Birding the Americas Trip Report and Planning Repository
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October 1998

by Darrell Lee

I enjoyed the town of Mulege and the smaller areas like Magdelena Bay and Bahia de Los Angeles.  Cabo San Lucas and La Paz were disappointing for birding because they're so urbanized (we looked for tropicbirds without success).  I got my lifer Yellow-footed Gulls in Mulege, my lifer Xanthus' Hummingbirds at Los Barriles, and saw Brown Boobies (not a lifer) at Bahia de Los Angeles.  My son and I saw the world's biggest bird feeder at Magdelena Bay - a conveyor belt taking anchovies from a boat to a truck - with Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown Pelicans feeding from it.  The other Baja California birds are pretty much the same as you'll see in Southern California - not Sonoran Desert birds like you'd get on the Sonoran side of the gulf.  So if I were you, I'd concentrate on the more rural areas and don't expect many new birds (as a Californian).

Enjoy the cirios (boojum trees) and elephant trees (the latter are two examples of convergent evolution) in BC, and the opportunity to see gray whales.  You may be able to hire a panga and guide to get closer to the whales, but check locally about access and restrictions.

I took the Chihuahua al Pacifico ferrocarril (the Copper Canyon train ride) in the mid 1980s.  Unfortunately, you won't see much from the train, especially at this time of year.  We were there in April, and the oaks were just budding into leaf - devoid of summering birds.  I'd suggest getting off the train and spending a day or two at Divisadero and Creel if you want to get a feel for the area and the Tarahumara Indians.  We drove back to Creel but had car probleMs. The Sinaloa side is all built-up with sugar cane and agriculture, so it wasn't interesting to me.  As a San Francisco birder, you may enjoy more of the Chihuahuan desert birding.  There's a wonderful Mennonite apple farming community at Chuantepic (sp?) that you might find interesting on general terms.

Some cautions - we missed the return train because we forgot about the change between Pacific and Mountain time zones.  Sinaloa and Chihuahua are in different time zones.  On the other hand, we enjoyed marvelous companionship on the local train (which you'll be on, if you're transporting a car).  You're talking 22 hours on the local train v.  13 hours on the tourist train.  If you take the tourist train, there are three levels of accomodation.  The highest level gets the domed observation cars.  The middle level is segregated, with Mexican nationals on the canyon side of the train, and gringos on the far side.  The lowest class gets the worst cars - those without functional dampers/shock absorbers and springs.

Darrell Lee
Brunswick, GA