Tuesday, 3rd February, 2004
Southern tip of Baja California, Mexico
Estimated time onshore: 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 continued up the hill and found ourselves in a complex of hotels and condominiums, many 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, and we finally decided they were Western Tanagers in winter plumage. One or two males did have a slight red wash on the face, but the yellow plumage 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 way 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 (see photos above and below). We found that we were sailing into a very strong north wind, which unfortunately, made it almost impossible to stay out on deck to watch for pelagics.
15 species with 1 lifer*
Birding from a cruise ship - Jan/Feb 2004
This page was last updated: May 17, 2013
Western Tanager feeding on figs
Large Rock Fig tree full of Western Tanagers
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Early morning arrival in Cabo San Lucas
The southernmost point of Baja California seen on our departure
Gila Woodpecker - our only lifer of the day
Text ~ Helen Baines
Photography ~ John & Helen Baines
The southernmost tip of Baja California with Cabo San Lucas in the background