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

Month: December 2015

Another day for this Baja Birder at La Ribera lagoons.

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This amazing day began, as I walked the lagoons, with spotting a strange bird swimming with a bunch of American Coots.  In a way,  looking similar to a coot ( is related), this bird took off before I could be sure what it was.  I did get a photo and checking review, I could see this was a Common Gallinule.  Maybe not so “common” at this estuary as I’d never seen one here before.  And Swimming with coots? weird!

Common Gallinule
Common Gallinule

And then I turn my attention to the surf-line.  Some very high tides have been inundating the pools with salt water.  Out over the breakers I see some sea-birds.  A smallish bird was flying near some Caspian Terns.  Hmmm?  Black bill, head partially covered in black feathers, long pointy wings?  I know what it is not, but I don’t know what it is.  I have to check this out when I get home.  To make a long story short, the forum agreed with me that this is a Common Tern.  Rated as “rare”  in Baja Sur and endangered in many of the areas where it is in range.

Common Tern
Common Tern

All I have to do is turn around and there, in the bushes is a sparrow-looking bird.  Very white belly covered with dripping chocolate,  I’m puzzled?  Cropping the photo I took, I can see a little bit of yellow on the forehead.  This is a Savannah Sparrow, probably a “Beldings” sub-species.  NEVER saw one that looked like this before.

Beldings Savannah Sparrow
Beldings Savannah Sparrow

Nearby, I see a small flock of sparrows.  At this distance, I’m thinking they’re just fairly common Chipping Sparrows.  I take a shot to view later.  When I get home, I’m surprised to see that this is a Clay-colored Sparrow.  Surprised because I don’t see these vary often.

Clay-colored Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow

I walk down the road to see what I could see.  To my left, I hear some birds making a commotion.  A little dark but I take a shot anyway.  Ahh…A Yellow Warbler.

Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warbler

On my way out, there’s something on top of a tree ahead.  As if to say good-bye, a Loggerhead Shrike (sometimes called Butcherbirds for the way they impale their prey on cactus spines or barbed wire) poses for a photo.  Handsome bird.

Loggerhead Shrike
Loggerhead Shrike

Merry Christmas from Chris and Debbie, happy birding and don’t forget to “like” us.

Baja birders at high altitudes.

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High up in the Sierra de Laguna mountains of Baja Sur.

The Biosphere
The Biosphere

The trail at the bottom of this mountain, we would find out later, was just the beginning of our 3 day, 2 night outing.  Debbie couldn’t make this hike.  She really doesn’t like sleeping on the ground, so it’s up to me and our best friends Bill, Bill and Jane to climb the rugged Baja mountains in search of vistas and, for me especially, birds.  We worked switchbacks back and fourth, higher and higher for miles.  The treck began at an elevation somewhere around 1500 hundred feet and I think Bill and Jane ( no stopping this couple!) made it to 5500 feet or so.  Our guide is the best!  Edgardo, bajasierradventures.com, is patient, knowledgeable and made sure we lacked for nothing.  The mule handlers, Catharino (the man of the mountains) and Alexandro sang by the camp-fire at night and even tried to hunt down a wild pig for us. Me, well, I pooped out with an injured knee after 7 or 8 hours traveling the slopes and had to stay at the base camp the second day.  My best buddy Bill stayed there with me the second day to keep me company while Bill and Jane traveled on.  Some bird photos include this Black-throated gray Warbler I saw near the camp—

Black-throated Gray Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler

Maybe it was meant to be, but staying at the base camp had it’s own rewards.  The camp-site area itself is on a river-like stream way more than a bubbling brook.  A small roar from the fast, cascading water was just noisy enough to make us raise our voices a bit while talking.  When exploring Bill found a quiet canyon nearby, I took the opportunity to call some birds.  First to show up was a colony of Acorn Woodpeckers.  With their clown-faces and antics, we watched as one fetched an acorn from an Encino Tree (Oak), placed it with the pointy end inward in one of the holes in the lek and pounded it with gusto.

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

I’m using a Northern Pygmy Owl call.  This often attracts all different types of birds.  Next to show up are several Western Tanagers.  Here’s a male trying to look his best!

Western Tanager
Western Tanager

When I switch to a Cape Pygmy Owl call,  a mid-low tone hoo——hooo——-hoo, right away, in the distance, I hear an owl call back.  Bill!…come over here!  Look up there.  We both see one owl that has landed 50 feet up in a nearby tree.  As we watch, it’s mate joins her (he is smaller) and gives her an owl-kiss.  How cool is that?!

Cape pygmy Owls
Cape pygmy Owls
Cape-pygmy Owls
Cape-pygmy Owls

We leave the owls to themselves and Bill decides to do a little carving on his walking stick.

Bill Barbour
Bill Barbour

Me?  I take my camera and go sit on a rock.  I turn on my bird call with the sound of a Black-capped Gnatcatcher. This call attracts many species of birds.  To my utter amazement, a bird flies and lands up-side down on a palm a hundred feet away.  What the heck?  My binos show me that this is a White-breasted Nuthatch.  Turns out, this is the only place in Baja where these birds have been seen, amazing!  How lucky!

White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch

Following are a few shots— At the trail head,

Left to right, Edgardo, Jane and Bill Perry, Bill Barbour
Left to right, Edgardo, Jane and Bill Perry, Bill Barbour

By the base camp.  Yes, the water is cold.

By the base-camp
By the base-camp

This hike is not for people that are expecting a walk-in-the-park.  It is tough, no doubt.  I’m chomping at the bit to do it again!   This time, at least 5 days.  Too much marching and not enough “stop and look” time.  I will go again.  Up to the lagoons (pasture now), and maybe more.  This area is so untouched.  “till next time—-Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie

 

My Baja birding buddy, J.B. emailed a shot

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of a bird he’d seen south of La Ribera.  He thought it might be a Grove-billed Ani.  He had seen them in Costa Rica but they sure don’t belong here in Baja Sur!  So, following his directions, I found the area where he saw the bird a few days earlier.  It was early in the morning.  The wind was already blowing so hard I could hardly stand, so I was discouraged, but I had to look around.  I found a Northern Mockingbird ducking the wind.

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

Just looking ahead a bit, deep in the brush I see a Bell’s Vireo.  Very hard bird for me to get close to.

Bell's Vireo
Bell’s Vireo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little American Kestrel holds on for dear life while he wonders what the heck I’m up to.

American Kestrel
American Kestrel

And then I see something out of the ordinary ahead.  I think, “could it be?” and raise my binos.  Sure enough, I see a Groove-billed Ani in Baja Sur.  I’ve photographed this bird before so there’s no doubt about it.  Take a look-

Groove-billed Ani
Groove-billed Ani

Again, thanks Jim for the tip, it’s always appreciated!  Have a great day and Happy Birding from Chris&Debbie—Don’t forget to like us.