance, watch these birds chase little fish all over the shallows.

Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I’m off in a different direction.  Debbie shows up and sees the Brant.  Maybe she’ll get some better photos than I could (she often does).  I go up the road and into the brush.  Taking a break from all this stumbling around in the fluffy sand, I pull out my iPod.  I begin playing the call of a Northern Pygmy Owl.  From experience I’ve found that many birds are attracted to this bird’s call.  When they do show up they’re ready for action, jumping  all around to chase the owl away.  So I settle in the shade of a Mexican Palm.  Orange-crowned Warblers are first to appear, many, many of them.  Then I see a bird that the sight of which makes my heart jump!  The bird is back-lit by the sun but I can see a stripped bird with a bright yellow throat.  I wasn’t sure what it was but I had seen a bird something like this in Cuba.  This is a Yellow-throated Warbler!!!!!!!!!  Now I’m really excited!  I ‘m doing my best to get a good photo but this palm where the bird insists on hopping around in is surrounded by plants with thorns and teeth.  I take a few photos and the bird is gone.  Later, back at camp (our casa) I submit the photo to eBird and I get  flagged.  Another rare bird for Baja Sur.  This is a Warbler of the eastern U.S.

Yellow-throated Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler

I think I need to take a nap after all of this.   This Merlin flew over as we left, Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie.

Merlin
Merlin

 

 

 

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher for Baja birders.

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It’s a pretty neat thing to happen.  Didn’t have any adventures planned for today so I decided to go for a walk in the neighborhood.  I go over to an area just to the north, an open space left between homesites for nature and I stand still, watch and listen.  I see a Black-throated Sparrow  hopping around in the bushes.  A very handsome bird.

 

Black-throated Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow

While not really a rare bird, it’s one that is not abundant as well.  Habitat destruction is greatly affecting this bird’s populations.    Then I see another neat, little bird.  I recognize by the way it’s bobbing it’s tail up and down that this is a Gray Flycatcher.   The lighting isn’t real good because the weather is cloudy but the bird stops and poses for a moment.  Makes for a “grainy” photograph.

Gray Flycatcher
Gray Flycatcher

There are quit a few birds feeding in the mid-morning calm.  I see a little colony of little Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers pecking at insects in the bushes.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

As I watch these birds I see something out-of-place.  One of the Gnatcatchers is different looking than the others.  This bird has a distinct black cap and that catches my attention.  Gnatcatchers in our range (Baja Sur) would be Blue-Grays or possibly California Gnatcatchers, which this bird is not.  Either of the other 2 Gnatcatcher species, the Black-capped and the Black-tailed Gnatcatcher would be very rare here.  I believe this is a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.  As far as I can tell, this bird has never been reported in Baja Sur.

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

I reported the bird to ebird.  These are the people that track rare bird sightings like this.  Life is good when I can just take a walk around the block and discover a rare bird.  Maybe I’ll go again right now.

Don’t forget to “like ” us and Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie!

 

Baja Birders find Agua Blanca white-hot for birding.

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But before I start with this adventure, I’d like to ask our readers about this cactus.  As you can see, this Beaver-tail like plant is red or pink.  Most all the other cacti in the same area were green so what’s up with this guy?  Maybe growing over a rock with a certain mineral content?  Soil P.H. is another thing that comes to my mind.  I saw a T.V. show, CSI I think, where plants growing over a shallow grave turned red because of the soil.  That’s enough, what do you think?

IMG_5509 2

Driving north out of Los Barriles we pass the quaint town of San Bartolo.  Keep going a few scenic miles, we find Puente Agua Blanca and a sign that points to San Antonio.  Today, my darling Debbie and I are heading for the mountains in search of the Cape Pygmy Owl.  I might as well tell you now we had no luck with that bird so if you only want to see owls, read no further.  Just as we make the turn and drive a few hundred feet Debbie says “please stop”.  Birds are popping all around us on both sides of the road.  The lighting was bad but through my camera lens I see a particular bird.  Quickly I lower my camera, rub my eyes and look again.  Sure enough, I’m seeing a Warbling Vireo.  Struck it rich again!  I know this bird and it is seldom seen here in Baja, at least by me anyway.

Warbling Vireo
Warbling Vireo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Look over at Debbie to share my surprise to see her focusing on a bird of her own.  We’re both pishing and the birds are looking back at us.  A Western Tanager that is still growing up watches us.

Western Tanager
Western Tanager

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I go wandering around hoping for a better photo opportunity with the Warbling Vireo.  Looking back, Debbie had stayed put and was still shooting.  I join her to see she found a nice, mature Chipping Sparrow.  Good going Debbie!

Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow

Time to move on up the road and shortly Debbie’s at it again with “please stop”.  We see a Crested Caracara.  Handsome bird.  “Move up a little” she says, I can see she’s behind a tree-branch.  Okay, fire away!

Crested Caracara
Crested Caracara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving along we find a watering hole so we stop for a walk about.   Not much here so I get out my Ipod.  I have ibird pro loaded on the thing so I decide to do some Pygmy Owl calling.  Often, lots of different birds come to take a look when I use this call.  No owl but I see in the shadows a nice bird, a Black-throated Gray Warbler.  This is another bird not often seen but it does winter here.

Black-throated Gray Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler

When using a call, I sit or stand and wait for the birds.  Hard for me to sit still but here comes another good bird.  A Gray Flycatcher.

Gray Flycatcher
Gray Flycatcher

Not to be confused with the elegant-looking Ash-throated Flycatcher which also came-a-running (flying) to see where the owl was.

 

Ash-throated Flycatcher
Ash-throated Flycatcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I turn around as I continue the owl call and I see a Western Scrub-Jay banging his beak in a threatening manner at me.  I don’t want to bug the poor bird so I stop the calling before he bites my head off.  (Please don’t over-use bird calls, in my opinion).

Western Scrub Jay
Western Scrub Jay

Back in the car, moving along this time I stop and point.  What’s that over there?  Grabbing the camera I stealthily stalk up a steep bank to see a bird I, at first, think is a Pacific-slope Flycatcher.  But no, this bird is more gray and stalkier.  After taking this shot home and presenting it to Whatbird.com for positive I.D., I find out it is a bird new to me.  A Dusky Flycatcher.  A new bird for us.

Dusky Flycatcher
Dusky Flycatcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day (except for no owls) couldn’t be much better.  Birds new and unusual to us.  The weather is cool but somewhat cloudy.  We head back.  As if on cue a Sharp-shinned Hawk flies by overhead.

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Yellow-rumped Warbler and an Acorn Woodpecker  show us they made it through the hurricane.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

 

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halfway back to the highway I stop to take a photo of a California Towhee.

California Towhee
California Towhee

I suppose the personal joys of birding for some people can be satisfied by watching the feeders at home.  For some that may be good enough and that’s fine.  As you can tell from reading our blogs that “birding”  for me and Debbie is a lot more than “bird watching”.  To us, the satisfaction comes in the pursuit.  Sometimes the target bird may not be found that day but we keep our eyes and ears open and ready for whatever pops up.  ’til next time remember—

Like us, Buy some Birds We See books and…….Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie.