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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Day Three: More Gray Whales and Fantastic Mangrove Birding

As became my morning tradition, first thing on March 19th I spent time at the point watching the birds and bottlenose dolphins. A large mixed flock of short-billed dowitchers, willets, and marbled godwits would roost on the rocks each night:

Willet and marbled godwit

Short-billed dowitchers

Close pass by a bottlenose dolphin

While watching these animals, a reddish egret (129) flew by. I also saw a single spotted sandpiper (130) and one eared grebe (131).

We were incredibly lucky to have friendly gray whales on every one of our whale watches. Here's one of the other pangas in our group getting a nice interaction with a mama on our morning whale watch:

It's so cool to get to see these large mammals close up - here's a nice look at the knuckles along the dorsal ridge of a gray whale. These guys are one of the only whales that don't have dorsal fins.

After our first whale watch of the day, we hung around the point waiting to go out on another excursion to the mangroves across the lagoon. While waiting I had a chance to photograph some of the local lizards. I believe this is a common side-blotched lizard, Uta stansburiana.

As much as I love the whales, I was eager to get over to bird in the mangroves, where I had added numerous life birds last year. In 2014 I was incredibly lucky to add all my target birds, but I was hopeful to see them all again....and I did!

We started out with some willets near the edge of the mangroves:

The heron species are the most impressive. We saw several more little blue herons - this one is a juvenile:

We got fantastic looks at a couple reddish egrets:

We also saw a couple tri-colored herons (132), a green heron (133), lots of great and snowy egrets, and a couple great blue herons for good measure. Finally, a juvenile yellow-crowned night-heron (134) flew overhead, too. 

We had seen lots of double-crested and brandt's cormorants in the lagoon, but I was surprised to see this immature sitting in the mangroves:

Immature double-crested cormorant
One of the most coveted birds of the Mexican mangroves is the mangrove warbler. I felt incredibly fortunate to hear and briefly see one last year when our pangero called one out of the bushes. This year, later in the season, we could hear them everywhere. Even though they're officially just considered a different color morph of the yellow warbler (135) which is a species we get on San Juan Island, I was still keen to see and try to photograph one. Yet again, our pangero impressed me with his ability to find them. We probably saw about five of them, one of which was obliging enough to sit out in the open for a while to be photographed!

A male mangrove warbler

Finally, on our way out of the mangrove, we heard what is now known as a Ridgway's rail (136) - last year it was considered a clapper rail, but the species has split.

Time seems to both stretch out and pass too quickly while at la laguna. All too soon we were enjoying our final sunset from Punta Piedra, complete with a colorful thundercloud to the east over camp:

The next morning, we were back on our way up the Baja Peninsula to the United States:

But my trip wasn't over just yet!

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