Wednesday, May 28, 2014

San Jose del Cabo Estuary

Our final birding destination is the estuary of San José del Cabo, a 42-hectare freshwater coastal lagoon, and home to Belding's Yellowthroat.

Looking toward the less-disturbed side of San José del Cabo Estuary
(Photos by Narca)

Estero San José del Cabo is both a RAMSAR wetland of international importance and an Important Bird Area.

Sign about Estero San José del Cabo

Construction of the old Hotel Presidente adjacent to the estuary was controversial, because part of the estuary was destroyed to build it. In addition, habitat along that entire side of the estuary has been converted by the town to a public park, leaving precious little wetland for the endangered yellowthroats. (At least activities like fishing are prohibited!)

A public park now occupies the west side of the estuary.

Lovely Washingtonia fan palms are prominent plants here.

Palo verdes are also in bloom.

The Presidente is now owned by Holiday Inn, and we stay there, in spite of the lingering guilt-by-association. From the Holiday Inn, access to the estuary is excellent, and the Holiday Inn has a more laid-back, comfortable feel than other resorts in the area. Ironically, the town's creation of a public park on one side of the estuary has made the reedy habitat more accessible to birders, and we find that the yellowthroats are very easy to see.

A very cooperative male Belding's Yellowthroat at the estuary

Notice the yellow frame above his mask, where a 
male Common Yellowthroat would show white.

A female Belding's Yellowthroat

This endangered warbler is restricted to a handful of remnant wetlands in Baja. Habitat loss and degradation are the major threats. About 500 individual yellowthroats are thought to remain in the estuary. We find about eight Belding's Yellowthroats here, and a single male Common Yellowthroat in a tree by the water.

Conservation strategies to help the yellowthroat have only been developed over the past few years, and are now being pursued. Here at the tip of Baja, the pressure from up-scale developments is extreme. One proposal to create more habitat for the yellowthroats is to create marshes on golf courses and resorts that are developed within the yellowthroat's range.

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