And so it begins! What I am referring to my “Little Big Year”. Let me be quite clear here, my 2018 will not really a true “Big Year” in the sense that I spend an entire year, every day, going all over the world in an effort to establish a new record number of bird species. That type of effort is restricted to world class birders like Noah Strycker, or Arjan Dwarshuis. No, my next 365 days will certainly be a lot of travel, 9 countries, 12 airplane flights, and just a whole lot of logistics that my incredible wife has organized for us. Make no mistake, I will be making every possible effort to track down every bird that I can, in each country. But, there will be a considerable amount of touristy type activities in each place, in an effort to keep a nice balance with my wife, and her photography aspirations. We will get started here, in our adopted home of La Paz, Mexico, work our way north to Seattle where we catch our first airplane flight to New Zealand. Then, we will end this journey, following the migrants south along the west coast, ending up back here in Mexico, in late November if all goes as planned

Monday morning served as the first day of this quest, my personal attempt to mark off as big a number as possible. I was up and running before sunrise, loading the truck with camera gear, spotting scope, and tripods. The first rays of sunlight brought me my first bird of 2018. The fact that it was one of my all-time favorite birds, just served to kick start the day in spectacular fashion. There was just enough light to see a Peregrine Falcon swoop down thru the parking lot here at Marina Palmira. Check that one off, although I did see three more before the day was out.

My first stop was the tidal flats north of La Paz. I decided to hit this area first, as we had a very high tide due to the Super Full Moon. This pushed all the shorebirds and waders in close to my areas that I use as observation posts. Then, I returned later in the day as the tide was very low, which pulled the usually reclusive birds out of the mangroves that line the edges of the tidal flats.
Total count: 61 species
Highlights: Gull-billed Terns, Dunlin
Misses: Little Blue Heron, Merlin


This Peregrine Falcon has been hanging around the tidal flats chasing the various shorebirds.



My next stop was the ever popular La Paz Sewer Ponds. News Years Day in the neighborhood that is near the ponds,  was a continuation of the overnight revelry, with several hundred fireworks still being detonated while I was there. This, as you can imagine had the birds all a bit spooked. I was concerned how this might affect my search, but it turned out ok. As it worked out, the birds all got up and flew around every few minutes, at every large boom that echoed thru the area. I did not have to get up and search each of the five ponds, the birds all switched ponds every few minutes!
Total count: 46 species
Highlights: American Pipit, Yellow-headed Blackbirds
Misses: Wilson Phalarope, Greater White-fronted Geese


These beautiful Vermillion Flycatchers have become regular residents of the brush lining the sewer ponds.


Stop number three found me out at the fresh water reservoir, Presa Buena Mujer (Good Woman Reservoir) one of my all-time favorites in this area. Imagine 50 acres of fresh water in the middle of desert. It is truly a bird magnet. This day, not so much, as I was late getting there, and had to work very hard to track down the birds on my target list. The large numbers of species, were somewhat reduced to a bird or two, here or there. I got the species, but in many cases, it was a single bird or a pair of birds, no flocks to help out with the easy of tracking them down.
Total count: 31 species
Highlights: Gilded Flicker, Lazuli Bunting
Misses: Common Moorhen, Varied Bunting


This Northern Mockingbird was quite interested in my camera gear.


It was nice to be able to check off the endemic  Xantus’s Hummingbird

Now to wrap up my day, with a brief stop along the La Paz waterfront, which extends down to Marina Palmira, where I live. There were a few species that I should have gotten by now, but was quite comfortable that I could get them here, as this was my Patch, where I lived and worked every day! Well, a few still escaped me. My wife joined me on this short walk, along the Malecon, down to the marina, and out the end of the breakwater. By now the tide had receded out a very long ways, and since much of Bahia De La Paz is very shallow, this left a lot of small exposed sand bars for the birds to land on, away from people and other disturbances. By walking out the end of the breakwater, I had hoped to pick up a few of the water based birds that are pretty tough from shore. It worked to some degree, but there were a couple that still did not wander by.
Total count: 25 species
Highlights: Harris Hawk, Eared Grebe
Misses: Blue-footed Boobie, Green Heron


All in all, I consider the day a huge success. A total on 102 different species, along with over 18,000 steps on my Fitbit. I know that I will never keep that kind of pace up, but what a great number to post for the start of what I hope to be an incredible year!

Written by Tom Brown
Tom Brown grew up in the high desert area of central Oregon. His love for birds and photography started at a young age. Thru the course of time, travel, and a lot of different occupations, he ended up living in Seattle, and met a girl with a sailboat. When he is not scouring whatever area they are in, looking for the next great bird photo, he can be found trying to earn enough money for the next adventure, and of course, a new lens or camera body! Having been nick-named “The Bird Nerd” by his last remaining friends and family, Tom continues search for that next lifer, and the accompanying photo that goes with it. Find his continuing adventures, photographs, and guiding opportunities at Focus on Feathers.