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!


  1. This was a delightful post! What a wonderful place! Mexico can be so colorful and filled with activity in the populated areas. But I loved the salt march photo so serene. Great that you saw so many birds! Had a chuckle over the family calling you a gringo and saying you were looking at some stupid bird! :-)

  2. Chris, what a great birding trip. Looks like a fabulous place to vacation and bird.. I love the cute Plovers.. You have a very impressive list of birds seen on this trip, congrats!

  3. I loved this post. And I'm jealous. I'm too wimpy afraid to go down to Mexico. And it's such a beautiful country. Wish the politics would clean up their acts there. And....I'd have to get a passport. Which I've never had in my whole life. Waaaaa.... :))

  4. Wonderful shots Chris! You have an impressive collection of birds you have seen.

  5. By what I am reading you had a wonderful and rewarding time at Rockypoint!
    The picture of the Common Loon should be wonderful in B&W too.

  6. What a great place and trip! Did you politely address the rude people after enjoying the sora? Love the plovers photo too. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  7. What a beautiful place! I love all the birds you saw.

  8. What a magnificent find!! Glad you decided to take the rocky road and find such a wonderful oasis, filled with beautiful scenes and awesome birds.

  9. Wow---great list of birds... Love seeing the Plover... Cutie!!!!

    I've never been to Mexico --but I've heard about how 'different' it is from other places... Not sure I'll ever get there.

    Great set of photos..


  10. Hi Chris this was an amazing and very interesting post. Your shots are all brilliant. Love the Adult Loon and it was wonderful to see a baby loon, I had never seen one before. Pity about having to pay the fine!

  11. A really lovely post Chris with some amazing images. I love the cloud formations in the first photo :) The estuary looks an incredible place for birding :)

    The first photo of the saltmarshes looks like a location out of Lord of the Rings I thought!!

  12. sounds like you had a wonderful trip to mexico with exception to being pulled over and the people trying to make you move away... so glad you stayed your ground and got the info you needed. the bird was a great sighting. so many beautiful images. have a great day~

  13. Yes Ragged Robin! You got it! That was why I took that picture. It reminded me of the marshes from the second movie!

  14. Fantastic post and wonderful shots of the area. I need to brush up on my water and shore birds.

  15. the tern is beautiful! the sora is so cool, too! sorry about the traffic stop and 'fine'. at least that was it.

  16. Wow! That's quite a list! What great pics as well! Corrupt officials and drug dealers are why I stay out of Mexico!


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