Continuing a New Year tradition that we started in southern Baja last year, my wife and I spent the first two weeks of the year in Sonora. First, we camped for six days near San Carlos, just north of Guaymas. During our ample beach reading time, we followed the bird (and dolphin) forays after schools of bait fish that came near shore. Blue-footed Boobies, with their graceful, near vertical dives, were certainly the most artistic hunters while the somewhat clumsy belly flops of the Brown Pelicans were perhaps the least. Royal and Caspian Terns as well as Common and Pacific Loons all joined in the feeding frenzies. Heermann’s Gulls continually harass the pelicans as they pull their ponderous pouches out of the water-hoping for a lost fish or two. And far above this animated cast of characters, the Magnificent Frigatebirds survey the action below while selecting the next gull or tern to harass into dropping its catch.
The nearby Estero Soldado provided an ever changing buffet for the birds, depending on tide. Herons, egrets, gulls, terns, cormorants and shorebirds all exploited the rich food resources of this estuary. The bills of various species often reveal the preferred foraging technique with my personal favorites being Black Skimmer, American Oystercatcher and Roseate Spoonbill.
Following our beach time, we headed three and a half hours south to the foothill habitat outside Alamos. With the help of Jennifer and David MacKay, we were allowed to camp for a couple days on , a reserve east of Alamos owned by Nature and Culture International. This organization is working to purchase and protect critical habitat throughout Latin America. El Guayabo is part of a group of ranches in the area protected as the Reserva Monte Mojino. The ranch preserves a stretch of the Rio Cuchujaqui and the surrounding tropical deciduous forest. Birding was great with a mix of regional permanent residents and wintering songbirds both from the western US and the Sierra Madre of northwest Mexico. Highlights included Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Rufous-bellied Chachalaca (including two in a tree above where my wife was cooking dinner one night), Squirrel Cuckoo, Black-throated Magpie Jay, Purplish-backed Jay, Common Blackhawk, Linneated Woodpecker, Tufted Flycatcher, Rufous-backed Robin, Happy and Sinaloa Wrens, Slate-throated Redstart, Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush, Five-striped Sparrow, and Black-vented Oriole. We appreciate the efforts of NCI in the area and hope they are able to acquire even more habitat.