Our cruise ship stop in Cabo San Lucas (Feb 04)

Southern tip of Baja California, Mexico
Tuesday, 3rd February, 2004
Estimated time ashore:  4 hours

Our stop in Cabo San Lucas was our last onshore visit and the following day would be one at sea, sailing north along the Baja California, to arrive at the San Pedro docks in Los Angeles early on Thursday, 5th February. As this was going to be such a short stop, we decided to just explore on our own and see what we could find on the outskirts of the town, especially around the new hotel/time share complexes, adjacent to the beach. There is no cruise ship jetty at Cabo, so we had to be transported ashore by ship's tenders, which took about 10 minutes.

At about 9 am we made our way over to a promising rocky hillside on the south side of the inner harbour, where we found a Northern Mockingbird, some House Finches, Tropical Kingbird, White-winged Doves and Rock Pigeons. We then made our way up the hill and found ourselves in a complex of hotels and condominiums, much of them under construction. Just outside of a garage entrance, there was a large Rock Fig tree (Ficus palmeri), growing over a big rock and it was full of early morning birds feeding on the small green fruit and insects. Most of them were yellow birds, which we finally decided were Western Tanagers in winter plumage. One or two males did have a slight red wash on the face, but the yellow and white wing bars were a giveaway.

We then made our way to the beach, passing lots of House Sparrows in the hotel grounds. There were California Gulls on the beach, and Turkey Vultures, Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown Pelicans soaring overhead. Walking back through the hotel grounds we noticed a hummingbird feeding on the flowers of a century plant, but unfortunately an oriole appeared and chased off the hummer before we could identify it! We hung around with the camera for about 15 minutes, but the hummer didn't return. However the Hooded Oriole and his mate both came back to feed on the plant, so we photographed them instead! Also in this area we found a Melanerpes woodpecker, which had a red spot on the top of its head and it proved to be our only lifer of the day, when we identified it as a Gila Woodpecker*.

Walking into the town of Cabo San Lucas, we explored a small park where we found many of the passerines that we'd seen earlier in the morning, and also a pair of Common Ground-doves. Initially I'd thought that one of them was an Inca Dove due to the scaly feather patterning on its breast, but on consulting the field guide, I found that Incas are rare on the Baja and that the Common Ground-dove does in fact have very similar plumage when viewed from the front. On leaving the park we spotted a Red-tailed Hawk perched on some shrubs, high up on a scrubby hillside.

Our 3 hours were soon up and we made our back to the harbour to catch our tender back to the ship. We passed some juvenile California Gulls scavenging in a paved drainage ditch, giving us a chance to get a couple of photos, and then while waiting for the tender we watched the amusing antics of the Brown Pelicans hoping for free handouts from the fishermen!  At 1 pm our cruise ship sailed and we passed the striking cliff and arch formations which mark the junction between the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean here on the southernmost tip of the Baja California. We found that we were sailing in to a very strong north wind, which made it almost impossible to stay out on deck to watch for pelagics.

15 species with 1 lifer*

Magnificent Frigatebird
Brown Pelican
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
California Gull
Rock Dove
White-winged Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Gila Woodpecker*
Tropical Kingbird
Northern Mockingbird
House Sparrow
House Finch
Western Tanager
Hooded Oriole

© 2004 Helen Baines
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This page was last updated on: May 17, 2013