& Gray Whales
Golden Gate Audubon Society
8-day desert oasis adventure
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Explore Baja California’s Cape region in search for birds and meet 35-ton gray whales during their annual migration to Baja’s coastal lagoons. The Cape is one of Mexico’s prime birding hotspots. It has 6 endemic bird species, including the stunning Xantus’s hummingbird and various unique subspecies such as the pale San Lucas Robin. Baja’s vast and mostly undeveloped terrain and desert oases provide migratory stopovers for landbirds, including flocks of Brewer’s and clay-colored sparrows and lark buntings along with wintering Cassin’s kingbirds and black-and-white warblers. Moreover, Baja’s jagged coastline provide habitat for thousands of resident and migratory shorebirds and waterfowl, including blue-winged and cinnamon teal, American oystercatcher, reddish egrets and tricolored herons.
Winter and early spring is also the best time for meeting gray whales at their breeding grounds along the coast. We’ll visit Bahia Magdalena, one of Baja’s largest bays, in search of gray whales and their unique breeding behavior.
Day 2 - Estero San Jose. Spend the morning at Estero San Jose, a large body of water with vast wetlands where freshwater from Rio San Jose meets saltwater from the Pacific Ocean. The wetlands around the estuary host large stands of giant bullrush and cattails where we’ll search for the endemic Belding’s yellowthroat.
Day 3 - Sierra de la Laguna: Search for endemic birds in oak woodlands at 2500 ft above sea level. We’ll look for the pale “San Lucas” American robin, the “Viosca” band-tailed pigeon (without a tail band) and the “Cape’s” pygmy-owl along with wintering birds such as the black-and-white warbler and Cassin's Kingbird.
FEB 17, 2018
FEB 24, 2018
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Day 4 - Sonoran Desert: We’ll head north towards La Paz and spend the day birding the Sonoran Desert in search of endemic, resident and migratory birds. Possibilities are Xantus's Hummingbird, Costa’s hummingbird, gray thrasher, black-throated sparrow, wintering gray vireos, and migrant flocks of Brewer’s and clay-colored sparrows.
Day 5 - La Paz: La Paz has some the best shorebird mudflats in Western Mexico. Several species winter here including semipalmated, and Wilson’s plovers, least and western sandpipers and white ibis. High shorebird densities attract predators such as wintering merlin and peregrine falcon. We’ll have a break after lunch during which birders might spot a Blue-footed Booby patrolling the harbor.
Day 6 - Desert and Mangroves. We’ll depart early and head northwest across the Baja California peninsula in route to Magdalena Bay. Our drive along the rocky shore of the Baja peninsula will offer wonderful views of the Sea of Cortės and provide access to new habitats such as patches of mangroves where we’ll search for the “Mangrove” yellow warbler, white ibis, reddish egret and northern waterthrush.
Day 7 - Bahia Magdalena: We’ll take a 3-4 hour boat trip across “Mag” Bay in search of a close encounter with California gray whales. Nearing the end of their short breeding season, there’s a real possibility of meeting newly born calves who are often curious and approach boats. Other whale behaviors we may see is nursing, mating, spyhopping and breaching.
Day 8 - Todos Santos. Will wake up at a desert oasis in the charming town of Todos Santos and bird the palm tickets, parks and agricultural fields looking for migratory songbirds such as palm warbler, Brewer’s sparrow, green-tailed towhee, and lark bunting. We’ll also be back in the range and habitat for various Baja endemics, including Belding’s yellowthroat, gray thrasher, and Xantus’s hummingbird. Later in the morning, we’ll head back to San Jose del Cabo where our adventure ends.
The Expedition Experience
Birding - Whale Watching - Hiking
What to Expect / What You'll Do
The desert gets hot early and on most days we’ll start at around 6:30 a.m. We’ll usually drive to our next location in mid-afternoon and arrive to our hotel 1 to 2 hours before dinner. Some days may have an optional afternoon outing. Most breakfasts and some lunches will be picnics. All dinners will be at a restaurants offering some of the best cocina Mexicana in the region. Walking will be done on leveled and gently sloped trails, on the side of the road, around town and park preserves.
All meals (not including alcoholic beverages and soft drinks), transportation (except from airport on day one), and lodging are included in the price of the tour. Transportation during this tour will be done by 12-passenger van. We’ll spend most nights in small towns with accommodations in comfortable hotels with private bathrooms in each room and electricity (Wifi may be available in some of them). The boats we use at Bahia Magdalena for our 3-4 hour ride to look for gray whales, are stable, broad fiberglass boats that sit up to 6 people on padded benches and equipped with 1 or 2 large outboard motors.