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Oly – Page 8 – Chris Llewellyn's "Birds Eye Views"

Author: Oly

Here’s a little Baja birdie doing what she loves to do.

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This is Debbie, my sweetheart.  She goes with me almost everywhere.  Galapagos Islands, The Amazons, Africa, Central America and even the Arctic Circle.

Today we traveled all the way out our back door in Los Barriles to the south patio.  There was a bird that I was sure was an ordinary Brown-headed Cowbird.  Something was a little different about this bird so I took some photos.  This bird has a richer brown color.   Her head looks a little flat?  Hmmm*

This appears to be a lifer for us.  A Shiny Cowbird.  This bird is a South American species that spread to the U.S. by way of the West Indies in 1985.

It’s reported that the male is purple and quit a sight to see.  I can’t wait!




Sometimes birding Baja can be a little sad.

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One of our favorite places to go birding in Baja Sur is up the arroyos near Los Barriles.  So today Debbie and I got the quads ready for a day trip and away we went.  We always have plenty of water, spare batteries for the cameras, some snacks, sun screen, a phone and did I say spare batteries  with us?  Our goal today was to search an area we know is full of low brush that has gone to seed.  This is where we’ve seen the Varied Bunting before.  They love the seeds of these bushes.  Actually took some beautiful photos of the female there in the past but when I went to shoot the seldom-seen male, my camera’s batteries were dead.   To this day, I still don’t have any decent shots of the male Varied Bunting, just a purple blob.  So you guessed it, no Buntings this day.

We set up our chairs in a nice shady spot.  Debbie got out the iphone.  We have an iBird app that will play Varied Bunting songs hoping to lure a bunting close to us.  No luck so I, like I usually do, wandered off looking for who knows what.  As I approach this bush there’s a pair of suspicious eyes staring out at me not 10 feet away!

A Red-tailed Hawk, a Buteo( a soaring raptor) took off not flying but running up a hill away from me.  I take photos while I’m wondering why this bird is not flying.

I walk over to where the hawk had been waiting for me to find a sad site.  Two dead hawks, one a Red-tail and the other I couldn’t identify but not a Red-tail.  Both had apparently been shot, beheaded and had their claws removed.  So the hawk I saw was grieving over the loss of it’s sibling.  Thats why he didn’t fly off.  He was too young to fly more than a few feet at a time and he was confused.   I took a few more photos of the youngster and left the area wondering why people do things like this.  Such a beautiful animal.

When I start walking away I hear and see mother Red-tail flying above near the canyon rim screeching, warning and asking me to please go away.  I find Debbie and we leave.








There was a sighting in San Jose, Baja Sur

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at Flora’s Field Kitchen, by our good friends, Bill and Kay.  They said a male Vermilion Flycatcher came to visit them while they were having lunch there.

We have some so-so photos of the female (front page).  We were so excited about the news we had to go see.  This is another lifer for us.

So there we were, enjoying a delicious lunch.  We probably seemed a little strange to the other folks eating around us.  With cameras all over the dinning table we constantly scanned the bushes and trees for this bright red little bird.  Debbie says “right there!”

There is a tree 20 feet off the north dinning area.  At first, eyes-like-an-eagle me couldn’t see anything where Debbie was pointing.  I moved a little and there he was, behind a branch in the tree, the Vermillion Flycatcher.

The adult male Vermilion Flycatcher is a striking, beautiful, red and brown bird.  During mating season he flutters around singing a song that sounds like chirping followed with a trilling  pit-a-see  pit-a see.  This one was singing for us.  Adult females are grayish-brown above with a peach-colored tummy and under-tail coverts.  About 6″.

This is a hummer we can call our own in Baja Sur.

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The Xantus’s Hummingbird.  These birds were named after the Hungarian naturalist, JohnXantus.  John Xantus (October 5, 1825 – December 13, 1894)  collected and named many previously unrecognized animals and plants in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico.  John Xantus was born in 1825 of a well-to-do middle-class Hungarian family. During the revolution of 1848, he fought with the rebels against the Austro-Hungarian government and had to go into exile as a result. He fled by way of Amsterdam to England, and thereafter, in 1852, to the United States.

 To make ends meet, he worked along the way as a bookseller, pharmacist, and teacher, among other things. Only after he became a nurse in the U.S. army did things begin to look up for him. In the military he met a surgeon, William Alexander Hammond, who acted as a collector for the well-known zoologist Spencer Fullerton Baird, the Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. With Hammond’s help Xantus became an assistant surgeon and developed an interest in natural history. With time he became a talented collector.
  In 1859 Baird arranged for Xantus to make an expedition to Baja California, which was then almost unknown. On this trip he set up a base of operations at Cabo San Lucas at the extreme southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. Thence he explored the entire surrounding region as well as many of adjacent islands. Baird commented that during this time Xantus collected “many new species” then unknown back at the Smithsonian, not only of birds, which were his first interest, but also of plants and animals of almost every other description. Baird stated that during this trip Xantus made “the addition of a larger number of new animals to our fauna than has been made by one person.  After his return from Baja in 1861, Xantus went to work for the U.S. Department of State and in the following year was sent to the American consulate in southern Mexico. However, two years later, due to the French intervention that took place in Mexico, the consulate was closed and Xantus decided to return to his native Hungary.

Someone stopped by for a snack in our yard yesterday.

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This is a Zone-tailed Hawk.  We know this bird as a Buteo.  Buteos are high-soaring hawks(as compared to Accipiters, woodland hawks) which makes them easy to spot in the daytime.  They often fly with their wings in a V shape (dihedral).



Zone-tailed Hawks are often seen soaring with or nearby Turkey Vultures.  As we know, Turkey Vultures are carrion feeders.  With the exception of the smaller size and banded tail, looking up from the ground, Zone -tails look very much like a vulture.  This mimic will fool prey, such as lizards, small rodents or birds into a sense of security until it’s too late.  This uncommon hawk is often found near water and will also prey on small fish.  Wing span: about 46″

A lifer for us!

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Yesterday, while walking towards a lagoon near our home in Baja California Sur, there seemed to be birds everywhere.  In the bushes and trees we saw Verdins, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a Yellow Warbler and more.  Then we spotted something new to us (a lifer; a lifer is, basically, a bird you may have never seen before in it’s natural environment).  It was about the size of an Orange-crowned Warbler(1st photo), a bird which is familiar to us.  But this was different.  It had a light-green appearance with a slightly blueish-gray head and complete white  eye-ring.  We managed to take a few photos of this bird flittering around not cooperating at all for our cameras.

I’m thinking Hutton’s Vireo.  After reviewing the photos back at home I realized this bird is actually a Cassin’s Vireo, named after the great naturalist, John Cassin.  I found the following Obituary;

JOHN CASSIN, a distinguished naturalist, died in Philadelphia on Sunday morning last, the 10th. Inst. Mr. CASSIN was born near Philadelphia, Sept. 6, 1813. In 1834 he became a resident of that city, and was, for a few years, engaged in mercantile pursuits. From early youth, however, his favorite study was ornithology, and in his later years occupied his whole attention.

The Cassin’s Vireo

Blue-footed Boobies

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These birds nest on the off-shore islands of The Sea of Cortez as well as South and Central America.  In Baja Sur we occasionally see Boobies flying or resting on floating debris or buoys when we’re boating out-to-sea.  We took these photos on The Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.

Often, especially when times are lean, if a Booby lays two eggs the stronger(usually the first hatched) will rule the nest, shoving it’s sibling aside.   The mother will quit feeding the weakling and it dies.  This may seem sad but it is necessary to keep the balance between these birds and food supplies.

Went birding up a little arroyo in Baja California Sur today.

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We watched birds and birds we see watched us.  1st photo is an Ash-throated Flycatcher. This is a common bird here in Baja.  It has a call that sounds something like a coach’s whistle blowing.



I suppose this bird was just hoping we’ed keel over in the desert sun.  This handsome(everyone has a mother) bird is an adult Turkey Vulture.  These birds soar in the sky often with wings held in a “V” shape; rocking from side to side  seldom flapping their wings.



This little guy is a California Towhee.  We interrupted it’s bath and you can see the look we got.  It’s call is a metallic chink along with some thin, lispy notes often heard as a duet.

These and about 80 other birds are featured in our book, “Birds We See” inBaja California Sur, Mexico.  Cheers




While birding on El Cardonal Rd. Baja Sur

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we spotted what looked to be a lifer for us.  The beautiful bird pictured here is a Harris’s Hawk, (a Buteo).  Buteos are high-soaring hawks that are one of the easiest daytime birds-of-prey to spot.  These birds are chocolate brown overall, with striking chestnut shoulder patches, leggings and wing linnings; bright white underneath and the tail tips.  Wing span is 46″.

More Baja Birds. A lifer for me, The Vermillion Flycatcher.

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This little girl (6″) is easily mistaken for a Say’s Phoebe from a distance.  The female Vermillion Flycatchers seem to arrive ahead of the males in Baja California Sur during their southern migration.  I can’t wait to see male adults, which are strikingly red and brown.  Adult females are grayish-brown above, with a blackish tail; throat and breast are white, with dusky streaking. The belly and under-tail coverts are peach-colored.

The typical call note is a sharp, thin pseep.  This bird frequently pumps and spreads it’s tail.  I find these birds near small wooded ponds and streamsides.

When I think of Egrets in Baja California Sur, Mexico

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I usually think about birds like the Great Egret or Snowy Egrets.  The bird pictured here is a Reddish Egret.  This bird is new to me.  I’d really like to see it in breeding plumage.  Breeding adult has a shaggy mane on rufous head and neck.  Bill is pink with black tip and it’s legs are cobalt blue.(WoW)!  A white morph adult may resemble a Cattle Egret.  While feeding, this heron lurches flashing it’s wings like a canopy to confuse prey.


Found a new place to bird and


birds new to us to enjoy.  We went for a drive yesterday looking for an estero (estuary) we had heard rumors about.  We can’t disclose the exact location except to say it is south of Los Barriles, Baja Sur.  When we drove threw a neighborhood asking the locals “do you know where the estero is?” they acted like they had no idea. I think they just don’t want it to be “discovered”.

The White-faced Ibis was such a treat to see here in Baja Sur.  Similar to it’s

Eastern relative, the Glossy Ibis, the White-faced has bronze-toned plumage, reddish bill, red eyes, all-red legs and a white feathered border around it’s red-skinned face.  These birds are heron-like, long-legged waders.


Gila Woodpecker

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The male Gila Woodpecker has a small red cap.  The female and juveniles look similar to the male but lack the red cap.  They all have prominent white wing patches visible in flight.

Gilas are hole nesters.  They peck holes in cardon cactus until the cavity is large enough to build a nest and lay three to five white eggs.  Lots of other birds and even Spiny-tailed Iguanas use these holes to seek protection and nest in.

We always know when these birds are around.  A familiar sight and sound in Baja Sur is Gila Woodpeckers flying from place to place squawking and churring and inspecting every nook and cranny.


Birds we see in Baja

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are also often found in other places in North America.  This Cactus Wren was photographed building a nest in a Cholla cactus at Red Rock Canyon, Arizona.  Many Baja residents know these birds very well.  Cactus Wrens are at home in the arid deserts of the south west as well as neighborhood gardens.  We all enjoy watching the these birds as they poke and prod every little nook and cranny looking for insects and seeds.


Cactus Wrens are the largest our wrens and can survive completely without standing water. 8″

Birding Winnebago style.


In October(2011) we ventured to some western states in our Winnebago. Debbie calls the coach the Kittybago. The deciding reason to buy the RV was to enable Chica(kitty) to come along with us birding,(or us to come along with her).Following are Photos of some of the features at Zion National Park, Utah.





Baja California Sur, Mexico

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is an astonishing place.  At a glance a person might think this harsh-looking land couldn’t sustain much wildlife.  Baja’s fauna is both diverse and fragile.  The birds are absolutely incredible!  Look closely at these photos and you will see a male Hooded Oriole below and a female to the right. They are taking turns feeding their chicks.  These birds chatter,whistle and warble throughout the day.


To see more photos of these and other beautiful birds visit: http://www.BirdsWeSee.com

The book  “Birds We See” in Baja California Sur, Mexico will make an unusual and thoughtfull gift for someone special.  Remember, together we can fight ovarian cancer and save lives.  A portion of the sales of this book will be donated to The MD Anderson Cancer Research Center.

Yellow-rumped Warblers

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are some our most numerous Warblers in Baja.  Breeding males are dull bluish above with black streaks.  Breast and sides black.  We see these birds in large, chirping flocks, usually near a source of fresh water.



I think this is an Audubon’s Morph Yellow-rumped Warbler. It was photographed in Idaho in Oct. 2011.


Western Meadowlarks

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are robin-sized birds, streaked brown above, yellow below with a bold V on the breast.


These wonderful songsters, with rich flute-like voices fill meadows, plains and prairies with a jumble of gurgling notes.

The legend of Face Rock

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Many, many years ago, the legend begins, Chief Siskiyou from the far mountains traveled with his family and other clansmen to the coast to trade goods with the four tribes who lived by the sea they called Wecoma.

In his honor, the four chiefs planned the greatest feast in all memory. They roasted bear,salmon, elk, and deer. Huge quantities of clams and mussels were steamed. Cedar back trays were filled with honey and red and blue huckleberries.

It was feared that Seatka, the evil spirit who lived in the sea, might cause trouble for the people and their guests. Armed warriors stood guard on the high bluffs.

The sea enchanted Princess Ewauna, the beautiful daughter of Chief Siskiyou. After the feast, when the people were sleeping, she slipped away from camp, carrying a basket with her cat and kittens nestled inside, and followed by her faithful dog.

The moon was full and the Wecoma ran silver. Ewuana, who did not fear Seatka, swam in the sea, farther and farther from shore. The dog barked a warning but it was too late.

The evil Seatka had captured the beautiful princess. The dog carrying the basket of kittens swam to his mistress and buried his teeth in the hand of Seatka.

Howling, he shook off the dog and threw the cats into the sea. Seatka tried to make Ewauna look into his eyes, but she refused to look away from the great, round moon.

When her father awoke, he raised the alarm. Everyone rushed to the shore of Wecoma. There they saw the lovely face of Princess Ewauna gazing skyward. Her dog was on the beach howling for the princess, and the cat and kittens were in the sea. In time, they all turned to stone, frozen forever, as they were that long ago dawn.

This photo was taken in Bandon, Oregon. A terrific location for birding. It’s interesting to see the same bird species in Bandon that we find in Los Barriles, Baja Sur. The Black-headed Grosbeak’ populations appear to be very healthy this year, both north and south. Interesting fact; Black-headed Grosbeaks are one of the few birds that can feed on the poisonous Monarch butterfly. 8″ http://BirdsWeSee.com


Sunrise at Palmas de Cortez

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is a beautiful thing. What a way to start the day!
Brown Pelicans are some of the most entertaining seabirds to observe. These stalky birds glide in long lines always taking advantage of the wind’s currents. Diving in the sea, Brown Pelicans, (White pelicans don’t dive much), open their large pouches and scoop up to 3 gallons of water, hopefully full of fishes such as sardinas, to feed on.
Being exclusively coastal, Brown pelicans are very sensitive to pollution, starvation, fishing lines and nets. After the banning of pesticides such as DDT, which causes their egg shells to thin, Brown Pelicans seem to be making a comeback. http://www.BirdsWeSee.com