Upcoming Tour Date(s)
December 3-8, 2021 —
8 of 8 Spaces Remaining
December 5-10, 2023 —
8 of 8 Spaces Available
Not only did Tim deliver the birds, but he kept us in good spirits, even when hiking up a mountain at 3am.
Daniel T. Most Wanted, 2017
Mexico: The Baja Peninsula Birds and Whale Sharks!
The southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula was formerly an island in prehistoric times. It has a distinctive flora and fauna, with many affinities to Southwestern Mexico. The peninsula is home to a handful of endemic species, while the oak-pine forests of the Sierra de la Laguna hold a number of endemic subspecies, with several future splits likely. In just a few days we should see the 4 endemic species (Xantus's Hummingbird, Belding's Yellowthroat, Gray Thrasher, and Baird's Junco) and at least 5 endemic subspecies. This along with snorkeling with Whale Sharks makes for a nice getaway to the Baja!
Leaders: Jonathan Vargas & Tim Avery
Itinerary subject to change due to weather, birding conditions, and other factors out of our control.
Day 1 - Arrive in Baja Friday, December 3
Arrive in San Jose by 5:00 PM. A driver will transfer you to our local hotel where we will meet our local guide, and have a brief kick-off to our tour with dinner.
Night in San Jose
Day 2 - San Jose and Los Barriles Saturday, December 4
This morning we visit the most notable birding hot spot on the tip of the peninsula at the Estuary of San Jose. Here, the freshwater meets the sea, creating an incredible oasis in an otherwise dry desert. We will seek out one of our endemic targets here, where Belding’s Yellowthroat can be quite common. No shortage of waterbirds will keep us busy as we enjoy great looks at Tricolored Heron, Blue-Winged Teal, Common Gallinule, and various other ducks and waders. Along the coast Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, and Heermann’s Gulls should provide some some entertainment as well. In town a range of common desert birds like Common Ground-Dove and Ruddy Ground-Dove are possible. We’ll check for our second endemic, Gray Thrasher while also tracking down other birds like Verdin, California Scrub-Jay, and perhaps our first Xantus’s Hummingbird of the tour—another endemic! After a late lunch, we’ll start our trek north to Los Barriles.
Night in Los Barriles
Day 3 - Sierra La Laguna Sunday, December 5
Waking before sunrise, we will depart for the northern foothills of the Sierra Laguna and travel up to 2,500’ above sea level to search for a host of endemic subspecies of birds that will likely be elevated to full species in the near future. Here the pine-oak woodlands provide ample habitat for these birds that are very similar to some of their North American parent species—but with enough unique differences for the hopeful splits. These birds include “San Lucas” American Robin, “Narrow-fronted” Acorn Woodpecker, “Viosca’s” Band-tailed Pigeon without a tail band, "San Lucas" Cassin's Vireo, and the relatively common “Cape” Northern Pygmy-Owl. Other less-obvious endemic subspecies we may find include White-breasted Nuthatch, Oak Titmouse, and Spotted Towhee. Returning to sea level we will enjoy lunch before continuing north to La Paz, birding the low desert along the coast en route. Many of the common desert species here like California Quail, California Gnatcatcher, Greater Roadrunner, and Gray Vireo will be familiar to those birding the American Southwest. None-the-less we should see a number of new trip birds this afternoon.
Night in La Paz
Day 4 - La Paz Monday, December 6
This morning we will focus on shorebirds as we visit the mudflats here that present some of the best shorebird habitat in all of western Mexico. Least and Western Sandpipers, Willets, Long-billed Curlews, Marbled Godwits, Wilson’s, Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers winter here. Nearby, the sewage ponds and agricultural fields where Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Crested Caracara, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Vermilion Flycatcher, and American Pipit are among many birds that will keep us busy for the rest of the morning. This afternoon will be a rare afternoon off, as we relax by the pool, go shopping in a local market, or just watch the sea for a potential Blue-Footed or Brown Booby! In the later afternoon, we will do some birding yet TBD based on what we’ve seen, and still need to find!
Night in La Paz
Day 5 - Whale Sharks! Tuesday, December 7
Today will be one for the memories! This morning we will board boats and venture in the Sea of Cortez to seek out one of the coolest fish in the ocean—the Whale Shark! If extreme adventures are your thing, you can even snorkel with the Whale Sharks! Snorkel gear will be provided, but you’ll need to be able to get in and out of small boats if you would like to swim! Otherwise, you’ll be able to enjoy the views at the surface, and perhaps some seabirds circling overhead. In the afternoon we’ll transfer to the town of Todos Santos on the Pacific side of the peninsula. In the evening we’ll do some light birding in the fields around town before calling it a day.
Night in Todos Santos
Day 6 - End of Tour Wednesday, December 8
By this point in the tour we should have picked up most of our target species, and will largely leave the morning open for any remaining needs, before birding our way back to Cabo. Here we will take an early lunch break in the tourist center, and perhaps a quick stop at one or two scenic sites before making our way back to the airport for departures after 3:00 PM. This quick tour should help you pick up all the peninsular endemics, and a host of other bird species. With any luck we’ll see between 175-200 species of birds by the time you head home.
End of Tour
What's Included & What to Expect
What to Expect on Your Tour
On the day our tour begins we will provide pickup from San Jose del Cabo International Airport by 5:00 PM. We will work with you and our local guide to make sure you get safely to our accomodations for the first night! At the end of the tour, we will drop you off at the airport or nearby hotels by noon on Sunday.
Throughout the tour, we will travel in a comfortable 15-person Transit Van. There is lots of room to stretch out with your gear and not feel like a sardine in a tin. Throughout the tour, we'll switch up seating arrangements so everyone gets a different view day-to-day.
Ice-cold water is available whenever you need from the back of the van.
Accommodations are typically basic but comfortable and often the best local option available where we're birding.
Birding 1st, Photography 2nd. This is a birding tour, with the focus on getting as many birds as possible, although casual photographers in the group will find some birds for photography. There may be some feeders on this tour, but most photography is on the fly as it and will always take second place to making sure everyone sees the bird. The best photography may be in Rio Lagartos, on Cozumal, and at Coba, where the easiest birding of the tour is typically found. None-the-less there will be plenty of photo opportunities on this tour.
Most mornings we leave early and will stop at a convenience store for you to purchase coffee and snacks. Most days we eat two large meals. Usually a late morning meal after the best birding hours are over--oten at local villages with delicious cuisine--and then dinner at a normal hour at some of our local favorite restauraunts on the peninsula. Seafood and typucal Mexican fare are the norm and you will eat some of hte best tacos you've ever had while on this tour! On the rare occasion we may have an early breakfast at our hotel then lunch after our morning birding.
Generally, this tour follows a rather relaxed but steady pace. Quite often we will spend a longer amount of time birding a single location, often walking or driving short distances then spending a good deal of time observing. Therefore we will spend a greater amount of time in the field, but the actual pace will be fairly relaxed. There are several long drives between major locations that will provide chances to relax while we travel. Also, with around 12 hours of daylight, the days aren't too long and with limited nocturnal birding, evenings typically provide a nice chance to relax as well.
The combination of pace, terrain, climate, and observability make this tour fairly easy for just about anyone. There will be a fair amount of walking day-to-day (up to several miles at most), but it is mostly on well-maintained roads, tracks, or trails that are generally flat. A number of locations provide birding that is also generally pretty easy with open views of the canopy, or forest edges where birds may perch in the open.
Weather and Temperature
The Baja Peninsula iswarm year round. High temperatures range form the 60's to the 80's, and it is generalyl quite pleasant and dry. Mornings and evenings may be cooler and our day in the mountains will average 10-15 degrees cooler than the lowlands.
Insects, Snakes, and Predators
Oh my! Mosquitoes can be found at some of the locations we will be visiting, so protective clothing or repellent is highly recommended. There are various other biting insects, spiders, snakes, etc, but nothing dangerous of note.
A valid passport or passport card is required for all U.S. citizens traveling beyond the Mexican border zone. Passports or passport cards are required for U.S. citizens 16 and older to re-enter the U.S. Mexican immigration may not accept washed, mutilated, or otherwise damaged passports, and require their carriers to return to the United States.
Tourist cards are required for this tour. Tourist cards are available on line before you travel, on the plane, and at the airport in San Jose. Travelers must keep their card with them at all times, since immigration federal officers have the right ask visitors to provide proof of their legal status at any time. Travelers without the proper documentation have occasionally been detained. It is also important to have passport and tourist card photocopies in case the originals are lost or stolen.
U.S. citizens must return their tourist card when they depart Mexico. Visitors who are unable to present their card may encounter significant delays and be asked to file a police report, pay fines, and obtain an exit visa.
Endemic Bird Highlights
- Xantus's Hummingbird
- Belding's Yellowthroat
- Gray Thrasher
- Baird's Junco
- "Cape" Northern Pygmy Owl
- "San Lucas" American Robin
- "Viosca's" Band-tailed Pigeon
- "Narrow-fronted" Acorn Woodpecker
- "San Lucas" Cassin's Vireo
- Whale Shark Excursion
- White Sandy Beaches
- Some reallly good food!
- Professional Guide Service
- All Ground Transportation
- 5-nights Accomodations
- 2-3 Meals/day with Soft Drinks
- Water for Refreshment
- Spotting Scope while Birding
- Birds—we’ll find some birds
- Some Flammtastic Tour Swag
- Delightful Conversation about Birds
- A Thoroughly Enjoyable Time!
We also include SFW dad jokes, witty bird puns, and the occasional commentary on things non-bird related!
What's Not Included
- Alcoholic Drinks
- Cameras and Lenses
- Personal Flashlights/Headlamps
- Bug Spray
- Jackets or Sweaters
- Shoes and Socks
- Room Service & Additional Food
- Phone Calls
- Tips to Guides & Porters
- Flights or Transportation to Mexico
What Clients Say… And why they keep coming back for more birds
Top Rated Wildlife Tour in Salt Lake City
Tim was passionate about the birds, enthusiastic about getting everyone on every bird, professional with planning and guiding, and extremely knowledgeable about the birds. We got all of our targets...
Becky L Most Wanted , 2019
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