The Great Baja Bird Hunt


We’d been stuck on 91 for a while, and morale was starting to fade. We had 160 bird species left to see if we hoped to positively identify every bird in Baja, and that meant we had to average about one new species a day for the rest of the trip. It seemed a bit daunting, given that most of the low hanging fruit was gone. Then we pulled into anchor at San Juanico.

From the beginning, the bird life seemed remarkable. We saw the first breeding plumage of the Brown Pelicans. We saw flotillas of hundreds of Horned Grebes, all diving in unison as they chased their quarry of bait fish. We also found a white morph of a Horned Grebe washed up on shore, a plumage that Sibley, our ever present guide, does not mention. But what really lifted our spirits was a paddle up what we thought was a brackish lagoon, but turned out to be a small fresh water creek.

Here we sat, listening to the trickle of a small waterfall, while all around us the birds poured in. We got to see a Costa’s Hummingbird drink from the cascading water, a Cooper’s Hawk hunting songbirds in flight, and a group of four Redheads, a rare duck sighting on the Baja side. Wylie was very excited about the ducks, and we were very excited to see that he hadn’t forgotten his raison d’etre.  That morning we saw 35 species of birds, over a third of the total that we’d seen since we crossed over to Baja two and a half months ago. Four of these were new to our list, and while still far from the goal, it lifted our morale and rekindled our spirit for the hunt.

The hunt, or rather the search for all these birds, is admittedly verging on the pointless. We’re not, after all, coming home with a sack of quail for the bbq. But the search for birds, if combined with an inquisitive eye towards biological and geographical relationships, is one of the best ways to explore the ecology of a landscape. Our sailing trip has also turned into a birding trip, and it is so much richer for it; we are drawn into the lagoons and the canyons and the arroyos, all for the hope of catching a glimpse, or a song or a sign of just one more bird.

Click Here for a list of the birds sighted thus far.

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  1. Jean LaGrone says

    I agree that birding provides a good lens for viewing our world. I put up a bird feeder this winter and I have loved watching the regular visitors. Even though I’ve seen them so many times, they are the common feeder birds, I love seeing a flicker of movement and knowing I’ll see a Nuthatch or a Downy Woodpecker when I look more closely. I’ve also seen two Bald Eagles flying in unison in the distance when I looked up to check out the feeder. I saw a Bald Eagle perched on trees overlooking the Missouri River when I took a walk last week. I love that they are becoming a common sighting!

  2. blase says

    Ah, this cracks me up! The bird-nerd in me loves that this has become a large part of your trip – and is very envious!


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