La Paz wetlands

14 July 2013

There are two well known birding sites in La Paz for waterbirds, the Ensenada de La Paz, which is the large shallow bay to the south and west of the city, which has extensive mudflats mixed with clumps of mangroves along it’s south shore, and the euphemistically named “Lagunas de Chametla” aka the La Paz sewage treatment plant. We figured out that it’s easier to bird the Lagunas de Chametla earlier in the morning, as it’s a bit less stinky then, and when you leave the water treatment plant you’ll be on the bay side of Hwy 1, making access to the mudflats much easier.

To reach the water treatment plant, you want to head south from the whale’s tale / pair of doves statue that is along Hwy 1 on the south west side of town. This is the first major intersection / road split you’ll find when coming into town from the north. This used to be a roundabout but is under construction and being converted to a ramp system, so the directions will change a little over time but the goal is the same. When coming into La Paz on Hwy 1 from the north, you will keep right at the whale’s tale, then the first right should be signed for the water reclamation plant, so take the first right. Just a short distance down this road, the second dirt road to the right should be signed for the water reclamation plant again, take this road. GPS coordinates for this turn and a link to Google Maps are here:
24.108273, -110.340696. You can see the ponds in Google Maps as well. Drive up the dirt road to the entrance gate but veer right towards some berms you can see which are where the ponds are. Park out of the way and walk the berms. We found many Laughing Gulls, Black-necked Stilts, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, a pair of Least Grebes, a couple of Belding’s Yellowthroats and an early Wilson’s Phalarope among the more expected Baja waterbirds. Our complete eBird checklist is here.

To reach the Ensenada de La Paz mudflats, you basically just need to take dirt roads that head north towards the bay from Hwy 1. These roads start from the vicinity of the road to the airport, and continue west along the northbound side of Hwy 1. The first road we took is accessed by taking the ramp towards the airport but then almost immediately peeling off the ramp and onto a dirt road that heads towards the water. We tried several different roads from this one for a mile or two west, with good results for all of them. Drive as close to the water as the roads permit and then walk a bit more until you start sinking in the mud (don’t wear your best shoes). A scope is pretty necessary. This is a major wintering and migration site for shorebirds, purportedly supporting huge numbers of Western and Least Sandpipers and over 10% of the world’s population of Wilson’s Plover. Even in July we found a good variety of birds out there, including large numbers of breeding Wilson’s Plover, a handful of Black Skimmers, Laughing Gulls, a Sage Sparrow, Mangrove Yellow Warblers, some early Western and Least Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones and Forster’s Terns.

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