Christmas Bird Count season is upon us. That’s something to celebrate. This is the 119th anniversary of the largest citizen science project in the world. It’s successful because humans all over agree to go out and focus their birding efforts in a tight circle on a scheduled date. The collective CBC circles cover an area and span of time to have produced the most important bird trend data in the world. Burt and I were lucky to have participated in a Portal, AZ count a few years ago. We followed our friend Peg Abbott of Naturalist Journeys as she birded her way up a mountain road over the course of a day. Peg explained the science of the CBC and shared her incredible bird identification skills while we spotted and kept count for her. We are hooked on birding in large part because people like Peg have generously spent time helping us learn the birds.
Yesterday Burt and I went to La Paz to help count in their amazingly diverse circle. They’ve got desert and agriculture and miles of shoreline and the open water of La Paz bay. Daniel Galindo-Espinosa is the compiler for La Paz and he welcomed our participation and has agreed to come to Todos Santos and help me out this week when we do ours. We were assigned to help our buddy Emer Garcia of the UABCS birding program at the city’s wastewater treatment plants. This might seem like a loser spot but it is actually one of the most important habitats in the Baja Sur region. I kind of hoped for a new area and new birds but I was relieved for two reasons. Emer is a pro and Burt and I had birded the area the day before so we knew what to expect. Still it was also kind of overwhelming. The volume of birds on the treatment lagoons can make you crazy when you’re desert rats like us. We are used to spotting birds as individuals. Counting entire flocks and picking out unique individuals inside of heavy flocks is tiring work. It takes practice. Our team of 5 set to it with Emer keeping us under control and we think we did a pretty good job. Our search revealed 59 species and over 1000 individuals. There was nearly 100 white-faced ibis alone. And the ducks. Holy quakery, Bat Man, there were a lot of ducks.
Meanwhile Burt and I have been driving roads to make sure we can get people out to the areas we want birded this Thursday. Today we are taking one last excursion to the border of the Sierra de la Laguna. I saw something I’m hesitant to report just yet so we’re going to try and find it again and also check out some other spots.
Join us Thursday at 7AM (12/20) if you’d like to participate in the Todos Santos Christmas Bird Count.
The Festival de Cine Todos Santos is a little more than three weeks away. People all over town are scrambling to get ready. I volunteered Burt as a carpenter (wood skills are scarce in un-timbered Baja) and he was quickly put to work making a new sign for the Jóvenes en Video (Youth in Video) film school. About 7 years ago Leonardo Perel founded the film school for the area’s youth. Every year the program produces a film and the film is always one of the festival highlights. Just over a year ago Leonardo died in a car accident. His passion for teaching the art of film making lives on in this school renamed in his honor. Recently Jóvenes en Video was given space in the historic Gran Teatro Manuel Márquez de Leon that anchors side of the public plaza in Todos Santos. All film festival films are shown in this funky, one of a kind, old theater. Now down below the screen, stage and public spaces a physical school is being created. Manuel Márquez de Leon was a local guy that commandeered a ship in Mexico’s navy in the Mexican American War.
A new school home calls for a new sign. Todos Santos is a ‘Pueblo Mágico’ and as such there are rules, mysterious rules, but rules nonetheless on what can be done to her historic structures. Remember that meeting we went to a few weeks ago where some of the locals voiced concerns about who and what the ‘Pueblo Magico’ committee was doing? They wondered who was in charge and how to get things approved? I think Burt and I met the committee. Two shabbily dressed gringos hammering on the side of one of the town’s most significant historic sites will not go unnoticed. We, meaning Burt, were building a 10′ x 5′ semi-circular sign to fit into one of the architectural features over the back door to the theater. I was taking pictures for social media. The sign is designed to pop into a space over the door and it will be easily removable. About an hour into the project a man wearing a considerable mantle of authority appeared. He wagged his finger at me and sadly shook his head. This was a no no. Sometimes it pays to keep your Spanish speaking mouth shut and let the men handle things. My instincts told me this was one time a know it all female should make like a rock and just watch. I gave the ear-muffed Burt a heads up and stepped away to call our official contact. The boys discussed it. The Jefe said the sign was much bigger and solider than he was told it would be. He was told it was ‘provisional.’ He muttered and dramatically looked around and inspected things. Burt let him look and mutter. Soon they came face to face. Burt told him the sign was indeed provisional and he promised no damage was being done to the building. And that was true but as I look at the picture above it appears Burt somehow dominated this man with his charm and aura of authority and transcended the language barrier with his alpha male phermones. El Jefe left shaking his head and sort of implying more might become of all this. The carpentry for the sign was finished without further consternation. Word is the wheels have been greased and it’s all a go. Somebody somewhere knows who to talk to.