Friday, February 26, 2016

Photo of the week

I was able to take this photo of a Bonaparte's Gull this last week, while it was catching bugs just off the water. It never did land, just dove in, hovered and moved on. This smaller sized gull will have a solid black head soon ,when it goes into full breeding plumage.  Maybe I can get the same shot then??

Thursday, February 25, 2016

White Ibis

White Ibis
Eudocimus albus

One of the great finds for many visiting birders here in La Paz, is the easy access to occasional White Ibis. They wander in and forage in the shallows right along the Malecon ( large formal sidewalk along the water front) that runs the length of the center part of La Paz. This area is an easy half mile flight from the mangroves that are along the Magote, or long sand spit that helps form the bay in from of La Paz.

This is a first year juvenile both standing and in flight.....

and here is the adult in flight. Note the very prominent black wing tips.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Conquoista Agraria beach getaway

We took advantage of the break in our windy weather, and Jeanne's birthday and enjoyed a long weekend on the western side of the Baja. You might have seen my previous post from our scouting trip over there, making sure we would be able to get our trailer  "Casa Poquita" over there, and back!

From a birding sense, this is s pretty unique area, as it has long white and black sand beach, a larger enough surf break to entice several surfers, open sage brush type area, a grassy plains type area, some mangrove and a coconut palm grove. All this diversity in a 4 square mile section!!

I will post a bird species list at the end of this post, but a couple of highlights for me were to revisit the Wandering Tattler, Several Surfbirds, Snowy Plovers and a decent population of Horned Larks.

Despite all the fun, unique birds, I am pretty sure my favorite shot of the weekend, and right up there for 2016 is this shot of a Western Scrub Jay. This was one of a mated pair who were hanging around the open grass to scrub - thorn bush zone.

In most field guides, and to  my experience as well, the farthest south that we find Horned Larks is Guerrero Negro, about half way down the Baja. I was several hundred miles south of that point when I ran across this patch of chafe, grass and sage that was home to about 20 Larks. They work pretty hard at being secretive, but in this same 200yd x 200yd patch that they were calling home, was also a late evening feeding area for a half dozen Black Bellied Plovers. In working my way up to get some grassy area shots of them, I discovered the Horned Larks. And what a fun surprise that was!
This little guy just kept showing off the top of his head, like " see how cool I look" so I just felt I needed to put that shot out there.

It was also a great treat to get some quality time with  a very small group of Snowy Plovers. I chased them, not literally, all over the beach at Morro Bay, California, but here they were very mellow.

I also got to spend pretty much as much time as I wanted hanging out with three Surfbirds. They pretty much stayed with in 100 yards of the same rocky, wave crashing point, and they did not seem to put out that I sat there for several hours watching them eat, sleep and just sit there
Here is the afore mentioned Black-bellied Plover.....but this shot was taken down on the beach.
This was a fun shot that I got of the Orange-crowned Warbler. They too are out looking for mates, so there is a lot of bush top singing going on.
There is a very healthy populating of Sanderlings all up and down the beach, and even up in the dunes, and short cheat grasses. But the pictures taken down by the water just seem more....well, correct
Another of the birds that was very active is the partner search was the Green-tailed Towhee. They seemed to be in every bush I walked past, but were much less willing to be photographed. In the end, my patience won them over!!
I always enjoy listening to the raucous sounds of the Cactus Wren. This was part of a mated pair that were starting to work on a nest
A few of the more common birds that were in the area, the Least Sandpiper....
The Spotted sandpiper.....

And the Semi-palmated Plover.

There were both Ruddy and Black Turnstones....The Black Turnstones did a lot of flying by, not never did stop. I have a very fun shot of them flying that I will post later. This Ruddy was part of a group of 6-7 that wandered up and down the beach

Here are some more of the Sanderling...resting quite happily despite the roaring surf that was crashing near by.
At first light every morning there was a pretty solid marina layer of clouds, so I was not able to get the quality shot of one of the many Ospreys that actively fish right in front of our campsite. This guy caught a fish so big he struggled for quite some time to get it air borne and then up over the ridge to it's nest.

Just as we loaded up the Durango, and hitched up the trailer, this beautiful Peregrine Falcon swooped down thru the cactus. I would like to have had some more time with him, perhaps a bit better shot but....well, you can't get them all!

There were quite a few sparrows in the area, and to be honest I had a terrible time identifying them. Most were a bit lighter than I remembered, or had a bit different pattern. The gloomy marine sky muted many of the colors and made for a challenge getting some good some of them are still being worked on.  The Savannah Sparrow below was pretty common.

This one I am pretty sure is a Grasshopper Sparrow, but I am open to suggestions.....Drop me a note, leave a comment, tell me what you think.
So here is a quick list of the species that I saw while we were in the Conquista Agraria area.
Ruddy Turnstone
Black Turnstone
Wandering Tattler
Semi-palmated Plover
Horned Lark
Clay-colored Sparrow
Magnificent Frigatebird
Brown Pelican
Yellow-footed Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Vesper Sparrow
Orange-crowned Warbler
Western Scrub Jay
Northern Mockingbird
Loggerhead Shrike
Cactus Wren
Spotted Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
American Kestrel
Red-tailed Hawk
Common Ground Doves
White Winged Doves
Savannah Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Purple Finch
Tri-color Heron
Great Blue Heron
Hooded Oriole
Scotts Oriole
Snowy Plover
Black-bellied Plover
Turkey Vulture
Marbled Godwit
Costa's Hummingbird
Xanthus Hummingbird**  seen in an arroyo about a mile north of the area.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Grave concerns for the Belding's Yellowthroat

                                      Belding’s Yellowthroat
                              Geothlypis beldingi


A couple of years ago, I was invited to participate in a Community Hummingbird Festival, in Todos Santos, BCS Mexico. It was at the fantastic community event that I was made aware of the plight of the Belding's Yellowthroat. This very small marsh bird, it literally being encroached to extinction. The Belding lives in a very small section of the lower Baja, in the fresh and brackish water marshes. The bulk of these areas also happen to be adjacent to some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in Mexico. Exactly the kind of place developers seek for future resorts, condos and custom homes. The plight of one very small bird is really put on the back burner when you are talking about million of dollars in wages, taxes, home sales and rental fees., especially here in some the poverty stricken areas of Mexico.

Any way, the Belding has an estimated population of approximately 1000, + or - and are found primarily around the southern tip of Baja California Sur. The wet lands around San Jose Del Cabo and Todos Santos are the primary areas for the population, but I have seen them in Agua Caliente, and as far north as La Purisima. I have no doubt that they could be found in the marsh areas of Magdalena Bay, Lopez Mateo, and even up to San Ignacio.

At this point the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have listed this species as "Endangered". For more information on the listing and the Belding's Yellowthroat, please visit their website. the fun part, here are some pictures!!  As you can see on the picture above, there is very little white above the block eye patch on the Belding's like you would see on the common Yellowthroat. Mostly just a very small white area behind the cheek area.

For those of you that have ever tried to capture these small, fast, constantly moving little birds, you know how hard it is to get that great shot, with out a reed, stick or leaf in the way...and then when you do, the silly bird blinks!! The pictures you see here in this short story represent hundreds of hours standing in muck, living with mosquitos....looking for that one shot!

Here is a female Belding's......

and here are a shot of an immature bird....

and for those of you that are really into the variations, and subspecies, here is a Common Yellowthroat, that I shot in Morrow Bay, California while we had our sailboat there for a week. Note the complete lack of white above the eye....and much more of a gray like the first year male Eastern Yellowthroat variation, only that bird would not have any black. This is also very similar to the Hooded Yellowthroat, which is seen on the eastern side of mainland Mexico....feel free to chime in if you have any comments on this or any of the birds pictured here!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Kodiak Alaska

This last August, my Dad Gary, had invited me to join him on a trip to Kodiak Alaska. The main purpose for the trip was to go see the Kodiak Grizzlies. While that part of the trip went far better than I ever could have imagined, the extra 7 days chasing birds around the island was spectacular.

I had a great B& B to stay in, the weather could not have been better!!  mid 60's/low 70's every day and not a drop of rain. I know, I know it is not usually like that but there was no complaints from me!

Here are a few of the pictures that I took while I was up there!

Here is my story about Alaska and my only Eagle Picture...well not really, but the only one I like.

Hard to not go to Alaska and not work pretty hard in order to track down some Puffins! They turned out to be a bit harder than I had expected, but I did get a couple of decent shots

A fun little bird, the Common Redpoll was on my wish list for up there...
This Merlin never did allow me to get any kind of shot while it was resting, but it did buzz over my head a couple of times....

One of the shots I am most happy with is this shot of the Belted Kingfisher! They are just always so skittish, and  when this guy landed right where I hoped, right near my hiding spot...well what can I say!

.I spent several hours crawling thru the sand trying to get some shots of the Golden Plovers, but in the end they all flew away....but the Ruddy Turnstones all hung around in order to make it to my blog!!

The Varied Thrush has been a bit elusive for me as well, but there were a few that cooperated with me..

I was pretty happy to get this shot of the Savannah Sparrow.....again, I sat there hoping one would land on this log, and with lots of patience, one did.

While I have literally seen hundreds of Wilson's Snipe...I did not have a single photo of one, until Alaska.

Another new bird for me was the American first was in second was just a few weeks ago here in La Paz, Mexico

There where quite a few Pacific Wrens on the Island, but this one was a just plain ol' show off!

We will wrap this day up with what I consider to be the best Spotted Sandpiper shot I have ever seen.....

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A day at the coast

It’s that time of year when we have the closest thing to a slow point in our business….the family has all returned to the states, most of the work on the boats is done, and very few of our management boats are around right now. Time for a short road (or off road as it might be) to the other side of the Baja. We have taken a few short exploratory trips, mostly to make sure that the roads are OK for hauling the trailer.



As a preview for upcoming pictures from the Pacific side of the Baja, here are a few of the shots that I took last weekend on our quick day trips…


I have to start out with a fun find…a Wandering Tattler!! I was up high on a dune above the crashing waves when I spotted this single Tattler sitting right next to the water’s edge…hum how to get down there. It turned out easier than I had expected, and the Tattler was quite patient.


Sanderlings, Black-bellied plovers, Semipalmated Plovers, Least Sandpipers, Savannah Sparrows, Vesper Sparrows, Lark Sparrows, Osprey, Frigates, Ring-billed and Yellow footed gulls, Brown Pelicans, Sparrow Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Harris Hawks, just to name a few of what we got to see….
And now to why you are actually here!!  The pictures…LOL

Ruddy Turnstone


Black-bellied Plover

Red-tailed Hawk

Wilson's Plover

Frigatebird scooping bait fish out of the surf

Brown Pelicans

Ok, so now we will see what I can find to shoot with a whole weekend over there. We will be gone from Friday afternoon (Jeanne's Birthday) and return Sunday evening.  Have a great week