Great Backyard Bird Count at Villa del Faro

a male Xantus' Hummingbird, endemic to Baja California Sur

a male Xantus’ Hummingbird, endemic to Baja California Sur, photographed during the GBBC

For last year’s GBBC, I was working in Costa Rica, in the Central Valley. This time around, I was on the job in Baja California Sur, Mexico, at Villa del Faro. Over the course of the four days that comprise the Great Backyard Bird Count, I was able to go out three mornings and one afternoon in search for birds.

By the last day, I had seen most of the usual suspects, although I was unable to spot a Pyrrhuloxia, one of my favorite species here in Baja, which is quite shy. In total, however, I saw 38 species around Villa del Faro, which has a hotspot with 76 species, so I saw exactly half the birds recorded here so far (and two of them were only just reported for the first time yesterday).  Continue reading

Caribbean Naturalist Paper Published!

Caribbean Naturalist Tyto alba Hellshire HillsAfter a year of waiting, the paper that I wrote with Justin and John is finally published! This is a journal article that arose from an accidental encounter with a juvenile Barn Owl in a small cave that I noticed on the side of a trail we were on while exploring the Hellshire Hills. This southern region of Jamaica is not one in which we expected to see the Golden Swallow, but we wanted to check anyway, as well as look out for some of the rare tropical dry scrub species we might find in the area, like the Jamaican Iguana, previously thought extinct.

I briefly hinted at this paper in an old post after our return from Jamaica, but didn’t mention it after that since I knew a published article would tell the story more fully, albeit more technically and with science instead of storytelling as a priority. In the cover photo above I’ve included a link to the PDF version of Caribbean Naturalist journal issue 37, which contains our article, but I also want to summarize our findings in lay terms for those less familiar with the biological jargon.

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Snorkeling with Whale Sharks in La Paz

Last week, Jocelyn and I took the three-hour drive from Villa del Faro to La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur. After about seventy minutes on the dirt coastal road that runs along the East Cape, one reaches the asphalt road near La Ribera, which connects to Mexico’s Route 1, a well-paved highway that runs from San José del Cabo all the way north to Tijuana (1,654km away). Before heading anywhere near that far, however, we turned off at the La Paz exit, to explore the port city home to over 200,000 people.

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If you look at a map of the geography surrounding La Paz, you can see that it is quite sheltered from the ocean, with a chunk of land protecting it on the east side, a thin strip closing in from the west, and a long bay running to the north, all this in the relatively calmer Gulf of California. In 1535 the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés tried to start a colony in the area, but it wasn’t fully settled till over sixty years later.

Today, the main tourist attractions to La Paz are marine in nature, Continue reading