Friday, December 12, 2008

Grey Vireos do exist (but they are shitty)

Contrary to popular belief, Grey Vireo's actually do exist, i've seen them myself!! However, i'm not surprised they're so difficult to see, as they are really quite a boring looking bird. Imagine a really smart bird, like a Blue-headed Vireo, and then remove all colour, and there you have it, a Grey Vireo.

We've just arrived in La Paz, down in the South of Baja, after a long overnight bus from the small town of San Ignacio, slap-bang in the centre of the peninsula, and we're currently killing time waiting for the ferry to take us to across the Sea of Cortes to Mexico proper.

After Ensenada, we caught a bus South to Guerrero Negro, where we birded around the extensive salt pans just outside of town. The pools were heaving with shorebirds and we picked up plenty of new species, including American Avocet, Western Sandpiper and Short-billed Dowitcher. Herons were also plentiful, with Little-blue and Tricoloured Herons, and Reddish and Snowy Egrets everwhere. We also found the scrub around one particular pool to be heaving with Sage Sparrows, right at the Southernmost limit of their range.
After GN, we took a short bus ride down to San Ignacio, which is prominent for being a big lagoon in the middle of the desert, and very birdy for it. On the lagoon itslef were a Least Grebe and a somewhat out-of-place Great-northern Diver, but it was the surrounding scrub and vegetated desert that really scored. After a quick look on Google Earth, we decided to take a look up a small canyon behind the supermarket on the junction going into the town from Hwy 1. This proved to be a good decision, as it was heaving with birds. Canyon, Rock and Cactus Wren all showed well just behind the supermarket. Verdin, California Gnatcatcher and Black-throated Sparrow were in some ver spiky shrub just up the canyon and Harris' and Zone-tailed Hawks flew overhead. Dubios highlight was the aforementioned Grey Vireo, which gave us excellent views about 200m up the overgrown streambed from the supermarket. We hadnt really expected to see this species so it was even more of a surprise when another came into a spot of pishing near the far end of the canyon later on. Scrambling up the canyon walls to a plateau on the top, we found the cacti to be very popular with Ladder-backed and Gila Woodpeckers, along with a few Gilded Flickers. The odd Costa's Humminbird zoomed past, repalcing Anna's Hummer which had previously been common, and a few Ash-thorated Flycatchers were being vociferous.

For slightly easier birding, we crossed back over the road towards town and had a gander around the scrub opposite the Motelito Fong, where we found our first Baja Endemic, a pair of Grey Thrashers, hanging around with some Cactus Wrens and a few Pyrrhuloxia. Hooded Orioles, stunning Vermillion Flycatchers and White-winged Doves were hanging around the Motelito and then it was time to move on, with a quick stop in Santa Rosalia for a look at the Yellow-footed Gulls and Blue-footed Boobied feeding in the harbour.

Now we have until this afternoon to try and score Xantus Hummingbird somewhere and La Paz before jumping on the ferry, probably at the very last minute, a la Scillonian. Then we're on mainland, where we expect to be totally overwhelmed with a a whole new avifauna, I can't wait!!!

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