Let’s Go Birding, chemo style

September, 2015

Should I laugh? Should I cry? I didn’t know which. The true experience of mixed emotion slaps me right in the face, hard.

“Do you want to go birding?” my wonderful husband Chris asks. It used to be a simple “yes!” and we grabbed our gear, made sure Kitty was set and took off. Since I’m back in chemotherapy, it’s a different story.

As of this writing, I am a 10 1/2 year survivor of stage IV ovarian cancer. We are a month into a clinical trial with a new drug (trametinib) and I am having all kinds of side effects that we are trying to control while still maintaining a sense of normalcy in our lives. For us, birding is a normalcy. So…let’s go birding, chemo style.

After saying “yes!”, I start getting ready. Make sure I take all my drugs on time and in the right order. Shower with tepid water as no hot water is allowed and blot dry. We don’t want to irritate the rash and blisters any more. The rash is like a really bad case of the zits. Brush my teeth but not too hard to irritate my gums. Apply anti biotic topical cream on the rash on my face, neck chest and upper back, then face cream, then healing cream then sun screen.  And most of all, be sure and brush your teeth before applying creams or you have to do it all again. Then lotion on the rest of the body as the trial drug dries out all of my skin. I don’t have a small body…

I’m tired out by this time so have to stop and take a rest. I sit down and Chris lovingly covers my big toe blisters on both feet with triple antibiotic ointment and gauze so they don’t become infected.  

After resting a bit, I start again. My hiking shoes won’t fit because of the edema in both legs so flip flops it is. They don’t do so well in the blackberry bushes but I’ll be careful. Good thing we covered the toe blisters.  Chris helps me and we carefully put on a rash guard long sleeved top so as not to wipe off all the lotions or you have to reapply them, and a floppy hat to protect the rash on my head, face, neck, shoulders, chest and upper back.

Sun screen is the worst for your optics as it eats away at the rubber.  I have to apply sun screen to all uncovered skin…which means my hands as well, especially since I have blisters on them too.  So..I have to be very careful and TRY and not get any sunscreen on my optics!!!!  Yeah, right. Maybe my spendy Leica’s will last as long as I do.

Both hands in the “U” area between my index fingers and thumbs are covered in blisters so…I double the sunscreen on them, all the time wondering…how the heck am I going to carry my mono pod with my camera on it, which is hard for me to do in the first place let alone carry it without getting any sunscreen on everything!!  I must look into some kind of UV protective gloves.

After an hour and a half of getting lathered in creams and lotions and getting dressed, we get my bag, water, fanny pack, camera, mono pod, binoculars, hat, iPHONE and pink bean (for calling the birds)…and we are ready to go! So much for the early birds!

We chose to do the clinical trial in Santa Cruz, CA out of several hundred locations in the U.S. as it was geographically favorable to us than any other. When driving back and forth from the RV Park to my doctor appointments in town, we had seen a sump that looks like it had a lot of bird activity. The sump is located on a produce farm and is fenced and gated. We pull into the outlet where the farm sells their produce along with fresh baked pies (yum) to ask for permission to bird the sump. The owner is gracious and allows us to do so.

We park at the highest end of the sump. I ask Chris to back in so I can sit in the Jeep if I get tired and still be able to photograph and use my “bins”. The bank is steep and only enough room for me to stand outside the Jeep on either side.

Chris grabs his gear and takes off to the far side of the sump. We are hoping to get a photo of the Virginia Rail today. I peer down into the tule bushes that surround the open water.  There are several Mallards and coots and I see a Black Phoebe hawking insects over the water.  Other than that, it’s pretty quiet.  

We had shot Sora the day before, until my hands got so frozen from the cold north wind I couldn’t move my fingers any more and Chris took me home. With no protection, the wind howls through this open red and green terrain of strawberry fields and it’s cold, even in September. Of course, we’ve also noticed that I am constantly cold since I’ve began my fifth go at chemotherapy.

I see Chris down at the other end of the swamp.  Looks like he’s just shooting away.  Lucky guy’s probably in a flock of Virginia Rail’s.  He’ll be back with the award winning photo of one before I snap my first photo since it takes me ½ hour to get everything set up without getting any sunscreen on anything and keep everything from blowing away, sync the bluetooth between my pink bean and my iPHONE and get the call going….ahhhh…finally…now, all I need to do is get that “just right” photo.

I get out of the JEEP, strap on my binoculars and fanny pack over my heavy fleece jacket and add my floppy hat. I get my mono pod adjusted to the right height, camera settings adjusted, lens fully extended to 400mm, AF, and focus on the tule bushes where I figure the Rails are hiding.

My binoculars that I’m reluctant to touch are now dangling from my chest, my floppy hat is fastened down securely, my pink bean audio device is dangling from my fanny pack mid waist and synced with my iPHONE. I open up my trusty birding app, select “Virginia Rail”, tap “sounds” and start calling for the Virginia Rail, ready for action.    

And then it hits me. All of a sudden, out of nowhere..the BIG “D”. Another side effect of the chemo. I won’t describe what happened then altho I contemplated long and hard about it as oh boy, was it a scene. The passing traffic probably had a few laughs over it. Twenty minutes later and several Wet Ones, I get back in the car and waited for my wonderful Chris. An hour later, he came rambling back to the JEEP, no Virginia Rail but he had a big smile on his face.

Should I laugh? Should I cry? I choose to keep laughing and keep looking for the Virginia Rail.

Virginia Rail

Virginia Rail

Just another birding adventure from Birds We See. Happy birding from Chris and Debbie.

1/21/2016  I am doing much better controlling my chemotherapy and we are happy to report my condition remains “stable”.  Eleven years ago on January 14, 2005, they gave me 5 months to live.  Hang in there fellow survivors!

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Birds We See around the water in Baja Sur.

Manual told me the other day (and he’s lived here all of his life), that all the birds on the shore look the same to him.  “The big ones are older and the little ones are babies”.  I asked him to watch for our next blog.  Maybe he will look a little closer, next time.

How often have I heard something like “ugly as a Coot!”, especially from duck hunters, which I used to be.  Me, myself, I don’t see anything “ugly” in this photo my darling Debbie took.

American Coots

American Coots

 

 

Sometimes I’ll be walking along the sandy beach without a bird in sight.  I’ll take a look behind me and, as if by magic, a flock of Snowy Plovers will appear.  These tiny, little birds blend in with the color of the sand so well they are easily overlooked.

Snowy Plover

Snowy Plover

Snowy plovers are small shorebirds that dash in and out of waves at the beach. While it looks like they are playing, these chunky little white birds are actually chasing after a meal of small insects and crustaceans.

Manual, if you are reading this blog, please pay attention.  The Snowy Plover is not a baby of the following bird just because it’s smaller.

The Tri-colored Heron visits local shores, especially estuaries in Baja Sur from time to time.

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

The tricolored heron wades in the water in search of prey. Most of its diet is made up of fish, but it also will eat amphibians, insects and crustaceans.  Not to be confused with the Little Blue Heron-

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

A small, dark heron colored in blues and purples, the Little Blue Heron is a common but inconspicuous resident of marshes and estuaries in the Southeast and sometimes visits Baja Sur. They stalk shallow waters for small fish and amphibians, using a quiet, methodical approach that can make these gorgeous herons surprisingly easy to overlook at first glance. Little Blue Herons build stick nests in trees alongside other colonial waterbirds. In the U.S., their populations have been in a gradual decline since the mid-twentieth century.  How sad!

The Solitary Sandpiper is not a “baby” of the big birds either.  I haven’t seen many of these sandpipers here so it’s always a pleasant surprise to come across one.

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

Almost all sandpipers migrate in flocks and nest on the ground, but the Solitary Sandpiper breaks both rules. In migration, as its name implies, it is usually encountered alone, along the bank of some shady creek. If approached, it bobs nervously, then flies away with sharp whistled cries. In summer in the northern spruce bogs, rather than nesting on the wet ground, the Solitary Sandpiper lays its eggs in old songbird nests placed high in trees.

The Snowy Egret, a strikingly-beautiful bird, was probably saved from extinction by the Audubon Society.  In the early 1900’s, these birds were killed in great numbers for their feathers.  As I understand it, the Society lobbied congress for a moratorium on the taking of these creatures and their numbers have recovered.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egrets wade in shallow water to spear fish and other small aquatic animals. While they may employ a sit-and-wait technique to capture their food, sometimes they are much more animated, running back and forth through the water with their wings spread, chasing their prey.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s blog—Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie    and…If you like us, then like us on facebook.

 

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Baja birders don’t have to go far-

Don’t have to go to far to find something special, something really cool to see, almost any day.  Had a few hours open so I took a ride up the Buenos Aires Arroyo yesterday.  I’m still searching for that very special Western Screech Owl I heard last week by our casa.   Stop by a very brushy area where I can find some shade.  I have a wire-less speaker to set-up away from me so I can have some control of the settings.  The owl only has to call a few moments and I’m surprised to see an absolutely beautiful Lazuli Bunting.

Lazuli Bunting

Lazuli Bunting

The Bunting takes a quick look and leaves.  Then I see a bird wagging it’s tail up and down just above where I placed the speaker.  That “tail action” tells me this is some kind of flycatcher.  Through the lens of the camera I’m pleased to see a Pacific-slope Flycatcher.  Notice the bi-colored bill and the tear-drop eye ring.

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

I’ve already stopped the calling but the Orange-crowned Warblers are still jumping all around the place.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

I can hear a Canyon Wren calling from, where else, up the canyon.  Click on the link and you can hear it’s awesome call.  I call twice and it flies over near the speaker to see what’s up.

Canyon Wren

Canyon Wren

Goes to show that if you have just a few minutes of free time, there’s a lot to see.  Just grab the binos and go!

Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie!

 

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These Baja Birders and a few small birds.

My darling Debbie and I took advantage of a windless morning yesterday and took the quads up back, behind the casa a mile or so.  I check the oil, gas and air-pressure in the machines—all good. “Grab the binos and the canteens and let’s go!”.

First thing we see is an adult, male American Kestrel or “Sparrow Hawk” as some call them.  That slate -blue color on it’s head and wings is a give-a-way, distinguishing male from female.  Also, the female’s head appears to be smaller and round-looking.  Check him out-

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

We pull up to some tall brush where we can get some shade to do some “calling”.  Looking around, not a bird in sight.  I turn the Western-screech Owl call on for a little bit, then stop.  “right over there, Debbie” but I can see she’s already frozen-with-her-camera pointing at a Gray Flycatcher.  Notice the fairly long, bi-colored bill?

Gray Flycatcather

Gray Flycatcather

I call for a few more seconds and I hear a bird moving in.  That call!, not unlike the wheezing of a heavy smoker after a jog.   These birds flick their tails constantly as they feed on tiny insects in the brush—California Gnatcatcher.

California Gnatcatcher

California Gnatcatcher

Not to be confused with the more common Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  one of which also flew in to see what the racket was all-about.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

I leave the call off.  Its important to remember that calling birds can upset their daily routines and defense mechanisms, some say.  No need to call more anyway because now, where there were no birds visible when we got here, birds are mobbing us!  We see a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

And a Brewer’s Sparrow that looks like it’s having a bad hair day.

Brewer's Sparrow

Brewer’s Sparrow

An Ash-throated Flycatcather flies by with a call that sounds to me like a “coach’s” whistle.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

I see a Butcher-bird, (Loggerhead Shrike) and can’t resist taking this back-lit photo-

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Now I can’t resist the sight of our hammock staring at me so that’s it for today.  From Chris and Debbie—-Happy Birding                  please don’t forget to like us!

 

 

 

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Baja Birder at the San Bartolo Arroyo.

Took a short quad ride up the arroyo to see what birds might be hiding out in the desert scrub.  I parked the rig under a bush for shade and looked around.  Not a thing in sight, so I decided to do a little calling.  I’ve heard a Western Screech-Owl calling at night from time to time and that’s the call I played on my ipod.  Right off, 4 or 5 Ash-throated Flycatchers flew in to challenge the owl.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I stop the call for a while so as not to bug the birds too much and then I see a curious Black-throated Sparrow.

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

After a bit, I start up the quad and move on.  The birds are getting a little agitated, I think. They’re wiping their beaks on branches like they want to bite someone.   At the new spot I use a call of a Black-capped Gnatcatcher.  We don’t have any of these birds here but I’ve found other birds like the call.  Here comes a Brewer’s Sparrow.

Brewer's Sparrow

Brewer’s Sparrow

And right along side of it is a House Finch.  Where’s that call coming from?  Pretty bird!

House Finch

House Finch

As I’m heading home, I see up ahead, a bird I can’t I.D.  Hmmmm.  Well I’ll be…. It’s a Lark Bunting.  Never saw this bird in Baja before…

Lark Bunting

Lark Bunting

When I was leaving the lagoons a few days ago, I saw a Common Loon.  I’ve seen these birds up north quit a bit but when I checked the ABA (American Birding Association, which we are members of) records, I found this bird to be listed as “rare” in Baja Sur.

Common Loon

Common Loon

That’s it for today, from Chris and Debbie—Happy Birding!!!!!!

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Another day for this Baja Birder at La Ribera lagoons.

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.

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Baja birders at high altitudes.

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

 

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

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.

 

 

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The wind won’t stop blowing but I’ve got to do some Baja birding!

Birding is pretty tough when the weather is windy and cloudy.  I decided to check out the LaGoons today, just had to get out of the casa.  Am I ever glad I did because I found one more bird that is way out of it’s range.  The Surf Scoter (click on the link), doesn’t belong this far south.  Another pat-on-the-back for Oly!

Surf Scoter

Surf Scoter

 

Moving along, I’m heading towards a flock of sandpipers hunkered down from the wind when I see another bird I don’t remember seeing here before.  This is a Black-bellied Plover.  As you can see, while this plover is not really out of range, it isn’t very common here either.

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover

This bird was very suspicious of me, so I keep my distance and walk down the beach to where I had seen the other sandpipers.  I see a mixed bag of birds moving quickly away from me.  Here’s a good comparison shot of, left to right, a Western Sandpiper(dark legs), Least Sandpiper(yellowish legs) and a Semipalmated Plover.

Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper and Semipalmated Plover

Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper and Semipalmated Plover

A flock of Blue-winged Teal fly by with the sun casting bad light (for photographing) behind them.

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

And an Elegant Tern pleases my eyes as it flies nearly overhead.

Elegant Tern

Elegant Tern

I find a turtle nest that was laid during the night.  The ATVs have almost driven over it so I dig up some big sticks out of the brush to put around it.  Maybe this will discourage people from riding over the nest.  As you can see from this picture, the nests are almost impossible to see.

Turtle nest

Turtle nest

I wasn’t going to post the following photo, but my friends urged me to do so.  Obviously, turtles have a lot of issues facing their existence.  When I was pulling sticks out of the brush to mark the nest I found the following: a dead turtle someone had wired a harness around probably to drag behind a boat or drag on the beach (see the scuffs on it’s back) to, maybe their car and then left it behind.  This was no accident!  This is fencing-type wire carefully wrapped around the shell.  How sad.

Turtle _

 

 

I’m in deep thought as a Western Gull watches me leave the lagoons once more.  Bye, bye for now. Chris & Debbie

Western Gull

Western Gull

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We did it! Baja’s “Big 6”.

Baja has it’s own “Big 6” when referring to birds.  Just a day ago, Debbie and I completed our mission to photograph all 6 birds endemic to Baja Sur. After stopping while driving up the San Antonio road, using my iPod, I tried calling a certain bird we’ve been trying to shoot for forever.  This time, like never before, it actually flew to us and landed on a small tree nearby.  No good!  We’re facing right into the sun!  Debbie, the birding pro she is, whistled like an owl which kept the bird close as it flew across the road into good light.  It kept looking away so I meowed like a kitten and it gave me this look! #1 on our list…The Cape Pygmy Owl.

Cape Pygmy Owl

Cape Pygmy Owl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2 is a bird very few people ever see, mostly because the only place in the world it lives is high up in the Sierra de Laguna Mts.  Debbie wasn’t up for the hike at the time I had to go to get this bird, but with the help of my friend, Luis, I got him.  Here’s it’s picture, The Baird’s Junco…

Baird's Junco

Baird’s Junco

The next bird on the list was a little easier to capture.  Always a joy to hear singing and watching looking for things to eat around the casa. With little teepees on it’s chest, #3, The Gray Thrasher…

Gray Thrasher

Gray Thrasher

A bird we photographed that was forced down from higher elevations during a drought a few years ago makes the # 4 spot on our list of endemic birds of Baja, The San Lucas Robin…

San Lucas Robin

San Lucas Robin

The bird that helps define the absolute beauty of Baja California Sur, Mexico.  At #5…The Xantus’s Hummingbird.

Xantus's Hummingbird

Xantus’s Hummingbird

Sadly, the last bird to make our list complete is one that may not be around for long.  At least we have photos to prove that we actually lived to see it before it becomes extinct. Developing wetlands, like new marinas, has left this bird with only a few recognized hectors of habitat to live on.  #6, The Beldings Yellowthroat…

Belding's Yellowthroat

Belding’s Yellowthroat

Now, after completing this photographic journey to shoot all the endemics of Baja Sur, I have to wonder whats’ next?  ” Whats’ next ” is whatever happens the next time Debbie and I pick up our cameras.  Always something new to shoot.  “til next time, Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie.

 

 

 

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So good to have Debbie to bird with.

She couldn’t make it to the lagoons last time, but she was there with me yesterday.  It’s a good thing she was because, like usual, she gets the best shots.  While I’m out scooting around here and there, blazing trails for birds, Debbie just kind of takes it easy and lets them come to her.  This can be the best strategy when trying to photograph our feathered friends, like the Great Egret in the lagoon-defining shot  (on the cover) she captured, and just take a look at this Green Heron that landed right next to her, WOW!

Green Heron

Green Heron

I headed on down to the “big” lagoon, the idea was to look for a Clapper Rail but having no luck with that I start walking.  Now there’s a site I haven’t seen in these waters before…a small flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.  Well I’ll be darned, always a new surprise in the Lagoons at La Ribera.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

While I’m standing there, in awe of these beautiful ducks, a Greater Yellowlegs makes it’s appearance.  Guess where this sandpiper-like bird gets it’s name?

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Just then, a flock of sandpipers join us.  First, a Western Sandpiper.  Dark, droopy bill, dark feet and 4 toes (not 3 like the Sanderling).

Western Sandpiper

Western Sandpiper

And with the Western is a Least Sandpiper.  Greenish/yellowish legs, pointier and shorter bill than the Western and feet not very webbed like the Semipalmated Sandpiper which this bird can be confused with in this plumage.

Least Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

Then I see a Semipalmated Plover.  Everyone says these birds are so “cute”.

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

I feel like I’m being watched.  Looking over my shoulder, there’s a Crested Caracara on the sand turning his head away to act like he’s not watching me.  Busted in the act of sizing me up like I might be something good to eat.  I saw you!

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

More birds are arriving in Baja Sur every day as they migrate here or through here on their way south.  That means there is an opportunity to see something different almost every time we go birding.  Off in a different direction tomorrow,  I’ll show you what we get so…Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie.          Like us on FaceBook if you would.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baja birders at the lagoons again

Drove south today.  South of Los Barriles to the lagoons near La Ribera.  Exiting the car, the first thing I notice is the warm, soft breeze blowin’ and a Reddish Egret staring at me with this look like “where ya been Oly?”.  Debbie and I have been taking care of some medical issues, enough said about that.  We’re back and I’m glad to see life in the lagoons.

Egret, Reddish

 

I wander over to the surf-line and see a few sandpiper-like birds foraging, zipping this way and that.  I’m pleased to see one of my favorite little guys, a Spotted Sandpiper.  In typical fashion, with tail bobbing, searching for prey in the sand and staying just “so far” from me to feel safe.

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Just a few feet further along I see this beautiful bird.  Black legs, black bill I think “Western Sandpiper”, but no.  I pay a little more attention to details and see this sandpiper has only 3 toes, most have 4.  Oh good, this is a Sanderling and I don’t see many of these speedy birds here in Baja.Sanderling

Looking at the lagoons, on a pile of snags there stands a Double-crested Cormorant.  I know from the body color that this is a young bird.  Their body-feathers get darker as they age.  Just the opposite of my own hair.

abird2

 

 

In the distance I see a dark, little spot on the sand.  Looking through the binos I see a Merlin.  This is a small raptor that I see only around this lagoon.

Merlin

Merlin

And then it happens!  I can’t believe my eyes!  Debbie and I have been chasing this bird all over the Oregon and California coasts only to find “you should have been here yesterday”.  Searching my mind, which doesn’t take long, I know this bird does not belong here.  Oh geese, oh geese…can I get a shot before before they leave, or before I wake up?  I fire away with my 7D Mark 2 Cannon and this is it.   Greater white-fronted Geese!

Greater white-fronted Goose

Greater white-fronted Goose

I’m really excited about seeing these birds here.  When I got home I entered the photo and location to eBird rarities.  I’m still waiting for confirmation from them but I did get a confirmation from Whatbird,com.  Last year there were some Brandt hanging around the lagoons for a short while and now these geese.  Awesome!

I look up just in time to see a seldom-seen-in-Baja Sur bird.  There goes an Elegant Tern.

Elegant Tern

Elegant Tern

Think I’ll show you one more special bird.  I’ve seen this one many times before but I think this is the first time here.  This long-legged wader is really something special-a Marbled Godwit.  You can read all about this, and the other birds in the photos I posted today by clicking on the links.

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Time to say good-bye for today.  Happy Birding from Chris & Debbie and remember…if you like us, like us on FaceBook.

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This Baja birder is checking out the desert.

Really warm and humid, the weather is.  I decided to take a short walk after dinner to see my friends-of-the-desert.  Canon 7D Mark 2 in hand, mounted on my mono-pod, I leave Casa Esplendida at 6:00PM.  I like to use my Ipod with iBird Pro bird sounds downloaded to attract birds that I would, otherwise, never see.  Even though there are no Black-capped Gnatcatchers here on the East Cape, I’ve found that many birds are attracted to it’s calls. Even worked in Oaxaca, Mexico.  First, here comes a California Gnatcatcher.  He’s doing his best to imitate the call.

California Gnatcatcher

California Gnatcatcher

All I have to do is turn around and I see a little Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  Like other gnatcatchers, he’s flicking his tail constantly to help scare-up the insects they feed on.  This one is yapping back at me as well.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Gnatcatchers aren’t the only birds attracted to this call.  Almost landing on my hat is an ever-curious Cactus Wren.  If you ever have the chance to see these birds interact with their young, don’t miss it.  Funniest act you may ever see!

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

I switch gears a little and play the call of an Elf Owl.  Like other birds-of-prey, owls are constantly harassed by small birds.  Birds, like the Phainopepla, gang up together to rid the neighborhood of these child-thieves.  Phainopeplas are members of the silky-flycatcher family.  Actually, they’re the only silkies in North America.

Phainopepla

Phainopepla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also answering the call to duty is the endemic Grey Thrasher.  These birds look like they have little tepees on their chests.

Grey-thrasher

Grey-thrasher

On my way home, the cooler air reminds me of my proximity to the sea.  The Sea of Cortez where, every direction my gaze takes me, there is always life, beautiful-living creatures.  Some soaring, like this Red-tailed Hawk-

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some running on the ground, like this California Quail-

California Quail

California Quail

And some just seem to be there to dazzle and amaze us, like this Costa’s Hummingbird.

Costa's Hummingbird

Costa’s Hummingbird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie and Have a Great Day!

Don’t for get to like us, if you do.

 

 

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New bird at the La Ribera Lagoons

At the end of this post I will show you a photo of a bird I shot at the La Ribera Lagoons yesterday.

I headed out towards the lagoons at 7:30 yesterday.  The weather was hazy, already 85 degrees and muggy.  The first bird I see there is an Osprey.  He made a few passes over me and landed nearby.  “Oh, it’s just you”, I know he’s thinking.  I wonder if this bird is going to migrate north this year.  Maybe not, there’s tons of little fish in the lagoon.

Osprey

Osprey

I park and just stand there looking for a moment.  I’ve never seen this area looking so healthy, so vital.  There’s a Least Tern on the sand.  Just one and really not many seabirds perched or flying around .

Least Tern

Least Tern

I look at the surf-line and watch a solo American Oystercatcher coming in for a landing..

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher

I see the delicate Black-necked Stilt wading in the brackish water.  Black neck, legs like stilts…the name makes sense to me.

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

Now, I turn my attention to the nearby brush.  I do a little pishing and right away I’m challenged by Mr. and Mrs. Varied Bunting.  I love these birds.  Here’s a photograph of the male.

Varied Bunting

Varied Bunting

And then I see the critically endangered Belding’s Yellowthroat!  With only a few hectors of habitat left in the world for this bird I’m afraid it’s getting too late to save them.  This lagoon, their homes, were eaten up by a new marina (that seems to be abandoned now) and now rumors have it that another one is planned for here.  That means…goodbye Belding’s Yellowthroat and other endangered animals like the Cape Garter-snake.

Belding's Yellowthroat

Belding’s Yellowthroat

Now I see a bird doing a mating-type dance in the air on top of a palm.  Flying up 50 feet or so and flittering straight back down to land once again.  What is that bird???  Was able to take a somewhat distant pic of it and “I’ll be darned!”, I’ve seen this guy before in San Blas, Mexico and Arizona.  But in 20 years, I have never seen this bird here in Baja before.  A Yellow-breasted Chat!!!  WoW, wOw!!!  Was it displaced by gigantic hurricane Blanca a few weeks ago and now looking for it’s mate?

Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted ChaT

I’ve seen a report or two of this bird being spotted in other parts of Baja, but not here in La Ribera.  I even thought I caught a glimpse of the Yellow-throated Warbler again.  I’m going back as soon as I can to see what else I can find before it’s too late.

My darling Debbie was “out with the girls” yesterday and that’s why she didn’t go birding with me.  Now, I think she’s a little sorry she missed the Chat.  ‘Till next time….

HAPPY BIRDING from Chris and Debbie.    don’t forget to like us, it means a lot to us and we appreciated your help.

 

 

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Baja birders in the land of The Oregon Coast

We look forward to spending some time in Oregon and seeing our friends and family.  Here is our super-friend, Germie.  Debbie and Germ (nickname just between the two of them) go all the way back to their early school years.  Just look and you can imagine the “bond” between the two.

Debbie n Germie

Debbie n Germie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This shot was taken near Bandon’s south jetty.  The scenery is beautiful and we spotted colonies of  Common Murres on the sea-stacks.  They spend parts of the winter here and head north to Alaska to breed in summer.

Common Murres

Common Murres

This is what they look like close-up.  Very fast flyers.  I tried all morning to catch a photo of one flying with no luck.  Too far away and too fast at that distance.

Common Murre

Common Murre

 

Debbie got wind of a Peregrine Falcon being spotted a mile or so down the beach.  I hadn’t heard a word about this bird sighting but when I saw her and Germie running down the beach at break-neck speed, I figured something must be up.  Their efforts paid off, check out this pic!  WoW!!!

 

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back to the jeep Debbie is at it again with this great photo of a White-crowned Sparrow.  Our little song birds are starting to arrive from their winter migrations.

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now we are back at the house.  Our home here is on a pond and we are so pleased to see the ducks have arrived   We put up nest boxes for the Wood Ducks  15 or 20 years ago so where we used to have a duck or two, now we have ducks all over the place.  Thats a good thing.

Wood Ducks

Wood Ducks

And here’s a Mallard male.  His honey is up in the nearby bushes sitting on their nest.

Mallard male

Mallard male

Well, the sun has come out so I’m going out to play birder.  Have a great day and …..Happy birding from Chris and Debbie.   Don’t forget to like us, it helps us.

 

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Baja birders say goodbye to Oaxaca

Oaxaca Mexico is a land of high mountains, ocean front and valleys.  A wide range of habitats.  We found this river and decided to stop and take a look.

River in Oaxaca

River in Oaxaca

I’m so glad we did because it was there that I photographed my first Amazon Kingfisher.  This bird was so far away I had to balance my Canon T2i on the bridge to shoot it.  Even then, the bird insisted on staying in the shadows of a huge tree.  I guess this Kingfisher was about 500 feet away from me.

Amazon Kingfisher

Amazon Kingfisher

While my darling Debbie went off somewhere with the guide (hmmm?), I stayed put waiting for the Amazon to work it’s way closer.  I heard this squawking noise coming from the air and getting closer.  I look up to see parakeets flying into a nearby tree.  This is a White-fronted Parakeet.  Maybe 50 or so birds in this flock and what a racket!

White-fronted Parakeet

White-fronted Parakeet

As I look back to the river I see a bird I’m familiar with.  We have these Black Phoebes near fresh and brackish water in Baja.  Again, this bird was pretty far away but I had to shoot before it got away.

Black phoebe

Black phoebe

Back at one of the lodges we stayed at I went for a walk.  This beautiful Emerald Toucanet landed in a nearby tree.  I think this is the only time I have ever seen this bird.  Wow, just look at the colors!

Emerald Toucanet

Emerald Toucanet

While driving out in the country, we spotted some bird activity.   It was a pair of White-collard Towhees.  Carefully I approached as these are very shy birds and patience paid off, rewarding me with this photo.

White-collared towhee

White-collared towhee

Debbie and I both hope you have a chance to visit Oaxaca if you haven’t already.  Wonderful people, great food and fantastic birding.  We won’t soon forget this place.  Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie.

IMG_7734

 

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Website problems

Hello everyone,

We sincerely apologize for the emails you may (or may not!) be getting from our website.  We have had to send out a series of “tests” to see if we can get your email notifications working again.  If you indeed receive an email telling you we have made a post, please, if you could, let us know you got it!

Thank you and again, so sorry for the inconvenience but we are working hard to keep you in the know about “Birds We See”!

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Oaxaca 3-Birds We See, Flycatchers and more.

Flycatchers are a group of birds that, usually, can be seen all day long.  Unlike many birds that feed on seeds and flower nectars, flycatchers are often most active after the day warms up a bit.  That’s when many insects are busy flying around and these birds can see and catch them.  The Gray Silky Flycatcher, related to the Phainopeplas (black cardinals, some call them) we see in Baja, are very common in Oaxaca.

Gray Silky Flycatcher

Gray Silky Flycatcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brown-crested Flycatchers are among the busiest flycatchers you’ll ever see.  Whether we’re looking for Robins or Chachalacas, there’s always Brown crested Flycatchers around catching insects overhead, in the bushes or even on the ground.  Speaking of Chachalacas (not a flycatcher), here’s one I shot from a long ways away.

West-Mexican Chachalaca

West-Mexican Chachalaca

Back to flycatchers.  Least Flycatchers were common to see.

Least Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As were Hammonds Flycatchers.

Hammond's Flycatcher

Hammond’s Flycatcher

We saw Blue-gray Gnatcatchers  like we have in Baja Sur,

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

 

but we also saw White-lored Gnatcatchers, what a treat!

White-lored Gnatcatcher

White-lored Gnatcatcher

Gnatcatchers feed mostly on insects like the flycatchers, constantly flicking their tails to scare up bugs as they forage threw the brush.  The following bird has to be one of our favorites from Oaxaca.  Check out the colors on this Red-legged Honeycreeper.

Red-legged Honeycreeper

Red-legged Honeycreeper

I think I’ll finish up today with a fantastic photo my sweetheart, Debbie, captured.  A couple of Boucard’s Wrens socializing.

Boucard's Wrens

Boucard’s Wrens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie.  Like us?  Then “like” us on facebook.

 

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Oaxaca 2. Our guide, Benito, knew these Baja birders were serious

about seeing our goal of at least 50 new birds.  However, he was always keen to point out interesting sights.  We passed this World Heritage Petroglyph situated off one of the main roads in Oaxaca.  (Just above the “BirdsWeSee.com” copyright stamp I can’t seem to move out of the way, sorry.

Petroglyphs in Oxaxca

Petroglyphs in Oxaxca

Think I’ll stick to the birds, for now anyway.  This Rose-breasted Becard proved especially difficult to photograph.  I can see why most of the sites on the internet featuring this bird only have drawings.  We got the shots!

Rose-breasted Becard

Rose-breasted Becard

Rose-breasted Becard

Rose-breasted Becard

 

Here’s a bird we have in the mountains of Baja.  If your familiar with Bushtits, you’ll notice something unusual about this one we photographed in Oaxaca.  Many of the Bushtits there have a black mask or “black ear”.  Kinda neat but it takes away from that “cute little bird” look of the Bushtits we’re used to seeing.

Black-eared Bushtit

Black-eared Bushtit

 

The bird pictured below is a Red-breasted Chat.  Another bird known by hard-core birders to be very difficult to photograph.  Just leave the task to my sweetheart, Debbie, no problem!

Red-breasted Chat

Red-breasted Chat

 

Cuckoo for cuckoos?  Following are photos of the Mangrove Cuckoo

Mangrove Cuckoo

Mangrove Cuckoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and a Squirrel Cuckoo.

Squirrel Cuckoo

Squirrel Cuckoo

 

 

Now, for a really special treat.  Benito was down in the heavy brush looking for an owl we heard calling.  All-of-a-sudden he freaks out and calls quietly to us to come look.  He’s saying “your not going to believe this”!  There’s a Collard Forest Falcon perched right in front of him.  This is a raptor very few will ever see in person and I got so anxious.  We’re all trying to position ourselves to see and hopefully, shoot this bird.  It’s moving this way and that to different branches.  I see it, then I don’t.  “It’s moving toward you Debbie”!  “Can’t see it” she says.  This brush is really thick.  Finally I see the falcon!  Sadly,  I fire off a few shots.  Sadly because I knew the lighting was awful.  Then it flew, I pulled the trigger and got it.  Whew!!!

Collard Forest-Falcon

Collard Forest-Falcon

 

We all know House Finches, right?  The same House Finch we have in Baja is the same House Finch in Oaxaca but look at the difference in color.  The red is so intense.

House Finch, Oaxaca

House Finch, Oaxaca 

That’s all for today.  Gotta go watch the whales go by.  Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie!

 

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Baja birders in Oaxaca, 1.

At the beginning of this year, a member of one of the birding forums I belong to encouraged  other members to make a list.  A list of 5 birds to become a goal for any one member to photograph in 2015.  I thought this was a great idea and I set a lofty goal to shoot the 5 birds I had always wanted to.  At the time, I wasn’t even thinking about Oaxaca or even being able to see all 5 birds on one birding trip.  Surprise, surprise!  This first blog about our birding adventures in Oaxaca and the things we saw  will include all 5 of my target birds for 2015.  Luck, chance, fate; whatever you may call it, my birds were there.

The diversity of flora and fauna in Oaxaca is pleasing and curious.  Check out this cactus growing flat on the ground covered with tender flowers.

Cactus flowers in Oaxaca

Cactus flowers in Oaxaca

One of my target birds was this Fan-tailed Warbler.  My darling Debbie was able to capture this bird under very difficult shooting conditions.  To photograph this warbler we had to develop a strategy.  This bird was only to be found in one particular, small area.  It was cloudy and raining the day we first saw it and the photos we took were the pits.  Way too dark and distant.  We decided to come back to the same spot the next day, hoping for more light.  We did and Debbie knew how to position herself for the best opportunity to use the little light we had.  She got the shots, go Debbie!

Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rural areas of the state were full of character.  Casual is an understatement.

Hauling firewood in Oxaxca

Hauling firewood in Oaxaca

 

 

Another one of my targets, the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.  We could hear this owl calling so we called back and this tiny bird flew in close for a look.

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One more bird on my list was the Doubleday’s Hummingbird.  A dark-colored bird that seemed to enjoy hiding in the shadows.  Hard to find a lot of info about this hummer but I think it is a split off the Broad-billed Hummingbirds.

Doubleday's Hummingbird

Doubleday’s Hummingbird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found this waterfall refreshing just to stare at in the middle of the day.  How peaceful.

Oaxaca waterfall

Oaxaca waterfall

 

Bird number 4 is the Orange-breasted Bunting.  Just take a look at this bird.  What do they say?  “Beauty is all around us”.

Orange-breasted Bunting

Orange-breasted Bunting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last but not least, the Happy Wren.  Honestly, I chose this bird to be on my list because of it’s name.  I had to see a Happy Wren.

Happy Wren

Happy Wren

Our guide, Benito Hernandez is the best.  Not only did he know his birds and where to find them, he is also a cultural expert and always interesting to be with.  He drove us all over the Oaxacan mountains, beaches, valleys, etc;   I consider myself to be an extreme birder and there was no quit in this man.  Once in a while, in the heat of the day, Debbie would take a break.  I was there to be bird-crazy and Benito was always ready for more.

Phone: +52 (951) 133-4140 – home           Benito’s cell   +521 (951) 100-1169

Website: www.discover-oaxaca.com

E-mail: guide@discover-oaxaca.com

Debbie and Benito

Debbie and Benito

Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie.  If you like us, “Like us” on facebook.

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