Monday, April 28, 2014

The Rocky Roads of Mexico

From our condo on Playa Miramar

Several months back, we had planned our yearly trip back to Rocky Point, Mexico.  It required me to renew my passport and do some research around the area.  Plus my purpose for this trip was to find the Yellow-footed Gull and study up on my gulls. 

Common Loon
But during Easter week, it's never quite that easy with thousands of people walking along the shoreline.  Luckily, we stayed in an area known as Caborca....away from the city.  However, we had to go to the city for supplies.  And I had to find another bird known as a "Surfbird".  The port is full of rocks and the Surfbird prefers this habitat.

The fishing port of Rocky Point
I don't know why, but I've always found Mexican chaos beautiful. It's full of traffic, annoying trash, people and wildlife.  The city itself was a gem when it came to finding birds.  Where there are people; there are opportunistic sea birds. 

Snowy Plovers
As I walked along the beaches, I discovered so many plovers darting around the seashells.  

The Salt Marshes of Morúa
After our return from the city, I began to truly set out and discover a new section of Rocky Point.  It is known as the estuary of Morúa. 

Morúa Estuary
I had seen this massive blue expanse while walking the salt marshes.  I knew there was something special in that area, but I didn't know how to get to it.  

Gulls attack!
So we drove the dusty roads along the golf course near the Mayan Resort and found the place.

This area is a bit strange. A wealthy hotel known as the Mayan Resort "owns" the entire area.  How does one own nature?  Anyhow, they have a golf course along one side of the road and on the other is the magical and large expanse known as the Morúa estuary.  The area is monitored and protected by the Intercultural Center of Desert and Ocean studies or CEDO. 

While this estuary is located in the area "owned" by the Mayan Resort, it is protected by CEDO and that means it's open to the general public. All I will say is "Wow!"  This area is a true gem for birders and a MUST see!  The desert is an amazing place and the desert habitat along the Sea of Cortez is no exception.  

Yellow-footed Gull
A familiar "Weeeeep!"  pulled me out of my reverie as a Wilson's Plover flew directly in front of me.  I believe he was warning me to stay away from something.....perhaps a nest? 

Wilson's Plover
Along the way, I found Dunlins and Red Knots in their breeding plumage. The hotel itself was a rich sanctuary full of different birds and landscape. There were many migrating warblers, flycatchers and orioles! 

A place for the rich to mingle and be isolated from the "others"
In fact, a Scott's Oriole captured my attention as we neared the entrance.  Only then did I see an incredible flock of warblers(Wilson's, Yellow, Yellow-rumped and Nashville!) in the South American mesquite trees!  Once inside the resort, I saw something very interesting.....

A magnificent Sora is ignored by so many people at the hotel.  Just another brown bird.
A Sora spun around in circles while people casually passed this bird by on the bridge. Several locals spoke Spanish around me and assumed I didn't understand a word.  They mumbled to each other, "What is the gringo looking at?"  A young lady replied, "Some stupid bird." I let it roll off my shoulders, but what they did next really irked me.  They wanted to take a picture of their family right where I was standing. Really people? How often does one get to see a Sora swirling around out in the open??!!!  So I didn't budge.

Anyhow, they had to wait until I was done with my observation. Hey, I was a paying customer and had several drinks at their bar:) The hotel had little pools of water with all kinds of sandpipers hanging around at the edges. 

A Dunlin
I still have several more areas of study that need to take place in Rocky Point which will include Cholla Bay and another estuary to the south, but those will wait until next year.  I was a bit angry on our way back to the US as I was pulled over for "speeding".  Which I wasn't.  The local police just wanted money.  Thankfully I speak Spanish and we were able to pay the criminals their fee without much hassle.  Mexico is beautiful but the local law enforcement is at times quite crooked. These police are underpaid in their own country so they have to make it up elsewhere. One word for that incident.  Annoying.

"Roberta"-the Heermann's Gull at Viña Del Mar restaurant
The above shot is of "Roberta".  She is a Heermann's Gull who lives at a local restaurant downtown. Perhaps part owner? This gull was born with a gimp leg and loves to visit the local clientele during breakfast, lunch or dinner:) Just to chat:) Needless to say, the owner of the restaurant loves her very much.  I'm not sure if she is really a "she", but I enjoyed listening to the owner's story about Roberta. 

Forster's Tern
If you are interested in visiting Rocky Point, check out Jan and Andy's place on Playa Miramar.  We've been down at their rental home many times and have had a safe and wonderful stay.  Andy and Jan, both Phoenix residents, are wonderful hosts who live in Rocky Point most of the year. Their home is right next door to the rental.  For birders, this is a great place to explore at low and high tide.  There aren't many people along the beach in this area which is a good thing for birders.  The Morúa estuary is very close(about 15 minutes by car) from their place.  The habitat is varied on their road and is home to the Large-billed Savannah Sparrows, Burrowing Owls and so many other birds. I spent my days walking up and down the beach and dirt roads counting birds. As a side note, because I've been out studying birds, I haven't been able to catch up with everyone as I'd like.  But I promise I'll be stopping by soon. 

A juvenile Pacific Loon
Until next time......

Northern Shoveler  8

Red-breasted Merganser  14

Gambel's Quail  2

Pacific Loon  6

Common Loon  3

Eared Grebe  6
Black Storm-Petrel  1
Magnificent Frigatebird  3
Blue-footed Booby  6
Brown Booby  25
Brandt's Cormorant  12
Neotropic Cormorant  80
Double-crested Cormorant  40
cormorant sp.  40
Brown Pelican  110
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret  4
Snowy Egret  3
Reddish Egret  1
White-faced Ibis  4
Black Vulture  5
Turkey Vulture  6
Osprey  5
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Western)  1
Sora  1
American Avocet  26
American Oystercatcher  8
Black-bellied Plover  14
Snowy Plover  2
Wilson's Plover  4
Semipalmated Plover  2
Killdeer  6
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Willet (Western)  6
Lesser Yellowlegs  2
Whimbrel  11
Long-billed Curlew  9
Marbled Godwit  8
Red Knot  1
Surfbird  33
Sanderling  40
Dunlin  16
Baird's Sandpiper  3
Least Sandpiper  4
Western Sandpiper  25
Short-billed Dowitcher  2
Franklin's Gull  2
Heermann's Gull  178
Ring-billed Gull  151
Western Gull  2
Yellow-footed Gull  23
California Gull  17
Herring Gull  10
gull sp.  200
Least Tern  2
Caspian Tern  17
Common Tern  8
Forster's Tern  10
Sterna sp.  50
Royal Tern  10
Sandwich Tern  2
Elegant Tern  32
large tern sp.  100
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  22
Eurasian Collared-Dove  22
White-winged Dove  4
Mourning Dove  5
Burrowing Owl  2
Anna's Hummingbird  1
hummingbird sp.  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Western Wood-Pewee  1
Empidonax sp.  1
Say's Phoebe  8
Ash-throated Flycatcher  1
Loggerhead Shrike  2
Chihuahuan Raven  2
Common Raven  7
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  12
Barn Swallow  5
Cliff Swallow  10
Verdin  2
Curve-billed Thrasher  2
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  5
Orange-crowned Warbler  3
Nashville Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  3
Wilson's Warbler  3
warbler sp.  1
Spizella sp.  5
Black-throated Sparrow  4
Savannah Sparrow (Large-billed)  5
Song Sparrow  4
sparrow sp.  2
Western Meadowlark  2
Great-tailed Grackle  27
Scott's Oriole  1
House Finch  15
Lesser Goldfinch  4
House Sparrow  32

For more birds, check out Wild Bird Wednesday!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sacred Night of Chance

Before the dawn, I wait. 
Quiet.  Still.

Out there. 
Under the night sky. 
Watching us. 
The invisible. 
Shadows of our imagination.
Under the night sky.
Out there. 

Under the starry sky.
Whispering from crooked branch or vacant hole.
Midnight choir.
Their haunting melody.
Under the starry sky. 

Vulnerable.  Before the dawn. I stand.
Quiet still. Alone. 

Into the darkness we go.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

500 Life Birds!

Barred Owl
Last month I reached a special landmark.  I have discovered and documented over 500 birds in this life of mine so far!   I began in June of 2011 and will be celebrating 3 years as a full fledged birder in a couple months. 

Lewis's Woodpecker
I am a quick learner and very OCD about my work out in the field.  It has become much more difficult. And there have been personal challenges along the way. 

Island Scrub-Jay
The journey has been quite exciting.  It requires constant budgeting and planning.  There have been a lot of early mornings out. Some days, I just lacked the motivation to leave the house.

Baird's Sparrow
There were a lot of long and solitary trips out into the middle of nowhere.  Sometimes I almost gave up, but then the bird would pop up out of nowhere!  My reward for being patient. 

Le Conte's Thrasher
Sometimes it was about retracing my steps for better observations. 

Chestnut-collared Longspur
Other times, it was extremely personal.  I would stand alone and share in the wonder by myself.  

Florida Scrub-Jay

Sometimes I would work with others and help out just to understand the birds better. 

Northern Saw-whet Owl
I'd find one bird and almost get attacked by Javelinas in my pajamas.

Five-striped Sparrow
On another outing, I would be eaten up by mosquitoes!

Ring-necked Pheasant
Some birds were random sightings along side the road which almost caused a car crash. But the sighting was so rare, I had to stop!

Crested Caracara
For some birds, it was about understanding their routines and returning to the same spot the next day to find them.

Prevost's Ground-Sparrow

Some made me tear up. 

California Condor
The landscapes were amazing. 

Vermillion Cliffs-Northern Arizona
For the "colorful" birds, I took non-birders because I knew they'd enjoy them as well.  And maybe....just maybe....I'd get them to stop and look at birds on their own.

Roseate Spoonbill
The world is truly an amazing place full of wonders.  There are even a few secrets waiting to be found.

Semuc Champey-Guatemala

At 500, I realize how connected we all are on this planet. 

Bosque Del Apache-New Mexico

And at 500, I'm also realizing that it's a lot of work.  But it's the work that makes it fun and exciting.  Until next time.....

Rufous-browed Peppershrike
I'm linking up to Wild Bird Wednesday.  This is a great place to discover wild birds from around the world while in your pajamas:)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Corkscrew Swamp

Black-and-white Warbler
In my penultimate post from Florida, I take you on a journey through the gorgeous Corkscrew Swamp south of Ft. Myers. 

As with everything on this Florida trip, my time was limited.  This is definitely a place I need to visit again.  I kind of knew this would happen so I tried my hardest to observe as much as I could.  And at my best, I only scratched the surface. 

There's a beautiful boardwalk that is surrounded by epic vegetation.  The further one gets into the swamp; the more there is to see.  For wildlife aficionados, this is well worth the hefty 12 dollar fee(covers two days).  For Audubon members, it's only 6 dollars. 

Great Egret in breeding plumage
I knew the birds calling but I didn't count them in my records as I wasn't able to get any observations of them. Plus several would have been life birds for me. My rule is that I have to get a decent observation of the life bird before I can count them....even if I know their calls. I do make notations in my logs that I did hear the birds. Several that sneaked(snuck) past me visually were the Carolina Wrens, Painted and Indigo Buntings and many many more. So I did the best I could.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Sometimes there was "bird overload".  Or too many birds flying around me. I couldn't get my eyes on them quick enough before they flew off.  There were rumors of birds seen in the park.  There were records of birds seen in the park.  But the question was, "Could I find them?" 

I did hit my targets and then some.  Plus I really had great observations of nesting Anhingas, Red-shouldered Hawks, Barred Owls, Warblers and a Purple Gallinule.

It was incredibly overwhelming.  I had the biggest adrenaline rush that day as I was able to watch roosting Wood Storks from a scope on the observation tower.  

Red-shouldered Hawk
And then, there was a Purple Gallinule!  I hadn't seen one of these colorful numbers since my trip to Panama!  My friend Sydney was great at spotting the birds.  She pointed this beauty out to me from the boardwalk as we watched it search for food from the still water. 

Juvenile Purple Gallinule
And probably the greatest gift of the day was an observation of this parent Barred Owl preening its feathers on an open branch. 
Barred Owl
I sat by the feeders eagerly awaiting the Painted Buntings at the Audubon center while my friend Sydney crashed on their couch.  They never did show up, but it was okay. We had an incredible day out in the field that I won't forget anytime soon.  If you are interested in the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp, click here.
Next week, we explore Bunche Beach.  Until next time.... 
I'm linking today with Wild Bird Wednesday where I'm constantly discovering new birds around our world!