Surprise! Tour of Beauty

Golden, shimmering beach grass.

Right out of the gate, blasted into beautiful Baja. Two days after arriving in Ensenada, we began a two-week long trip (deemed “Gordi-tour”) to whale breeding ground/mangrove/pristine beach/wetland marsh/sand dune/desert/lichen-covered volcanic mountains.

Skirting a salt marsh oasis surrounded by sand dunes after a beautiful day of shorebird surveys. Following the same route traveled by Eduardo Palacios and his wife Lucia Alfaro for many years.

 

Unreal.

 

The goal of our journey was to assist in bird surveys that have been going on along the coasts of Baja California for at least seven years. Our group consisted of researchers, biologists, and students, all stationed out of various institutions in Baja California. Our trip began in San Ignacio and we continued our surveys at select sites moving north all the way back to Ensenada. These surveys are critically important to the coastal bird species of the peninsula. We focused on shorebirds, seabirds, and birds of prey. Birds of particular interest were Black Brants, American Oystercatchers, Reddish Egrets, Snowy Plovers, Forster’s Terns, and Red Knots (the subspecies that winters here, C. c. roselaari, is threatened and possibly declining). Some of these species (e.g. Snowy Plover) are threatened globally and some (e.g. Reddish Egret) could become threatened in Baja as a result of habitat loss due to commercial development of coastlines (an ever-present threat here).

A Snowy Plover, aka “algodoncito,” nestles into a tiny divot in the sand. Unbeknownst to the general public, one of their favorite resting spots is in the tire tracks left by trucks and ATV’s in the sand. A scary reality considering the threat that poses to eggs and chicks during the Snowy Plover nesting season.


This project allowed me to get to know and work with a group of biologists that are passionate, intelligent, and kind. During two straight weeks of birding with this group, I learned SO much.  I feel that a sign of a good biologist is a willingness to share their knowledge with anyone, no matter what the other person’s level of skill or education. Everybody was more than willing to help me become a better birder. Feels like such a gift.

 

 

Some Gordi-tour gals. So empowering to be around such inspiring women of science!

This trip was unforgettable. We got to see parts of Baja that some people who have lived here their whole lives don’t see. Birding makes you notice so much more, especially that birds are EVERYWHERE. Once you start noticing birds, you start realizing how adapted they are to their habitat and how crucial it is for their survival to have that habitat. I can see how the importance and beauty of these areas can be lost on developers who only see a coastline with dollar signs in their eyes.

***Wondering what that bird is at the top of this page? It’s a Reddish Egret, roosting among the mangroves. If you spot one feeding, you might get to see it’s “hunting dance” as it spreads its wings creating a shadow in the shallow water that small fish like to seek shelter in, essentially attracting it’s prey into it’s open arms.

 

 

Christine Smith
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