Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Birds of Baja, and then some...

While the focus of our Baja California Sur trip was whale watching, we also can't resist taking pictures of birds!  Many of our North American regulars winter in Mexico, though we didn't focus on them.  We did see an unexpected Oriole (I had no idea they flew that far south!) at Hotel Serenidad during our visit in Mulege, though I didn't take it's picture.  It wasn't until we were out in the coastal areas that we really started to take notice of the birds around us.

Much to our surprise we saw a few Great Blue Herons fishing in the surf.  They tend to be pretty shy, and loners, so it wasn't surprising that we would see a lone bird.  Dean mentioned in a previous post that we didn't know that they flew that far south - considering we enjoy taking their picture at our cottage in Illinois!  We also thought it was interesting that they equally enjoy salt water fish as well as fresh water fish.  All in all, it was like seeing an old friend in an unfamiliar place!

You always expect to see pelicans around the coast.  I developed a real liking for Brown Pelicans when we traveled to San Diego last year.  There we could get close enough to touch them (but didn't!), and see their beautiful colors.  We didn't get that close this trip, but we did see a sandbar just packed with them in Magdalena Bay.  I had never seen so many clustered together!  We passed them, in our little "panga" (over-sized Bass boat that we went whale watching in) going out to see the whales, and coming back to the docks.  As usual, click on the pictures to see a closer view of the subject!

We had never seen Frigatebirds, in person, before.  Again, while going out to the whale viewing area we were easily distracted by a large group of Frigatebirds perched in trees along the shoreline of the opposing dunes.  Since we didn't get very close to them (though were able to get some pictures) it's hard to say exactly what kind of Frigatebirds these are.  From the maps I've looked at they may be Magnificent Frigatebirds.  The males have the red gular pouches that they blow up like balloons during mating season, the females have black heads and white chests, and the immature birds have white heads.  Interestingly, they can't swim, can barely walk, and can't take off from flat surfaces!  In addition to the Frigatebirds, we also saw some of their relatives, Cormorants.  Unfortunately, we didn't get any Cormorant pictures.  Cormorants, Frigatebirds, and Pelicans are all somewhat related.

During our trip we were 'evacuees' to the east side of the Baja due to the tsunami warnings.  Arriving in Loreto without a hotel lined up we spent some time discussing our options.  While waiting for Joey and Gail to make inquiries at Posada de las Flores (where we stayed the night) we were sitting in our cab looking at the surrounding area.  I noticed a little hummingbird darting around at a nearby Ficus tree.  We see a lot of hummingbirds in Tucson, and they're always a delight!  I noticed that this little bird was very busy and returning to the same spot...when I realized she had a nest she was sitting on!  I have never seen a hummingbird's nest and immediately grabbed my camera and tumbled out of the cab to see if I could get a picture or two.  Hummingbirds tend to be very stalwart birds, big personalities, big egos, packed in little tiny bodies.  That was fortunate for me, as this little mama wasn't leaving her nest just because a camera was pointed her way!  I believe this is a Black Chinned Hummingbird - sitting on her little nest woven of spider-webs.

The last of the birds that we photographed were at Campo Rene, where we were supposed to stay on Friday night.  It's close proximity to the beach on the Pacific coast kept us from staying there during the evacuation.  While we were there 'checking out the place' we noticed that there were several Osprey nests on stands and on top of water towers!  We had seen Osprey's in Puerto Penasco before, and they are sometimes referred to "Mexican Eagles" - so we weren't surprised to see them.  They are quite beautiful and always picture worthy.

The last of the 'wild things' pictures I have was taken at Campo Rene also.  We had crossed the dunes and spent time on the beach, searching for sand dollars and shells.  Since the coast had already been evacuated we had miles and miles of beach to was an eerie but peaceful feeling.  When it came time to head back across the dunes to the airstrip we saw that we were not alone and spotted this Coyote trotting through the dunes.  He must have heard that it was time to move inland also.

While the Baja seems to be a desolate place, the desert and coast is teeming with life.  I think it would be well worth another trip in the future!

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