Hola Birding Enthusiasts,
While we are not seeing nearly as many wintering birds yet as in prior years (all prior years that I have been birding here), we did have a few special ones during our outing this past Thursday. There were 10 of us and we visited the bushy areas around the beach at Piedras Pintas and then the settlement pond north of the San Carlos Plaza Hotel (we refer to it as El Palmar.) But before we even left the Esterito Cafe where we meet each week, we spotted a Streak-backed Oriole. With its reddish head and vivid streaking, it is always a thrill and we usually only see it a few times each season.
At Piedras Pintas, there were a few Lark Sparrows flitting around. These are winter visitors so at least some wintering sparrows have arrived. We also saw a Bendire’s Thrasher which is quite similar to the much more common Curved-billed (which we saw several times) but far more rarely seen down here. Then at El Palmar we saw the Soras and a Common Gallinule. Soras are not a rare bird but they are a rarely seen one. For some reason, at this particular settlement pond we can almost always spot at least one. I was elated to see the Common Gallinule because we saw none last year. It was wonderful to have our winter visitor back. Interestingly, he still had his bright red shield on his face. That normally fades by September. It is a strange year. We finished up with a great seafood lunch at Doña Rosita in La Manga.
The Bird of the Week is the Common Gallinule. This bird was formerly known, and still is in some outdated guide books, as the Common Moorhen. It is a rail. According to Wikipedia, rails are a family of small to medium sized ground-living birds. To me they most closely resemble chickens although the Gallinule is somewhat duck-like. We have several rails in the San Carlos area. We see the Ridgeway’s skulking in the Estero del Soldado, the Sora on a few settlement ponds, the Coot at every settlement pond, and the Common Gallinule in a couple of ponds.
The one we saw this week was at the settlement pond for the San Carlos Plaza Hotel. Last year it was sighted at the Guaymas settlement ponds behind Marina Seca. It is the size of a small duck, with a short tail and wings, long toes, and a short, bright-red-and-yellow bill which fades in the winter months. Like its pond amigo, the Sora, it can fly and, according to Wikipedia “while not powerful, flight can be sustained for long periods of time.” We have noticed that our Coots, Sora and Common Gallinule disappear by late April or early May. They are here when we return in late October munching something yummy while swimming near the edges of the ponds.
Pairs match up in the spring and both sexes build the nest. Usually the male collects the nest material and the female arranges it, according to birdsna.org. The nests are built close to the marsh area they habituate.
We will meet for our next outing on Thursday, November 15 at 7:30am at the Esterito Cafe at the bottom of the road leading west around Bahia San Carlos. Please do not feel you have to be an expert to join our group. If you do not know anything except that you want to know more, our group will help you learn. If you are an experienced birder and just want to know other birders, then join us and share your experience. Please bring your water, sun and insect protection and a chair. And your binoculars, of course. Outings usually last until around 11:00am and we then head for lunch. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
by Mary Tannehill