6 and 7 July 2013
We arrived in the late afternoon in San José del Cabo and headed straight for the estero (estuary). The estero is widely recognized as a great birding site and it surely did not disappoint. On our walk along the estero we were surprised to find at least 5 White-colored Seedeaters, which were not described in Howell and Webb’s Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America, thus we were not expecting to see them. However, a quick check on e-Bird shows that White-colored Seedeaters appear to have recently colonized the southern cape area as there are several records of them as far back as 2006. We were also surprised to find a Tropical Kingbird.
We had amazing looks at a Least Bittern, a species that is often extremely hard to see. The bittern was foraging openly in the marsh. The next morning we found not one but two bitterns foraging in the open! A pretty amazing site to see!
Belding’s Yellowthroats were fairly abundant throughout the estero as well and they were busy feeding their young. The Belding’s Yellowthroat is endemic to Baja California Sur and differs from the Common Yellowthroat in having a yellow stripe above their mask instead of a white stripe, as well as a notably different song and quite isolated breeding locale. Additionally, they strike us as distinctly a bit larger and heavier bodied with a larger and heavier bill. We also saw several little American Coot and Common Gallinule chicks begging for food from their parents. One of the most unexpected things we saw was a Pied-billed Grebe tossing around a Common Gallinule Chick in the water. We watched the Grebe in shock as it first drowned, then picked at the Gallinule chick and attempted to swallow it. The Grebe eventually gave up on eating the Gallinule chick apparently having bitten off more than it could chew. We had just discussed how the fledgling Coots and Gallinules must be like popcorn for the large turtles and numerous Egrets and Herons in the estero but I never thought a Pied-billed Grebe would take a chick!
The estero also provides breeding habitat for the endangered Least Tern. A section of the beach is roped off to protect the young from being trampled by people and dogs. We were at the estero at the right time and saw several Least Tern chicks in the roped off area. Some of the cutest things I’ve seen!
Other highlights from our trip to the estero include Ruddy Ground-Dove, another recent colonist of the area, Grey Thrasher, White-faced Ibis, and Xantus’s Hummingbird. For a complete list of species seen, see our e-Bird list for Estero San José.