El Barril Mangroves, Magdalena Bay

Mar 21, 2019 - National Geographic Sea Bird

I loved this day in the protected, inland lagoon waters of Baja California Sur. It was perfect—with maybe a bit more wind than desirable—but perfect nonetheless! And why? We had a sighting of one of the most beautiful birds in Baja—the mangrove warbler. This is a variant of the yellow warbler that is only found in healthy mangrove forests in Mexico and Central America (and a tiny section of southeast Texas). They are small and a little shy, especially in the wind, but they will sometimes show themselves with a little coaxing. The one we spotted was was a fully dressed male with a sweet little song. And that was only one portion of our morning, touring the mangroves along the shore of Magdalena Bay.

We also saw large schools of juvenile fish, egrets, herons, oysters, and crabs among the red, white, and black mangrove trees. Most of us toured the mangroves in expedition landing crafts, but a hearty tribe of us ignored the winds and explored in kayaks as well.

Shortly after a delicious lunch, National Geographic Sea Bird made her way through the narrow, winding Hull Canal that joins Magdalena Bay proper with the Upper Magdalena Bay complex. Navigating the canal in a ship as large as Sea Bird takes great skill, as there are no navigation markers and the sandbars and mudflats are constantly shifting. For this transit, we had a second-generation pilot of the Comacho family to guide us safely through these uncharted waters.

It felt like being on the Disneyland jungle riverboat cruise as we traversed the mangrove-lined waterway. Once we had dropped anchor just north of the small port town of Puerto Lopez Mateos, we hopped into smaller boats for a landing and wonderful walk into the sand dunes that separate the lagoon from the open Pacific. Some of us walked the mile across the barrier island with a naturalist while others explored the dunes and shorelines on our own. The late afternoon light cast magnificent hues and shadows along the dunes as we stretched our legs and drank in the beautiful scene. Thus ended day two of our voyage of exploration.

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About the Author

Larry Hobbs


Larry has been involved in marine mammal research and natural history education for over 45 years.  His undergraduate training is in zoology, with graduate work in marine biology.  He also holds a master’s degree in psychology and is a certified counselor in the State of Washington.  In addition to his academic training, Larry has spent many years at sea, including two years as mate or master aboard open-ocean sailing ships.  Larry is a professional photographer and his photographs have appeared in Europe, Asia, Australia and Mexico as well as the United States.

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