Birder's Guide

JAN 2019

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Birding Baja 44 Birder's Guide to Travel | January 2019 Yellowthroats, a colorful, long-billed war- bler introduced to science 135 years ago on the basis of specimens collected right here at San José. We found this attractive bird throughout the area, and enjoyed es- pecially good views, almost on command, by sitting patiently on a bench strategically located on the water's edge just outside the low fence keeping hoi polloi off the bluegrass lawn of the Holiday Inn. Com- mon Gallinules, Soras, Tricolored Herons, Ruddy Ducks, and even the odd Groove- billed Ani kept us company as we waited, and soon enough the yellowthroats would emerge from their dense fastnesses to pick at the water or rummage through the thick wrack. On our January visit, there were often just as many or more Common Yel- lowthroats, at first a source of frustration ("No, it's another blasted common!") but soon enough a great opportunity to com- pare the species nearly side by side. Two other species-level Baja endemics were more challenging. Xantus's Hum- mingbirds were common and conspicuous outside of San José, on low slopes and in flowery villages and small towns, but they were unexpectedly scarce at the estero, far less frequently encountered in early Janu- ary than Costa's Hummingbirds. The Gray Thrasher, second on our list of must-sees after the junco, was similarly hard to find at the estero. A single male eventually proved reliable on the brushy margins of the corrals at the northeast corner of the area, where messy low mesquites, palms, and hackberries provide prominent song perches. H ad no one told us, we might never have known that the estero was so badly de- graded. What we did notice, though, was that access to the various spots around the estuary was different—and probably worse—than presented in print and on- line. The Holiday Inn at the east end of Paseo Malecón is every bit as sprawling and unwelcoming as we'd heard, and was still a-building in January 2017. The pub- lic path to the beach end of the estero— and to the yellowthroat bench—narrows almost to nonexistence next to one of the hotel's storm-damaged outbuildings, but the entrance is still marked by two yellow posts; after a few yards, the trail opens up to follow the edge of the Holiday Inn's sun- bathing lawn toward the beach. But the visiting birder should be in no hurry. North of the hotel, next to the small riding stable, storms and flooding have de- stroyed the path and left what was once ob- viously a picnic ground under two or three feet of slightly noisome water. The water n Sites around Estero San José offer pleasant and peaceful birding. Map © John Allendorf n At the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, some familiar birds may look and act markedly different. Here, male House Finches are vibrantly salmon-pink, and more sparsely- patterned Cactus Wrens reach the peak of their abundance in palm oases. Photos © Michael L. Retter

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