Pelagic birding by panga off the cape of BCS

13 July 2013 After fussing around and finding many more eager salesmen types than willing panga captains in Cabo San Lucas, we got a recommendation to look for a panga in Palmilla (just W of San José del Cabo) or at La Playita (just E of San José del Cabo). We found a good panguero (panga driver basically) in Palmilla and went out this morning. We even managed to get some bait and get it cut up and drag it behind us for a bit of an improvised chum system to try to bring in some birds. I’m not sure the chum bag worked really well, a burlap bag or a mesh bag would be much better than a trash bag with holes bitten in it! However the birding was good for about the first half of the trip. We got out a few kms and slowed down and headed pretty much straight out to about 20-25 km offshore.  Along the way we had a quick flyby of a handful of Black-vented Shearwaters, great looks at a Wedge-tailed Shearwater as well as 2 more distant Wedge-taileds, about a dozen Black Storm-Petrels, about 60 Least Storm-Petrels, and 2 Pink-footed Shearwaters. Many Shearwaters were too far off to ID from a rocking panga but were probably mostly Pink-footed. A bit of wind and chop started picking up when we had a Storm-Petrel with a white rump go rocketing past the panga. Kathi saw it first and we both got quick binocular looks at it. It didn’t appear to be fully white-rumped, we both saw what we believed to be a black tail sticking out behind the white rump patch, which would make it a Leach’s Storm-Petrel, but it was gone in a flash. We did some quick chumming which brought in more Black and Least Storm-Petrels but even though it was headed down wind from us it didn’t return. Unfortunately the  wind (that hadn’t been in the forecast) continued to rise – coming off the Sea of Cortez, which means it was blowing us SW. We were trying to get to the Gordo Banks, a pair of banks due E of San José del Cabo, but the wind was pushing us back as fast as the captain could battle through the chop, and we were getting drenched to boot, so we packed it in and headed back early. Had we known about the wind in the morning we could have run up to Gordo Banks and then birded back down wind and probably covered a little more ground but it was a good trip nonetheless, capped off with a full throttle beach landing in some pretty choppy surf. Quite fun to be 50′ off the beach and the captain saying. “Pues, esto es peligroso con tantas olas” then he turns the boat and guns it for shore!

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