Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Return to Rocky Point

The Mexican Eagle-or Crested Caracara
Recently, I wrote about my first experience in Rocky Point, Mexico back in 2011. I was just beginning as a birder. Fast forward into the future by three years and I find a whole new world of birds.  The difference?  My knowledge of birds has tripled.  Like any us who bird, we hopefully grow from the experiences that we gain while being out in the field. And I REALLY love birds. 

At the popular port of downtown Rocky Point
And so I began my research for all the birds I missed on the first trip because I thought they were "uninteresting".  I was a photographer first. The birds came later.  It still shocks me that I even thought this way!  Rest assured, it's not how I see the world now.  Every bird, even the little brown ones, matter.  Like any of my trips, I do plenty of research on the birds found around the various areas before arriving at my destination.  Two areas of interest for me were the rocky shores around the port of Rocky Point and along an estuary known as Morúa.  There I would search for such specialties like the Large-billed Savannah Sparrows and Yellow-footed Gulls. 

Heermann's Gulls go crazy over what's in the boat
For me, it's always interesting to see which gull dominates the shorelines and skies of a place. I found the Heermann's Gulls were most abundant.  The Ring-billed and Yellow-footed Gulls were also very common and found in large groups. Overall, I had a great time working on my gull identification.  Also of interest were several California Gulls and ONE Franklin's Gull.  During the summer, Laughing Gulls can make their way into the Sea of Cortez.   


Juvenile Pacific Loon
Other shorebirds of interest included Whimbrels, Dunlins, Western Sandpipers, Surfbirds, Pacific and Common Loons, Wilson's, Snowy, Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, Long-billed Curlews, Sanderlings, American Oystercatchers, Reddish and Snowy Egrets and more. 



When I began keeping logs, I started comparing my notes.  I couldn't believe just how many birds I missed on my first outing. What in the world was I doing?! And I'll probably do and say the same thing two years from now when I go back to visit.  Birding is a skill that just gets better with experience.  It was beneficial to compare old reports with the new ones which help aide me with the evaluation of my current birding skills. 


Snowy Plovers
On this trip, I was shocked to find Common Loons only a few feet from shore. Living in the desert, it's not a bird I often get to see. They were slow moving as they stalked large schools of fish.  I'd observe them putting their heads down into the water and then......they'd go under. 


Common Loon
The Morúa estuary was a new spot for me.  I like to add on new birding spots when I revisit old haunts. This place was incredible!  It was also home to Burrowing Owls!


Black Storm-Petrel
It's interesting to note that many people forget Arizona shares borders with the state of Sonora, Mexico.  Many US birders will hug the international border and work for the Five-striped Sparrow, Green Kingfisher, etc. It's amazing how easy these birds are to find 40 minutes south of the US/Mexico border. Granted, I have to plan these trips ahead of time because I need my passport as well as all my travel gear.  It's not like waking up in the morning and deciding to go bird a day in Phoenix within a moment's notice:)  
  
Yellow-footed Gull
Birds, life birds especially, take me out of my comfort zone and force me to tackle the ever changing challenges.  How do I get there?  Do I rent a taxi?  A car?  Where is the place?  Is it safe? Could I walk there?  Will I have enough water?   These are just some of the questions that run through my head on any of these local or international trips. 


Surfbird
Some birds even have stories like "Roberta" below.  While we were eating near the port, this Heermann's Gull came to visit us.  We noticed she had a bad foot.  The owner came out with his son and tossed her some scraps telling me the story about how they rescued her as a chick.  Apparently she was born with that bad foot.  It made me smile knowing that there are some people who do care about our feathered friends.  


Heermann's Gull
This year after being attacked by no-see-ums in Florida for a Wilson's Plover, I was attacked by a Wilson's Plover!  The bird was protecting a nest nearby.  I have found these plovers to be very curious around me.  Each time I've gone out birding, I've heard their unique "wheep wheep".  The next thing I know is that I have a Wilson's Plover staring at me:)  Not that I'm complaining. 


Wilson's Plover
I finally discovered a Dunlin in full breeding plumage and it was DIVINE!  There were many Dunlins in Rocky Point and it was nice to have closer observations of these sometimes rare birds to Arizona. 


Dunlin
Every tern could be found with a little patience. The most numerous tern was the Forster's Tern. 


Forster's Tern
Rocky Point is dusty and dry, but the minute we drove along the beach, we could see that there was so much life.  Never in my life would I have expected to see a Sora in the open at a local hotel!  It was swimming in one of their ponds and must have decided to stop and rest during migration. 


Sora
Of course, any trip to Rocky Point would be incomplete without a sighting of the Brown and Blue-footed Boobies. They can be seen around the piers of Rocky Point.  Their nesting grounds are about 20 miles off shore on the Bird Islands. Rocky Point or Puerto Peñasco is a great place to bird.  It's around a 4 hour drive from Tucson or Phoenix.  This will conclude my series of Mexico for now but I am working on several trips into new areas during the summer of 2014 and planning on another trip to Southern Mexico during the summer of 2015. 


Blue-footed Booby
Over the next few months, we'll be traveling to Guatemala. Stay tuned for more because Birding Is Fun!

22 comments:

  1. Great post and lots of info on shore birds, I will be hopefully finding more than gulls here in the Pacific coast. Looking forward to your posts of the summer etc.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by.....those gulls can be tricky but they are a lot of fun to ID. Many of the birds found in Rocky Point can also be found along the coast of California.....especially the Southern part. Good luck!

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  2. such a wonderful variety on this post Chris, and the intro' photograph was a winner - bought me right in!!

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    1. That Caracara nearly made me get into an accident while it calmly sat alongside the road:)

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  3. I've learned so much since linking up with WBW. Looks like you know your birds now.

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    1. I know a few birds, but I have a LONG ways to go. There's never a dull moment in the birding world. There is so much new stuff to observe while out in the field that it never gets old. It's a beautiful thing.

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  4. An interesting and well written post, one that I can actually read all the way through. love the shots of your Gulls especially the yellow footed gull, he is pretty.

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  5. Glad you like it Karen. The Gulls are a fun bunch to watch.....and ID:) The Yellow-footed Gull, like the Western Gull, is a good looking bird.

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  6. What a wonderful collection of shore birds you have shared with us this week. You must have had a wonderful time photographing all of them. Your captures are awesome. Thanks so much for sharing them with all of us. Thanks for the visit to my blog. Happy birding.

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    1. Genie, it was a lot of fun. Thank you for visiting Birding Is Fun!

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  7. Amazing shots of the birds. I like that first shot.

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    1. The Crested Caracara is a stunner! Happy birding!

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  8. Interesting post, with lots of facts and beautiful photos!
    I loved the first one of the eagle, I wish I could see one too!
    Greetings Pia in Sweden

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    1. Anything is possible:) Someday you may get your wish. Thanks for stopping by Birding is Fun!

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  9. loved the Caracara shot, and all others of course. :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! Happy birding!

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  10. Brilliant Blue-footed Booby, and there are the Pacific Loon, its so cool.

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    1. Very fun birds. Now when I come over to your part of the world......:) Lots of great birds on your side I think.

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  11. It's amazing what you can find when you know what to look for! This is a wonderful series of birds. Your photos are awesome.

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  12. Bonito lugar con cantidad de aves.. Ya sabes cuando vengas a España tienes una amiga para pajarear.. :-)))

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    1. Gracias Ana:) Ya sabes que un día te voy a llamar:) Siempre puedes venir por acá y podemos pajarear por el sur de Arizona. Hay muchisimos aves por aquí!

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