AMERICA'S BIRDIEST COUNTY EVENT: 2004
MONTEREY COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
Logo (above) for the 2004 event by Carole Rose; silk-screened art will grace ABC/BAT t-shirts available by 1 June.
and the
11th ANNUAL BSOL BIRDATHON
to benefit Big Sur Ornithology Lab

sponsored by
Monterey Peninsula Audubon Society
Ventana Wilderness Society
and the Wild Bird Center of Monterey

A spectacular sunny day welcomed birders during our birdathon period from noon on 30 April to noon on 2 May. This was in happy contrast to last year's rainstorm [see the story of our winning entry in 2003]. Individual birdwatchers were limited to a consecutive 24-hour period within the 48-hour period; most surveyed during a standard time from 4pm on Friday, 30 April to 4pm on Saturday, 1 May. The gala countdown was at 6pm on 1 May at the Wild Bird Center .
Teams visited every corner of Monterey County. One intrepid observer (Tim Amaral) hiked to the top of Junipero Serra Peak (above in the distance), the highest elevation in the county [5862']. Tim tallied Flammulated Owl, five Black-chinned Sparrows and many other goodies. Blake Matheson (right) overcame downed trees on the trail beyond Cone Peak to find Hermit & Nashville Warblers and Dusky Flycatcher (but, alas, no Mountain Chickadee).

Once again, Rita Carratello (left; confirming the i.d. of our only Ross's Goose) acted as "birdathon central." She was in touch with most groups by cell phone during the final push Saturday afternoon, moving troops to spots that might yield bird species that were still missing.

Kristina Westphal of Whole Foods prepared a scrumptious meal for birdathoners (lined up for chow; below) while Heller Estate donated fine Cabernet.

CLICK HERE for more photos
from the Count-down Event

Over 90 people attended the countdown dinner, raffle, and silent auction event. Perhaps half had participated as birders and the other half were supporting the Monterey Peninsula Audubon Society, and a grant to BSOL that will exceed the proceeds, with their participation fees. The preliminary count shows we raised over $5600 !

Territory leaders/participants (partial list at right). The numbers are linked to the territories shown on the map. Boundaries are approximate; several key spots were covered by multiple teams at different times & tides, including all major coastal river mouths.
The general structure of this year's effort is shown on the map above. We had 16 territories covered by over 40 observers, not counting a variety of bird feeders watched throughout the county. Public walks were offered on Saturday morning in two of the territories. In addition, Elkhorn Slough Safari pontoon boat trips were operating, as was Monterey Bay Whale Watch trips. Alas, due to an odd rule apparently aimed at us, birds seen from oceanic boat trips are not countable. There was one species [Pomarine Jaeger] seen only from the whale-watching boat trip; it is on the list below but was not counted. To offset this silly rule, numerous observers spent hours sea-watching from land (e.g., Pt. Pinos, Pt. Joe, Lopez Pt., Garrapata State Park) during the event.
1: Rick Fournier; Caroline Rodgers, Mark Paxton, Inga & Dan LaBeaune, Judy Donaldson, Anne Spence, Rebecca Davis, Nathalie Ferare, Bonnie Bedford-White
2: R.J. Adams; also led a public walk
3: Brian Weed; Jan Scott, Bob & Eileen DeWeese, Jill & Jim Himonas
4: Steve Rovell; John Luther, Scott & Linda Terrill, Ryan Terrill, Matt Brady, David VanderPluym
5: Rob Fowler; Jonathan Carpenter, Jennifer Curtis, Carole Rose, Judy West
6: Sarah Stock, Jessica Griffiths; BSOL interns and public walk on Sat. morning
7: Steve Bailey
8: Don Roberson; Blake Matheson
9: Jim & Helen Banks; Kellie Morgantini
10: Todd Love
11: Tim Amaral
12: Craig Hohenberger; Bill Hill
13: John Sorensen; Jerry Paul
14: Bruce Gerow; Steve Gerow
15: Roger Wolfe
16: Rita Carratello, Bob Tintle; separate partial days in P.G. & Pebble Beach. Also observers at bird feeders around the county, and Yohn Gideon on Elkhorn Slough Safari boat.
RESULTS [as of 3 May]

We located 248 species during the count period, which ties last year's total that won Monterey County the title of "America's Birdiest County."
Final results from other counties across the continent are not yet available but our excellent total should place us in a strong position to retain our crown.

Highlights of our event follow, then a complete list at the bottom of the page. Many thanks to all participants!

UPDATE  [as of 16 May]
As Don McLean once sang [in American Pie]:
And while the king was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown;
The courtroom was adjurned;
No verdict was returned.....
Word comes that San Diego County, taking full advantage of the new 48-hour period and different groups covering the whole county over two full days, reached 267 this year. So we will not retain the crown. Thus
Text © Don Roberson
All photos were taken during the Birdathon period or are of specific birds actually seen during the count
All photos © Don Roberson unless otherwise indicated
Two scarce geese were photographed:
  • (far left) Brant at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach (the only one seen during the event); and
  • (near left) Ross's Goose present at Locke-Paddon pond, Marina, since March when discovered by R.J. Adams. This was his territory so he found it for the count.
Also a Greater White-fronted was at Carmel R. mouth 1 May (Linda & Scott Terrill).
We found all the nesting waterfowl. Mallard (female above with brood; Moonglow Dairy) is, of course, very common but others like Wood Duck & Common Merganser are scarce. There were still a number of Blue-winged Teal lingering in the Elkhorn Slough watershed. We missed some wintering ducks such as Long-tailed & Harlequin that had been present through mid-April. Among late waterfowl still present were 3 Green-winged Teal on Moro Cojo (Rick Fournier), Canvasback & Ring-necked Duck near San Lucas (Jim & Helen Banks), Lesser Scaup at Pajaro R. mouth (Caroline Rodgers, Judy Donaldson, Roger Wolfe), White-winged Scoter at Salinas R. mouth (4 flying by; R. Wolfe), 2 Bufflehead at Pajaro R. mouth (R. Wolfe), and a fem. Common Goldeneye off Sand City (Don Roberson).
The "best stake-out" of the birdathon was this vagrant Yellow-billed Loon (right) that has been present on Elkhorn Slough since 15 April [photo © Bill Hill; see the full frame photo on Bill's web site].
Because of the "no birds count from boats at sea" rule, some observers spent hours sea-watching on 30 Apr and/or 1 May. These included Steve Bailey, Matt Brady, John Luther, Steve Rovell, Ryan Terrill, Scott & Linda Terrill, David Vander Pluym, and Don Roberson. Among them they saw:
  • Black-footed Albatross both days from Pt. Pinos & Pt. Joe
  • N. Fulmar from Pt. Pinos (Roberson) and from Garrapata SP (Luther)
  • Pink-footed Shearwater from Pt. Pinos (Scott & Linda Terrill)
  • Flesh-footed Shearwater from Pt. Pinos 1 May (Matt Brady), an excellent find from shore!
  • Red Phalaropes from Pt. Pinos both days
  • Cassin's & Rhinoceros Auklets from Pt. Pinos or Pt. Joe both days (Brady, R. Terrill, Vander Pluym; Roberson) 
Other scarce, late, or hard-to-find waterbirds, raptors, and gulls/terns included:
  • Horned Grebe in Elkhorn Slough (1 only; Rick Fournier)
  • Red-necked Grebe scoped from Monterey Beach Hotel (1 only; Rob Fowler)
  • over 30 Am. White Pelicans around Elkhorn Slough; another 30 at Lake San Antonio
  • American Bittern: 3 likely breeders on McCluskey Slough (R. Fournier, C. Rodgers)
  • a vagrant American Bittern near Big Sur R. mouth (Sarah Stock)
  • several Osprey, a very unpredictable migrant
  • Bald Eagle at Lake San Antonio (Jim & Helen Banks)
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk in Rip Van Winkle Park, P.G., where it has nested (Rita Carratello)
  • other Sharpies; lone Cooper's at Topo Ranch (Kellie Morgantini) & Junipero Serra (T. Amaral)
  • the only Golden Eagles were SE of Salinas (John Sorensen, Jerry Paul)
  • 3 different Merlins from Big Sur coast (Steve Bailey; Sarah Stock) to Pt. Pinos (Rovell team)
  • Peregrine over upper Elkhorn Slough (Mark Paxton) & Moonglow (R. Carratello)
  • Prairie Falcon in the eastern "hook" of MTY, right near San Benito Co. (J&H Banks)
  • Sora & Virginia Rail in Elkhorn Slough watershed (C. Rodgers, R. Fournier +)
  • another Virginia Rail on territory near San Lucas (J& H Banks)
  • a wayward Sora near Pt. Sur (Sarah Stock & Jessica Griffiths)
  • Com. Moorhens at Crespi Pond (R. Carratello, M. Brady, D. Vander Pluym) & Salinas (Gerows)
  • two more Moorhen on Mission Pond, Ft. Hunter-Liggett (Matheson, Roberson)
  • late Thayer's Gull at Salinas R. mouth (Roger Wolfe)
  • a sickly Black-legged Kittiwake at Pajaro R. mouth (R. Wolfe)
  • early Elegant Terns from Garrapata SP (Luther, Rovell) & Pajaro R. mouth (Caroline Rodgers +)
  • alternate-plumaged Black Tern seen from Elkhorn Slough Safari pontoon boat (Yohn Gideon).
A query to the ABC rule-makers revealed that birds seen by inland boaters are "countable" although 
those from offshore boats are not. So Black Tern is properly added to the count!
An amazing 24 White-faced Ibis were at 3 locations on 1 May. This adult (left) was near Soledad (B. Matheson, D. Roberson). Sixteen were at Castroville ponds (R. Fournier) and 7 more flew over Zmudowski (R. Fournier, C. Rodgers +).
Many shorebirds, like this Greater Yellowlegs at Salinas River mouth (left), were showing fine alternate plumage. Highlights among the waders included:
  • Lesser Yellowlegs at Pajaro R. mouth (C. Rodgers, J. Donaldson) and four more near Soledad (B. Matheson, D. Roberson)
  • Wandering Tattler at Pt. Joe (D. Roberson); none wintered this year
  • a Surfbird at Pt. Pinos at the very last moment possible on Saturday (Linda Terrill)
  • up to 18 Red Knot around Moss Landing (R. Fournier and team)
  • Common Snipe in Moro Cojo watershed (3 birds; R. Fournier)
  • both Wilson's & Red-necked Phalaropes in Moro Cojo Slough (R. Fournier)
The "best bird" found on the court was this first-winter Laughing Gull (right; beyond the California Gulls) at Marina dump 30 Apr (D. Roberson). It was the rarest species discovered; the 12th MTY record [the Yellow-billed Loon was the 31st MTY record]..
Among the isolated colonies of Purple Martin in Monterey Co. were a group of 40-50 north of Cone Peak; this dive-bombing female (left; © Blake Matheson) was among them. Birdathon observers also found all our regular owls, including rare Flammulated (Tim Amaral on Junipero Serra Peak), Burrowing (the Banks in Wildhorse Cyn), and Long-eared (Matt Brady, Ryan Terrill, Dave Vander Pluym in Robinson Canyon).
Late lingering landbirds are one key to a good count. This year these included:
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Carmel R. mouth (Scott & Linda Terrill)
  • more RCKI at Jacks Peak (R.J. Adams) & Cone Peak (D. Roberson)
  • Hermit Thrush at Big Sur R. mouth (BSOL team) & on Junipero Serra (T. Amaral)
  • American Pipit at Salinas ponds (Bruce & Steve Gerow)
Unexpected migrant treats were:
  • a female Calliope Hummingbird in Garrapata SP (Steve Rovell, John Luther)
  • another fem. Calliope along Tassajara Rd. (M. Brady, R. Terrill)
  • male Rufous Hummers at Garrapata (Rovell, Luther) & Moss Landing (R. Fournier)
Rare or elusive breeders are yet another important component. Among them this year were:
  • Greater Roadrunner in eastern MTY (J. Sorensen, J&H Banks)
  • Lesser Nighthawk on San Lorenzo River (the Banks) and in Cholame Valley, 2.5 hour drive from Monterey (Todd Love)
  • Costa's Hummingbird along Nacimiento River (D. Roberson, B. Matheson) and near Arroyo Seco (Craig Hohenberger, Bill Hill)
  • Dusky Flycatcher beyond Cone Peak (D. Roberson, B. Matheson) & on Junipero Serra (Tim Amaral)
  • Say's Phoebe in Wildhorse Cyn (J&H Banks) and in Cholame Valley (Todd Love)
  • Bank Swallows at the only known colony, east of King City (J&H Banks)
  • Canyon Wren in Big Creek Reserve (Steve Bailey)
  • Am. Dippers at Big Creek (S. Bailey) & along Big Sur River (S. Stock, J. Griffiths)
  • Black-chinned Sparrows at Lions Peak (S. Bailey) & Junipero Serra (T. Amaral)
In spring birdathons in east Texas, they gloat about 30+ warbler species when conditions are right. Cameron County, Texas, had such a day this year during their ABC event. Here, we are successful if we find a dozen species of warblers and we did this year. Some nest here, like Black-throated Gray (left; Cone Peak © Blake Matheson), but we hope for rare migrants, like Hermit (right; Cone Peak © D. Roberson). The best warbler was a Black-and-white in Carmel Valley present for 3 weeks (Rod & Peggy McMahan).
A key to a successful spring Big Day is finding all, or nearly all, of the breeding birds present. A special effort must be made for each rare or local species. In Monterey County this includes Blue Grosbeak (left). The total county population is just a half-dozen pairs (sometimes less) and they don't arrive until the 3rd or 4th week of April. This male was discovered by Jim & Helen Banks on 20 April during scouting, and they dutifully refound him for the count. By 1 May (when this photo was taken) he had been joined by a female and the two were searching for nest sites.
Rick Fournier had been watching Yellow-headed Blackbirds at Moonglow Dairy since 20 April. Thirty or more were still around for the count, presumably including these six females photo'd a few days earlier. They are foraging the cattle feed; note the numerous flies (and the Red-winged Blackbird).
Late sparrows of note were a singing Fox at Packard Ranch (Inga & Dan LaBeaune), a Lincoln's at Big Sur R. mouth (S. Stock), and two White-throateds still at a feeder in Monterey (Alice Yamanishi).
Finally, it was a good year for goldfinches, with Lawrence's (left) found at the coast at Moss Landing where American (right; a molting male watched over the week) is common. A complete list is below.
Not counted were California Condor this is the zoo-raised introduced population along the Big Sur coast. Six were seen during the birdathon. Pomarine Jaeger was seen from a boat on Monterey Bay (Richard Ternullo). In any other Big Day contest anywhere else in the world, this would count. Only the inexplicably odd ABC rule excludes it here. Also not counted were Red-crowned Parrot & Eur. Collared-Dove. Their populations do not meet CBRC standards for introduced non-natives. Ironically, these species are likely to be counted by our competitors...
1 Gr. White-fronted Goose
2 Ross's Goose
3 Canada Goose
4 Brant
5 Wood Duck
6 Gadwall
7 American Wigeon
8 Mallard
9 Blue-winged Teal
10 Cinnamon Teal
11 Northern Shoveler
12 Northern Pintail
13 Green-winged Teal
14 Canvasback
15 Ring-necked Duck
16 Lesser Scaup
17 Surf Scoter
18 White-winged Scoter
19 Bufflehead
20 Common Goldeneye
21 Common Merganser
22 Red-breasted Merganser
23 Ruddy Duck
24 Wild Turkey
25 Mountain Quail
26 California Quail
27 Red-throated Loon
28 Pacific Loon
29 Common Loon
30 Yellow-billed Loon
31 Pied-billed Grebe
32 Horned Grebe
33 Red-necked Grebe
34 Eared Grebe
35 Western Grebe
36 Clark's Grebe
37 Black-footed Albatross
38 Northern Fulmar
39 Pink-footed Shearwater
40 Flesh-footed Shearwater
41 Sooty Shearwater
42 American White Pelican
43 Brown Pelican
44 Brandt's Cormorant
45 Double-crested Cormorant
46 Pelagic Cormorant
47 American Bittern
48 Great Blue Heron
49 Great Egret
50 Snowy Egret
51 Green Heron
52 Black-crowned Night-Heron
53 White-faced Ibis
54 Turkey Vulture
 Calif. Condor (not counted)
55 Osprey
56 White-tailed Kite
57 Bald Eagle
58 Northern Harrier
59 Sharp-shinned Hawk
60 Cooper's Hawk
61 Red-shouldered Hawk
62 Red-tailed Hawk
63 Golden Eagle
64 American Kestrel
65 Merlin
66 Peregrine Falcon
67 Prairie Falcon
68 Virginia Rail
69 Sora
70 Common Moorhen
71 American Coot
72 Black-bellied Plover
73 Snowy Plover
74 Semipalmated Plover
75 Killdeer
76 Black Oystercatcher
77 Black-necked Stilt
78 American Avocet
79 Greater Yellowlegs
80 Lesser Yellowlegs
81 Willet
82 Wandering Tattler
83 Spotted Sandpiper
84 Whimbrel
85 Long-billed Curlew
86 Marbled Godwit
87 Ruddy Turnstone
88 Black Turnstone
89 Surfbird
90 Red Knot
91 Sanderling
92 Western Sandpiper
93 Least Sandpiper
94 Dunlin
95 Short-billed Dowitcher
96 Long-billed Dowitcher
97 Wilson's Snipe
98 Wilson's Phalarope
99 Red-necked Phalarope
100 Red Phalarope
 Pomarine Jaeger (seen from boat)
101 Laughing Gull
102 Bonaparte's Gull
103 Heermann's Gull
104 Ring-billed Gull
105 California Gull
106 Herring Gull
107 Thayer's Gull
108 Western Gull
109 Glaucous-winged Gull
110 Black-legged Kittiwake
111 Caspian Tern
112 Elegant Tern
113 Forster's Tern
114 Black Tern
115 Common Murre
116 Pigeon Guillemot
117 Cassin's Auklet
118 Rhinoceros Auklet
119 Rock Pigeon
120 Band-tailed Pigeon
 Eur. Collared-Dove (not counted)
 Red-crowned Parrot (not counted)
121 Mourning Dove
122 Greater Roadrunner
123 Barn Owl
124 Flammulated Owl
125 Western Screech-Owl
126 Great Horned Owl
127 Northern Pygmy-Owl
128 Burrowing Owl
129 Spotted Owl
130 Long-eared Owl
131 Northern Saw-whet Owl
132 Lesser Nighthawk
133 Common Poorwill
134 Vaux's Swift
135 White-throated Swift
136 Black-chinned Hummingbird
137 Anna's Hummingbird
138 Costa's Hummingbird
139 Calliope Hummingbird
140 Rufous Hummingbird
141 Allen's Hummingbird
142 Belted Kingfisher
143 Acorn Woodpecker
144 Nuttall's Woodpecker
145 Downy Woodpecker
146 Hairy Woodpecker
147 Northern Flicker
148 Olive-sided Flycatcher
149 Western Wood-Pewee
150 Dusky Flycatcher
151 Pacific-slope Flycatcher
152 Black Phoebe
153 Say's Phoebe
154 Ash-throated Flycatcher
155 Cassin's Kingbird
156 Western Kingbird
157 Loggerhead Shrike
158 Cassin's Vireo
159 Hutton's Vireo
160 Warbling Vireo
161 Steller's Jay
162 Western Scrub-Jay
163 Yellow-billed Magpie
164 American Crow
165 Common Raven
166 Horned Lark
167 Purple Martin
168 Tree Swallow
169 Violet-green Swallow
170 N. Rough-winged Swallow
171 Bank Swallow
172 Cliff Swallow
173 Barn Swallow
174 Chestnut-backed Chickadee
175 Oak Titmouse
176 Bushtit
177 Red-breasted Nuthatch
178 White-breasted Nuthatch
179 Pygmy Nuthatch
180 Brown Creeper
181 Rock Wren
182 Canyon Wren
183 Bewick's Wren
184 House Wren
185 Winter Wren
186 Marsh Wren
187 American Dipper
188 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
189 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
190 Western Bluebird
191 Swainson's Thrush
192 Hermit Thrush
193 American Robin
194 Wrentit
195 Northern Mockingbird
196 California Thrasher
197 European Starling
198 American Pipit
199 Cedar Waxwing
200 Phainopepla
201 Orange-crowned Warbler
202 Nashville Warbler
203 Yellow Warbler
204 Yellow-rumped Warbler
205 Black-throated Gray Warbler
206 Townsend's Warbler
207 Hermit Warbler
208 Black-and-white Warbler
209 MacGillivray's Warbler
210 Common Yellowthroat
211 Wilson's Warbler
212 Yellow-breasted Chat
213 Western Tanager
214 Spotted Towhee
215 California Towhee
216 Rufous-crowned Sparrow
217 Chipping Sparrow
218 Black-chinned Sparrow
219 Lark Sparrow
220 Sage Sparrow
221 Savannah Sparrow
222 Grasshopper Sparrow
223 Fox Sparrow
224 Song Sparrow
225 Lincoln's Sparrow
226 White-throated Sparrow
227 White-crowned Sparrow
228 Golden-crowned Sparrow
229 Dark-eyed Junco
230 Black-headed Grosbeak
231 Blue Grosbeak
232 Lazuli Bunting
233 Red-winged Blackbird
234 Tricolored Blackbird
235 Western Meadowlark
236 Yellow-headed Blackbird
237 Brewer's Blackbird
238 Great-tailed Grackle
239 Brown-headed Cowbird
240 Hooded Oriole
241 Bullock's Oriole
242 Purple Finch
243 House Finch
244 Pine Siskin
245 Lesser Goldfinch
246 Lawrence's Goldfinch
247 American Goldfinch
248 House Sparrow
CLICK HERE for more photos
& stories from the Event,
including shots from the 
count-down dinner

TOP

TO AMERICA'S BIRDIEST COUNTY 2003

TO MTY HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2004

TO MONTEREY COUNTY PAGE

GO TO HOME PAGE

TO BIRD FAMILIES OF THE WORLD

Page created 30 Apr-5 May 2004