Baja California Peninsula: Year 2020
Year 2020: 1 Jan–31 Dec
Mark J. Billings
Richard A. Erickson
Enrique D. Zamora-Hernández
Billings, M. J., R. A. Erickson, G. Marrón, and E. D. Zamora-Hernández. 2021. Year 2020: Baja California Peninsula. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-aM8> North American Birds.
We are pleased to announce the first annual report for the Baja California Peninsula. We hope that this format illustrates changes in avian status and distribution in our region more effectively. We plan to report the total number of naturally occurring species that we find acceptable in the region and each state, and the respective number of species confirmed breeding in each area. Four hundred two species were reported in 2020 (Table 1).
Highlights of this report include three first state records: Pyrrhuloxia in Baja California, and Nelson’s Sparrow and Worm-eating Warbler in Baja California Sur. Included herein are the first photographs published for Great Kiskadee and Worm-eating Warbler from the region, as well as for Buller’s Shearwater and Cassin’s Finch from Baja California Sur. Along with the Great Kiskadee, we report Tundra Swan in Baja California and Lapland Longspur in Baja California Sur for the first time since the turn of the century. Other highlights include blue morph Snow Goose in Baja California, and Hudsonian Godwit, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and Mountain Bluebird in Baja California Sur.
Unique to this year, we hope, are the extensive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning in Mar, observer activity was greatly reduced, there were no reports from cruise ships, and access to important areas such as the Guerrero Negro saltworks and Cerro Prieto geothermal ponds (and possibly offshore seabird colonies) was apparently denied for most of the year. It’s going to get better!
The vast majority of observations reported here (and all breeding observations) came from eBird submissions, but some also from iNaturalist and observations shared directly with us as regional report compilers. Some issues came to light while preparing this report. We urge observers to pay special attention to the seasonality of species, especially in Baja California Sur, where less is known and different patterns of occurrence appear to be emerging for some species. In Baja California Sur, a common error is the casual reporting of species routine in winter but unexpected in summer, but the reverse goes for Baja California during winter. Our numbers of breeding species include only confirmed breeding (as defined by eBird) and not probable or possible breeding. We encourage eBirders to use the drop-down options for breeding codes when appropriate.
Sometimes observers write breeding data in the species or checklist comments, but these are practically impossible for us to keep up with. However, we advocate caution when selecting breeding codes. These should only be used when a species has real nesting potential (i.e., within breeding range and during breeding season). We encounter many misinterpretations of breeding codes, most frequently the labeling of species as in appropriate habitat despite being far outside their breeding range and season. Digital photography has become quite accessible and we encourage observers to try to photograph any bird that warrants it. Eighteen species remain undocumented (lacking specimen or photograph) in the region, and an additional four in Baja California and nine in Baja California Sur.
As eBird regional reviewers we endeavor to accept as many observations as possible during our review process, but composite lists (i.e., multiple days), and lists covering too large an area or too long a distance are not acceptable. The eBird filters for our region need adjustments, many of which relate to filter area polygons that are too large. We hope to have good news on this front in our next report—especially given eBird’s recent recognition of municipality boundaries in Mexico—but in the meantime we elicit details for observations flagged by these filters. Best is a photo, but a short description that helps eliminate similar species often does the job; comments such as “unmistakable,” “foraging,” and “photo” are not helpful. The last is especially frustrating; if a photo was obtained for a flagged observation, please upload it to eBird!
It is acceptable to submit observations on behalf of an institution, organization, event, etc., but an individual’s name should be associated with it; we cannot adequately substantiate observations submitted by these identifiers alone. Often observers report being part of a larger party without naming the other observers; naming these individuals can help during the review process and generally strengthens the validity of the data for future use.
We disclose whether observations are supported with photos, video or audio recordings, or descriptions. We assessed all supporting documentation, varying from many diagnostic photos to short, suggestive descriptions, but we found them acceptable to include in this report. However, a few questionable observations are reported as such. For the most part we do not personally archive these media, we count on eBird and iNaturalist for that. Lastly, when multiple observers share eBird checklists, it is usually impossible for us to determine who found a species or wrote comments, so we encourage eBirders to be clear about these issues when necessary.
Table 1. Summary of naturally occurring species in the Baja California Peninsula in 2020.
Baja California Sur
Total Species Recorded
Species Confirmed Nesting
Notable Species Unrecorded
Mexican Whip-poor-will, Black Rail, South Polar Skua, Common Murre, Scripps’s Murrelet, Guadalupe Murrelet, Rhinoceros Auklet, Sooty Tern, Arctic Tern, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Townsend’s Solitaire, Sagebrush Sparrow, Bobolink
Dusky Flycatcher, Red-throated Pipit, Indigo Bunting
Long-tailed Jaeger, Red-throated Loon
Eduardo Michael Acosta Morán (EMAM), Miguel Angel Aguilar (MAA), Gerardo Aguilar Anzures, Sara Alcalá Jiménez (SAJ), Javier Eduardo Alcalá Santoyo (JEAS), José Jesús Arce Meza (JJAM), Víctor O. Ayala-Pérez (VOAP), Deonnette Barragán, Elia Benítez (EB), Alex Berryman (AB), Mark J. Billings (MJB), Alejandra Calvo-Fonseca (ACF), Susan Campbell (SCa), Richard Candler (RiC), Alain Carbo (AC), Michael D. Carmody (MDC), Roberto Carmona (RoC), Marilyn Castillo Muñoz, Stephen Cherrier (SCh), Carlos Córdova Curiel (CCC), Joaquín Corrales (JCo), Jorge Cristerna (JCr), Ian Davies (ID), Nadine de Jong, Jonathan L. Dunn, Angela Edwards, Terence Edwards, Ed Eggleston (EE), Richard A. Erickson (RAE), George Flicker (GF), Mary Flicker (MF), Osiel Alejandro Flores Rosas (OAFR), Peter A. Gaede (PAG), Erica Gaeta (EG), Kimball L. Garrett, Luis González Carrazco (LGC), Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas A.C. (GECI), Leonardo Guzmán (LG), Michelle Haglund (MH), Tom Haglund (TH), Suzanne Hall (SHa), Robert A. Hamilton (RAH), Bruce Hanover (BH), Corban Hemphill (CH), Harlton Hemphill (HH), Abril Heredia (AH), Guillermo Herrera (GH), Mark L. Hoffman (MLH), Steve N. G. Howell (SNGH), Stanton Hunter (SHu), Marshall J. Iliff, Logan Q. Kahle (LQK), Paul E. Lehman (PEL), Felipe León (FL), Bill Levine (BL), José Hiram Licona Hernández (JHLH), Aldo López (AlL), Anuar López (AnL), Antonio Maldonado, Gerardo Marrón (GM), Betsy Martínez, Eric Antonio Martínez (EAM), Marco Antonio Martínez Damián (MAMD), Amy E. McAndrews (AEM), Guy McCaskie (GMC), James McDaniels (JMD), Ryan Merrill (RM), Susan Mittelstadt (SM), Steven G. Mlodinow (SGM), Jorge Montejo (JM), Fabio Olmos (FO), Liliana Ortiz Serrato (LOS), Rafael Paredes Montesinos, Francisco Patiño Velis (FPV), Roberto Pineda (RP), David W. Povey (DWP), Kurt A. Radamaker (KAR), Isabel Raymundo González (IRG), Genaro Rivas, Ángela Rodríguez (AR), Álvaro San José (ASJ), Paola Sánchez (PS), Victor Sánchez González, Abril Santoyo (ASa), Brad C. Singer, Eduardo Soto Montoya (ESM), Rita Souza, Andrew Spencer (ASp), Justyn T. Stahl, Gary J. Strachan (GJS), Matt Strimas-Mackey (MSM), Jonathan Tenberge (JT), Graciela Tiburcio Pintos (GTP), René Valdés (RV), Minerva Valdespino, Edna Valenzuela (EV), Jonathan Vargas (JV), Lindsay Willrick (LW), Jan Wilson, Xóchitl Zambrano (XZ), Enrique D. Zamora-Hernández (EDZH).
Abbreviations: BC (Baja California), BCS (Baja California Sur), I. (Isla), Is. (Islas), UABC (Universidad Autónoma de Baja California), ph. (photograph), vid. (video recording), aud. (audio recording), † (description), ~ (approximately), mi. (miles), nmi. (nautical miles).
Waterfowl through Hummingbirds
The highest count of Black-bellied Whistling-Duck was 15 at Lagunas de Chametla 17 Aug (ph. GM, JCr), and only one or two were reported away from La Paz: singles near Cabo San Lucas 31 Mar (AC) and 25 Aug (SCa). Snow Goose made an impressive showing the length of the peninsula in fall. Of the roughly 56 reported, most extraordinary were 30 over La Salina 29 Nov (ph. †RP, PS) and an adult “Blue Goose” (with two white morphs) at Villa Jesús María 31 Oct–5 Nov (ph. LQK, RAE), the latter establishing the second regional record of that color morph. Ross’s Goose is rarer; singles were on the Maneadero Plain 31 Oct (†JV, ph. RP, PS) and Bahía San Quintín 21 Dec (ph. †ID, ASp, MSM). More Greater White-fronted Geese reached BCS (~35) than BC (six). One at Parque Morelos, Tijuana, 20 Jan (ph. RAE, RV) is believed to be the same individual that took up residence there sometime prior to Feb 2005. About 16 Cackling Geese in northwest BC in fall was normal; one made it to Vizcaíno in BCS 31 Oct–9 Nov (ph. LQK, ph. RAE). At least three of those in the northwest were of the subspecies minima, the rest the expected leucopareia. Other than a long staying individual at the Mexicali Zoo, the only Canada Geese reported were 16 on the ocean at Playa La Misión 29 Nov (ph. RAE). Tundra Swan was formerly a rare winter visitor in BC, but one near Ejido El Peligro, Mexicali Valley, 28 Oct (ph. MAMD) was the first in BC since the 1990s. It was captured and subsequently released at Lagunita El Ciprés.
Wood Duck is very rare in the region. Five were at San Felipe 10 Nov, where the species has bred, and one was at Presa Rodríguez 9 Oct (both ph. RAE). A Cinnamon Teal at Loreto 30 Jun was unusual for BCS in summer (ph. †MH, SHa). Three or four Eurasian Wigeon were reported south to Estero Punta Banda, as usual, but one at La Paz 10 Feb (LG et al.) was the seventh found in BCS. Canvasback has been very rare as far south as BCS in recent years. Singles were near La Paz 31 Jan (ph. SGM), and Todos Santos 6–12 Mar (ph. †LQK, ph. RM) and 12 Dec (ph. BL). Remarkable were three at Estero San José 16–30 Jun (ph. LGC et al.), with one lingering to the end of the year (JCo et al.). Accompanying the Canvasbacks on 20 Jun was a Ring-necked Duck (ph. JCo). Six Greater Scaup were reported from BC and five from BCS. Up to three White-winged Scoters and 8–10 Black Scoters were reliably seen in a flock of thousands of Surf Scoters at Playa Punta Estero 17 Jan–26 Feb (ph. JV et al.). A bonus Long-tailed Duck was seen 21 Jan (ph. RV). The following season a White-winged Scoter was nearby on 19 Dec (ph. MJB) and another was at the south end of BC at Laguna Guerrero Negro 24 Dec (ph. †ID, ph. ASp, MSM).
Common Goldeneye is regular in BCS at Laguna Ojo de Liebre, Estero La Bocana, Estero El Coyote, and less so at Laguna San Ignacio (fide VOAP), but ~10 reported elsewhere in BCS was surprising. Approximately 26 Hooded Mergansers were found in BC, with a straggler 2–3 May at Lagunita El Ciprés (†EMAM, ph. vid. EDZH) being the most noteworthy. The only reports of Common Merganser came from Presa Emilio López Zamora, Ensenada, 22 Nov–27 Dec (up to two; ph. †MAA et al.). Gadwall, Mallard, Redhead, and Ruddy Duck were confirmed breeding only in BC. Horned Grebe is very rare in BCS and especially so inland, so two at Presa de la Buena Mujer 26 Jan (†SGM) were extraordinary. Single Eared Grebes at Estero Punta Banda 11 Jul (†JV, LOS, ASJ) and Loreto 22 Jun (MH) were the only ones reported during summer, as was a Clark’s Grebe at Playa La Misión 22 Jun (RAE).
Groove-billed Anis persisted at Estero San José, with multiple reports of up to five individuals, as on 25 Jul (†HH, ph. CH), when one was carrying food. The only one reported away from there was at La Paz 20 Apr (ph. GR). Two Yellow-billed Cuckoos were along the Río Colorado 3–28 Jul (ACF et al.), where the species formerly bred; another was at Caduaño 23 Jul (SM), but breeding remains to be confirmed in BCS. The only BCS Vaux’s Swift reports came from Todos Santos 11 Jan–7 Mar (up to six; ph. †RiC, ph. †LQK). In comments to us, Howell questioned if we know these were nominate northern birds rather than “Richmond’s Swift” (C. v. richmondi group; but a cryptic species in Howell’s opinion) of mainland Mexico. We do not know, but the highly migratory northern subspecies would seem to be more likely than “resident” birds of the richmondi group in our opinion. Many more birds in the Cape District in winter have traveled far from the north than have crossed the Gulf of California from mainland Mexico. Black-chinned Hummingbird is very rare in BCS; two or three were in the Cape District in Jan and one in Sep. Three Broad-billed Hummingbirds were in southern BCS: Estero San José 18 Jan (†SGM); Ramaditas, Magdalena Plain, 4 Mar (ph. LQK); and Loreto 17 Jul (ph. †TH). Fifteen Xantus’s Hummingbirds at Misión Santa Gertrudis 8 Nov (ph. RAE) were at their traditional BC location, but one five mi. northeast of El Arco Jan 26 (†EE) was not.
Plovers through Herons
Pacific Golden-Plovers were in BCS at La Paz 5–17 Sep (one or two; JCr et al.), Punta Conejo 13–19 Dec (MDC, †MLH, ph. GJS), Laguna Guerrero Negro 24 Dec (†ID, ASp, MSM), and Laguna San Ignacio 25 Dec (†ID, ph. ASp, MSM), and in BC at Estero El Rosario 24–26 Oct (ph. SNGH et al.). Mountain Plover is nearing extirpation in the region and went unreported from its traditional location at Mesa de San Jacinto. However, more vagrants than usual were reported elsewhere: one at Laguna Figueroa 20 Jan (ph. JV, AH, EG), one at Cuenca Lechera 17 Oct (ph. RAE), four juveniles at Villa Jesús María 22 Oct (ph. SNGH, PAG, ph. RAH), and two at El Rosario 7 Dec (†AEM, JM, EAM).
A Hudsonian Godwit at Loreto 18 May (ph. TH) was the third found in BCS but the second in spring. Stilt Sandpiper is very rare in BC but there have been a number of records at Laguna Figueroa in winter (up to seven per winter during three seasons from Jan 1994–Feb 1998). This year four were seen there 21 Jan (ph. †JV, AH, EG). In preparation of this report, Marrón reviewed observations in iNaturalist and the biggest reward was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper unnoticed in a photo from Todos Santos 17 Oct (ph. BL), establishing the second BCS record. One or two Semipalmated Sandpipers were reported from La Paz, as usual, but one on the Maneadero Plain 2 Aug (ph. †KAR) was in BC, where much less frequently reported. During fall, approximately 15 Baird’s, eight Pectoral, and two Solitary Sandpipers were reported from BC, and five, 15, and five from BCS, respectively; additional Solitaries were in the Cape District in Jan (two) and Nov–Dec (two). Unusual summer sandpipers were barely represented by six Greater Yellowlegs at Lagunita El Ciprés 6 Jun (RP). A Wilson’s Phalarope at Estero San José 21 Jan (†LGC) provided one of few winter records for the region. Also potentially wintering was a Red-necked Phalarope near Todos Santos 18–19 Dec (ph. †SM, MLH). Even from offshore we receive few reports of Red Phalarope, so four on land was impressive: Estero La Misión 30 Jan (AEM, ph. JM), Estero Punta Banda 14 Feb (ph. BCS), Rancho Pinas (near Ejido Eréndira) 5 Apr (ph. JHLH), and Lagunita El Ciprés 9 Apr (JV).
Black-legged Kittiwakes were at opposite locations in the region: at Playa La Misión 3 Feb (RAE) and off La Paz 9 Mar (†LQK). Forty-five Sabine’s Gulls 35 nmi. off Cabo Colonet 2 Aug (DWP) was a healthy count for our region; another was on land at Estero San José 11 Aug (ph. †LGC). A Franklin’s Gull was at Lagunita El Ciprés 4 May (JV et al.) and a Glaucous Gull was at Estero Punta Banda 31 Mar (ph. †JV, ASJ). A tally of three “Thayer’s Gulls” in BC was low; however, individuals at Punta Eugenia 2 Mar (ph. †LQK) and Bahía Magdalena 28 Dec (ph. †ID, ASp, MSM) were in BCS, where far less frequent. In parallel, single Lesser Black-backed Gulls were at the Cerro Prieto geothermal ponds 20–29 Jan (ph. ESM) and 17 Mar (ph. †LQK), but two at Guerrero Negro 1 Mar (ph. †LQK) established the second BCS record. Gull-billed Tern was not reported from its traditional BC locations; the only one was at Estero La Misión 19–25 Aug (ph. †KAR, ph. RAE). In BCS it was only reported from the La Paz area Jan–Mar (six) and Dec (one). Black Tern was barely reported, but its regional stronghold at the Guerrero Negro saltworks was off limits all year. Up to seven Pacific Loons and 10 Common Loons at Playa La Misión (RAE) were the only ones reported during summer. Around 10 Northern Fulmars in BCS south to the Cape 12 Feb–14 Mar (ph. FO et al.) was more than expected in recent years. More Buller’s Shearwaters were reported this year than ever recorded in the region: 13 were 35 nmi. off Cabo Colonet 2 Aug (DWP); a long-dead individual was at Playa La Misión 26 Nov (ph. RAE; UABC 2164); and one was south of Cabo San Lucas 17 Dec (ph. MLH), furnishing the first photographically documented record for BCS. Among Dave Povey’s contributions from offshore BC 1–6 Aug were the following single-day high counts: 60 Black-footed Albatrosses, 16 Cook’s Petrels, 600 Sooty Shearwaters, and 2,500 Pink-footed Shearwaters.
The lone adult Wood Stork believed responsible for all BCS reports since 27 Sep 2017 (Erickson et al. 2020) was seen at Estero San José from the beginning of the year through 12 Mar, at La Paz 19 Mar (†AB), and then back at Estero San José 9 May (SCh, AR) and 10 Dec (ph. GTP, GH). Magnificent Frigatebird no longer reaches California as regularly as it once did, but one was just short of the international border at Is. Coronado 4 Jul (JMD, fide PEL). In contrast to the last few years and probably due to lack of coverage, boobies were poorly represented. Best was a Masked Booby barely in Mexican waters off San Diego 28 Feb (PEL et al.), but four Masked/Nazca Boobies were also on the Pacific Ocean off BC. In BCS, Masked Booby is regular and nests at Rocas Alijos, but Nazca Booby is rare and breeding remains to be confirmed; about eight Nazca Boobies were reported from BCS this year. Pelagic Cormorants reached BCS at Laguna San Ignacio 10 Feb (†SHu) and Bahía Tortugas 2 Mar (ph. LQK; Erickson et al. 2020). An American Bittern was at Lagunita El Ciprés 4 Dec (AEM, JM), and in BCS Least Bitterns were at San Ignacio, Santiago, and Estero San José. A Little Blue Heron at Parque de la Amistad, Tijuana, 4 Oct (ph. MJB), another on the Magdalena Plain 10 Dec (TH), and a Reddish Egret at Laguna México 8 Sep (ph. EV) were out of place inland.
Hawks through Pipits
There were no reports of more than three White-tailed Kites at a time, but despite the apparent scarcity, there were notable observations: along the Río Colorado 23 Jun–28 Jul (ph. CCC et al.) and Guerrero Negro 7–12 Dec (†SAJ). Interestingly, all May–Aug records of White-tailed Kite from the Colorado Desert portion of the region are from immediately along the Río Colorado—none from the Mexicali Valley. A Mississippi Kite was in the Sierra de La Laguna 6 Mar (ph. †LQK), and the only Red-shouldered Hawk in BCS was at Estero San José 26 Dec (ph. †SM). One Broad-winged Hawk in the Cape District in Nov was less than expected, but migrants were at Cataviña 7–8 Oct (MJB), El Descanso 18 Oct (ph. RAE), and Bahía Tortugas 29 Oct (ph. †LQK). Up to two Swainson’s Hawks were in the Ojos Negros Valley 19 Jul–30 Aug (†JHLH et al.), but no evidence of breeding was reported; one at Estero Punta Banda 22 Aug (ph. JV) was unusual along the northwest coast of BC. At the north end of the region, at least four Zone-tailed Hawks were along the northwest coast and up to three were at Laguna México 27 Oct–29 Dec (ph. XZ, EV).
Single Western Screech-Owls heard at two locations between Miraflores and Misión Santa Gertrudis 8 Nov (aud. RAE) were just north of the known range of the endemic subspecies xantusi, otherwise reported only from BCS (cf. Ruiz-Campos et al. 2018). One or two heard at San Ignacito, west of San Borja, 8 Oct 2005 (RAE, RAH, SNGH) were closer to the south end of the known range of the subspecies cardonensis. One of the habitat requirements of Long-eared Owl seems to be avoidance of human disturbance, so up to three at I. Guadalupe 23 Oct–20 Dec (GECI, ph. AlL, ASJ) managed to find about the most isolated place in the region. Two Short-eared Owls were reported: from the BC portion of Laguna Guererro Negro 23 Jan (ph. JV) and from Laguna Ojo de Liebre 21 Jan (ASa). A Lewis’s Woodpecker at Rancho Candelaria, west of the Ojos Negros Valley, 21 Mar (ph. JV et al.) was the only one found. Two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were found, both in BCS: Rancho San José de Castro 21 Oct (ph. SNGH, PAG, ph. RAH) and San Dionisio 20 Nov (ph. †OAFR). An apparent Red-breasted x Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was at Cataviña 20 Oct–5 Nov (ph. SNGH et al.). Downy Woodpecker was more widely reported than usual, with singles at Real del Mar 30 Sep (ph. RAE), El Descanso 25 Oct (†LQK), and Estero La Misión 28 Oct (RAE).
A Brown-crested Flycatcher at La Paz 21 Apr (†GM) was only the fourth found in the region. The highlight of this report is the Great Kiskadee found at Estero San José 11 Nov (ph. †FPV, ph. †SCh, AR) that remained through the end of the year, providing the region’s first photographically documented record for the region. The only previous record was from the same location 5 Jan 1987 (Collins et al. 1990). During fall, four Tropical Kingbirds were in BC and two in BCS outside the Cape District. A Cassin’s Kingbird was at La Paz on the unseasonal date of 19 Jun (JCr). A Western Kingbird at Guerrero Negro 20 Sep (ph. SAJ) was the only one reported from BCS in fall; about four were in the Cape District in Jan. Four Scissor-tailed Flycatchers was impressive: San Quintín Plain 24 Oct (ph. SNGH, ph. †PAG, ph. RAH), Punta Eugenia 29 Oct (ph. LQK), Oasis San Isidro, west of Carambuche, 3–12 Nov (†JJAM), and San Pedrito Beach, south of Todos Santos, 19 Dec (ph. †SM).
A Willow Flycatcher at Cañón de Doña Petra, Ensenada, 10–12 Jul (RP, ph. JV, †EDZH) was exciting, as the species was last found nesting in the region in 1925; alas, no suggestion of breeding was reported, so it was probably an exceptionally early migrant. More Least Flycatchers than usual were reported: La Salina 14 Sep (†RAE), Cataviña 5 Oct (MJB), El Rosario 24 Oct (ph. SNGH, †PAG, vid. RAH), Bahía Asunción 28 Oct (ph. †LQK), and Bahía Tortugas 7 Nov (†RAE). Dusky Flycatcher was not reported from BC, but one at Rancho San José de Castro 28 Oct (ph. †LQK) established about the seventh BCS record. Hammond’s Flycatcher went unreported, but a Hammond’s/Dusky Flycatcher was at Cañón de Doña Petra, Ensenada, 18 Apr (ph. †IRG, ph. EDZH). A Pacific-slope Flycatcher at Parque de la Amistad, Tijuana, 20–30 Jan (ph. †RV et al.) was notable. An Eastern Phoebe at Presa Santa Inés 12 Jan (ph. †RiC) was first seen 1 Dec 2019 (Erickson et al. 2020). Another was at Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, east of Vizcaíno, 31 Oct (ph. †LQK).
Although “Arizona” Bell’s Vireo probably formerly bred along the Río Colorado, breeding remains to be confirmed in the region. Reports of about three Bell’s Vireos in a habitat restoration site at Laguna Grande 17 Mar–19 Jun (LQK et al.) were very welcome and suggest possible breeding. Gray Vireo was reported again during winter in BC from Ejido El Choyal (8 Dec; ph. AEM, JM, EAM), and another in BC was in dune scrub north of Guerrero Negro 23 Dec (ID, ASp). One in the Sierra de San Francisco 9 Nov (ph. RAE) was the first to be reported from that mountain range. Cassin’s Vireos at Parque Morelos, Tijuana, 20 Jan (†RV, ph. RAE) and 23 Nov (ph. IRG), and near Cataviña 22 Jan (AH, ph. JV) were also rare in winter. The fourth Blue-headed Vireo in BCS was found at Oasis del Edén 30 Oct (ph. †LQK). Yellow-green Vireos were on the Maneadero Plain 25 Oct (ph. SNGH, †PAG, RAH) and El Rosario the next day (ph. LQK). The distribution of California Scrub-Jay is poorly known in the mid-peninsula. There are few records in some regularly covered locations, so it seems to be irregular there. One was far out the Vizcaíno Peninsula at Rancho San José de Castro 28 Oct (LQK), and two were at Bahía Asunción the same day (ph. LQK). Up to four Clark’s Nutcrackers were reported in the Sierra San Pedro Mártir 23 Oct–16 Dec, but also 20 Jun (all ph. †JHLH).
In BCS, one Bank Swallow in spring and four in fall were surpassed by four at Lagunas de Chametla 30 Dec (†ASp, MSM, ID). Up to four Cliff Swallows at Estero San José 14–19 Nov (†JCo et al.) were very late or wintering, and one was out of place 35 nmi. off Cabo Colonet 2 Aug (DWP). Two Red-breasted Nuthatches were on the northwest coast of BC 25 Oct and one was on I. Guadalupe the next day (ASJ). A Black-tailed Gnatcatcher at Bahía de los Ángeles 4 Feb (†GF, MF) was at the southern extent of the species’ known range in the region. Mountain Bluebird was not particularly numerous this fall, but four at El Rosario 7 Dec (ph. AEM, EAM, JM) and one at Rancho El Descanso 5 Nov (ph. RAE) were southerly, and one at Loreto 6 Dec (ph. TH) established the second BCS record. A Swainson’s Thrush near El Sauzal was remarkable on the late date of 13 Dec (ph. †JV). American Robin is rarely reported during summer; one was at Laguna Hanson 13 Jun (†ASJ). Singles at Misión Santa Gertrudis 8 Nov (RAE) and Bahía Asunción 28–30 Oct (ph. †LQK) were rare in the mid-peninsula. Single Varied Thrushes at El Rosario 1 Nov (ph. LQK) and Cataviña 5 Nov (†RAE), and a Gray Catbird at Caduaño 21 Jan (†SGM) was about expected. Red-throated Pipit went unreported during fall, but one was at Estero San José 19 Jan (†SGM).
Finches through Buntings
Purple Finches, now considered very rare in the region, were near Laguna Hanson 24 Nov (ph. †JV) and in the Sierra San Pedro Mártir 5–6 Dec (ph. †AEM, EAM, JM). Single wayward Cassin’s Finches were at El Rosario 1 Nov (ph. †LQK) and in BCS at Bahía Asunción 21 Oct–6 Nov (possibly three birds involved; ph. SNGH et al.), Rancho San José de Castro 22 Oct (†PAG, ph. RAH, SNGH), Bahía Tortugas 29 Oct (ph. †LQK), and Loreto 15–21 Nov (ph. †SHa). There were only two previous BCS records and neither had been photographically documented. Up to 17 Red Crossbills in the Sierra San Pedro Mártir 27 Feb–21 May (ph. aud. †LQK, †JHLH) was more than usual, as were seven in the Sierra Juárez 1 Feb (AEM, ph. JM) and five 24 Nov (ph. †JV et al.). Pine Siskins modestly invaded beginning 5 Oct, with 22 and 18 being the highest counts in the Colorado and Vizcaíno deserts, respectively. About nine made it to BCS; one at San Antonio de la Sierra 31 Dec (†ID, ASp) was the southernmost. Five Lawrence’s Goldfinches also reached BCS at Bahía Tortugas 29 Oct (ph. †LQK), but only about 11 American Goldfinches were found in BC. Two Lapland Longspurs were at Villa Jesús María 31 Oct (ph. †LQK), but one at Guerrero Negro 17 Oct (ph. SAJ) was the first in BCS since 1997. Similarly, single Chestnut-collared Longspurs were at Villa Jesús María 27 Oct (ph. †LQK) and Vizcaíno 22–23 Oct (ph. SNGH, †PAG, RAH), the latter only the fifth in BCS.
Just one Grasshopper Sparrow was reported from BC (Oct) and two from BCS (Jan and Oct). Up to 150 Lark Buntings at Villa Jesús María 22 Oct–9 Nov (RAH, LQK et al.) was many more than expected recently in BC. There are few winter records of Black-chinned Sparrow in BC, usually attributed to lack of coverage of the species’ preferred habitat, but there were many reports this year despite the same (or less) amount of effort: two near San Telmo 5 Dec (†JM, AEM), one at Cañón de El Gallo, Ensenada, 19 Dec (ph. †EB, FL), one near El Sauzal 13 Dec (ph. †JV), and one at Valle de Tempe, near La Misión, 5 Dec (ph. †JV). As usual, various Dark-eyed Juncos were reported: “Oregon Juncos” reached BCS at Guerrero Negro 9 Nov (RAE) and Bahía Asunción 21–30 Oct (up to two; PAG, RAH, ph. LQK); “Pink-sided Juncos” were at El Rosario 1 Nov (†LQK) and Valle de Tempe, near La Misión, 8 Nov (ph. †JV); the only “Slate-colored Junco” was at El Rosario 1 Nov (†LQK); “Gray-headed Juncos” were at Santa Inés 5 Oct (MJB) and 20 Oct (PAG, RAH), Rancho San Ramón 21–22 Oct (ph. SNGH, PAG, ph. RAH), and Bahía Tortugas 29 Oct (two; ph. †LQK); and an apparent “Pink-sided x Gray-headed Junco” was at Cataviña 20 Oct (ph. SNGH et al.). A White-crowned Sparrow at Bahía Asunción 28 Oct (ph. †LQK) showed characteristics of the subspecies pugetensis, but with only three previous records in BC and representing an extremely southerly observation, we await more conclusive evidence before adding this subspecies to the BCS list. A Nelson’s Sparrow was out of habitat on the beach at Bahía Asunción 21 Oct (ph. †PAG, ph. RAH, ph. SNGH) and established the first BCS record. In presumably better habitat, a Swamp Sparrow at Todos Santos 7–15 Mar (ph. †LQK, †GM, SM) was the only one found and one of few recorded in BCS.
A Hooded Oriole at Villa Jesús María 27 Jan (†JV) may have been at the north end of the winter range, but we consider one at Bahía de los Ángeles 5–22 Feb (GF, MF) the vanguard of spring migrants. Streak-backed Oriole is an exceptional rarity recorded in southern BCS only; the latest sighting is from Todos Santos 7 Mar (ph. †LQK). Three Bullock’s Orioles at Bahía Asunción 21 Oct (ph. SNGH, PAG, RAH) matched the high count for BCS, from the same location 18–19 Oct 1994 (Monographs in Field Ornithology 3: 152). Three Orchard and Baltimore Orioles each were reported from BC during fall; about six additional Orchards were in the Cape District Jan–Mar and Oct–Dec. Annual breeding season surveys for Tricolored Blackbirds were cancelled due to the pandemic; notable was the highest count of just 40 at Rancho La Campana, Ojos Negros Valley, 1 Feb (†AEM, JM) and five far south near Ejido Sinaloa, east of San Telmo, 27 Feb (LQK). A Great-tailed Grackle at and near the ferry harbor at Pichilingue 6–21 Dec (†JT, †JEAS) was conspicuous so far south, but the location hints at the possibility that it was ship assisted from mainland Mexico.
Thirty-two species of warblers were reported: 22 from BC and 30 from BCS. Best was a Worm-eating Warbler at a small ranch east of Oasis del Edén 30 Oct (ph. †LQK), establishing the first BCS record, the first photographically documented record in the region, and the first since 2003. Other highlights included a Hooded Warbler at San Dionisio 18–22 Dec (ph. OAFR); Cape May Warblers at Bahía Tortugas 22 Oct (SNGH, †PAG, RAH), Bahía Asunción 6 Nov (ph. RAE), and Estero San José 29 Dec (ph. BH); a Northern Parula at Ejido Benito Juárez, southeast of Guerrero Negro, 4 Mar (ph. †LQK); Tropical Parulas at Ramaditas, Magdalena Plain, 4 Mar (ph. LQK) and Todos Santos 7 Mar (ph. †LQK); a Magnolia Warbler at Miraflores 8 Mar (ph. †LQK); a Bay-breasted Warbler at Guerrero Negro 20 Oct (ph. SNGH, ph. RAH, PAG); a Chestnut-sided Warbler at San Dionisio 29–30 Dec (ph. OAFR); a Grace’s Warbler near Ciudad Constitución 4 Mar (ph. †LQK); an apparent Black-throated Green x Townsend’s Warbler at El Rosario 26 Oct (ph. †LQK); and a Painted Redstart at Parque Morelos, Tijuana, 23 Nov (ph. IRG). Otherwise, the following were reported during fall (approximate numbers in BC/BCS): Tennessee Warbler (4/3), Lucy’s Warbler (2/3), Northern Parula (1/1), Blackburnian Warbler (2/1), Chestnut-sided Warbler (2/2), Blackpoll Warbler (3/0), Black-throated Blue Warbler (0/1), Palm Warbler (6/5), Prairie Warbler (0/2), and Black-throated Green Warbler (3/1).
A Summer Tanager at La Misión 30 May (RAE) provided a clear spring record; another near Laguna Hanson 16 Aug (†RP, PS, JV) was unseasonal, but not unprecedented in the region. The fall’s three Scarlet Tanagers were all in BC 24 Oct–9 Nov. This after only one was seen there in 2019 and four years went dry prior to that. Although we cannot rule out the possibility of escaped exotics, we consider three Northern Cardinals in a habitat restoration site along the Río Colorado 15 Jul (ACF) to represent naturally occurring birds. A male Pyrrhuloxia at Rancho Chapala 23 Oct (ph. SNGH, PAG) was the first found in BC. In addition to about six Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in BC during fall, one was in BCS at Rancho San José de Castro 6 Nov (ph. †RAE). A Painted Bunting was at Punta Eugenia 22 Oct (ph. SNGH, ph. †PAG, ph. RAH). The only Indigo Bunting and Dickcissel reports were of two of the former at Bahía Tortugas 29 Oct (ph. †LQK) and one of the latter at Valle de Médanos 12 Sep (ph. RAE).
A new exotic species appears to be taking hold: Burrowing Parakeet (Cyanoliseus patagonus). Two each 24 Nov and 22 Dec (both IRG et al.) in Tijuana were the only ones reported; however, we examined videos showing at least 50 individuals in Tijuana recorded sometime between 2018 and 2021. It is speculated that they originated from a private collection in Tijuana (fide IRG). Observations in nearby San Diego County may be related. They date back to 2012 but observations really picked up in 2019. Up to 30 Scaly-breasted Munias at Real del Mar 30 Sep–2 Nov (RAE, LQK) were at their autumn stronghold; one on the international border at Playas de Tijuana 8 Jun (LW) established the first summer record for the region.
Thoughts on Autumn Bird Numbers in the Vizcaíno Desert
Between them, veteran observers Howell, Hamilton, and Erickson have visited the Vizcaíno Desert every fall since 1994, primarily in search of migratory landbirds. An initial summary of their efforts was published in the ABA’s Monographs in Field Ornithology (number 3, 2001). More than in most years, these observers noticed higher-than-average numbers of certain species during two trips to the desert in 2020. Other observers commented on some of these species as well. The species broke down into two groups.
The first group included certain resident species that presumably responded to favorable rainfall patterns in producing more young than in most years. These included California Quail, Greater Roadrunner, Gila Woodpecker, Horned Lark, and Gray Thrasher. The second group included several species from the interior western U.S. where what may have been another set of favorable conditions presumably led to increased productivity there. This group included Lark Bunting, Black-chinned and Brewer’s Sparrows, Scott’s Oriole, and perhaps Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
A more thorough review of this issue is beyond the scope of this report.
Lagunas de Chametla Update
Roberto Carmona contributed the following update on Lagunas de Chametla: Since 1995, the sewage ponds of La Paz have been a very important site for birding on the peninsula. Unfortunately, they were drained when the treatment plant applied the activated sludge process in 2000. Although they never disappeared, their environmental quality declined markedly. Fortunately, in 2020, the Municipal Government created an ecological park in the area (Ecoparque de la Juventud) and the lagoons once again received water. Currently there are two and a half lagoons with water, compared to the original five, with plans to fill one more. Birds and other wildlife have begun to use the area in large numbers again. Additionally, the lagoons are now used in environmental education, citizen recreation, and avitourism. Thus, we are optimistic about the future of this eBird hotspot with the most birds recorded in the municipality of La Paz.
Report processed by Alex Meilleur, 26 Jun 2021.