Global Big Day

Wilson's Phalarope
Wilson’s Phalarope. We saw non-breeding plumage.

I blame the lack of posts on my lack of energy but it might be a more deep seated ambivalence. I don’t have much to say. There’s been a lot happening but most of it I’ve written about extensively so it’s not inspiring me to write more. A few weeks ago we participated in the Global Big Day. So I’ll share a little about that.

The folks at UABCS (wah-bes) or the Universidad Autonimo Baja California Sur organized a community event for Global Big Day, May 4, 2019. Normally, Burt and I spend this day intensively birding our home range trying to see the endemic species of Baja California Sur so I wasn’t much interested in a community event that would interfere with my personal birding. Emer and Joaquin convinced it was a good idea to bring the community together on this special day to raise awareness. They also asked the Gypsy Carpenters to play music. So I caved. Burt was unconscious and having his hernia repaired. I had a fever of 102. My ability to resist was compromised. Three weeks later Burt and I drag our lame butts out of bed at 4:15 AM so we can get to the estero in San Jose del Cabo for the 7:00 meet-up to bird the estuary. Neither of us was in good shape. Burt sat in a chair on the estero’s edge with the newly acquire Chava and rested his hernia repair. I birder for two hours with a group of 8 experienced birders. A second group of nearly 20 first timers went off with Emer as their guide. That was a great thing. Afterwards we played music under a tent at a display table as the university students met with the public and shared their knowledge. I can’t really say if it went well or not. I was simply too tired to care. In the weeks before grand ideas of a mad rush to get to the mountains and bird the late afternoon were bandied about. By 11:00 AM Burt and I were done. We headed home with no plans to do anything but rest.

A few hours later we were semi-conscious in out gNash living the good life. Nowhere to go and nothing to do. I was a little bummed at the lamest bird list in years for Big Day but I was happy to be under my covers half asleep. Then I got a text. Lupillo, the best birder I know in Baja, was trying to decide how to finish his Big Day. He was already at over 70 species. (I had 30ish). He was debating the mountains or the Todos Santos area. Hint, hint. Lupillo has no car. If he came to Todos Santos he would need a driver. He didn’t come right out and say, “hey, will you drive me around so I can bird?” It was a subtle, “hey, what are you doing?” So I said, “If you come here, I’ll pick you up and drive you around and you can spend the night with us.” And so Lupillo got on a bus and arrived in Todos Santos at 4:30 PM and I picked him up for phase two of Big Day. I was not excited. That’s how hard this recovery has been.

And so began a mad cap three hours of incredible discoveries. Our first stop was on the north side of La Poza where a drunk man threatened us with bodily harm for looking at his house. Dude, we were just walking by with binoculars. Chill out. Immediately on arriving at the water’s edge I saw an unfamiliar bird, Lupillo got very excited. Lupillo does not get excited. It was a red phalarope. What a cool little bird. It was running around in circles feeding on the shoreline uninterested in our approach.  Five minutes into this unexpected excursion and I had a life bird. I was feeling a little perkier. Adrenaline from the drunk helped, too.

Right after that I got Lupillo his first blue grosbeak in breeding plumage. Then we saw some baby killdeer. I’m almost over being embarrassed by my bad IDs in front of experts so you can laugh when I thought they were plovers. Google them. Baby killdeer sort of look like plovers if you don’t notice that the parents are right there guarding them and their plumage is super fluffy. On our way back to the car we found a Wlison’s phalarope. Another lifer for me. The drunk guy had gone inside his house so we reached the car unmolested.

Lupillo and I hit a couple of other spots. Mostly drive bys. I did not want to walk. We got the barn owl in town because we know where it lives. We searched for some rock pigeons and found none. After dark we drove out a dirt road near our place in Pescadero and got the elf owl, a whiskered screech owl, and a common poorwill. At 8:00 I waved a flag of surrender and told Lupillo we had to stop. I was at 67 species for the day and we’d helped push Baja California Sure to over 100 but I was wasted. We headed to the hill we call home. I put Lupillo in the rumpus room with some food and collapsed.

The next morning we did a few car tours and bagged another lifer, the purple martin. It flew overhead while we were looking at a Harris’s hawk. I went from total surrender under my blankets to bagging three lifers in my home territory in under 24 hours.  I teased Lupillo that I would still be trying to identify the phalarope if he hadn’t been there but really I never would have seen it because I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed.

Red Phalarope
Red Phalarope. This is breeding plumage. The one I spotted was in its drab winter colors.
Purple Martin
Purple Martin
Lupillo at work. Both phalaropes in the distance.