all photos © Don Roberson
The first weekend of May was not a good weekend for snakes. It was, instead, a good weekend for birds. To explain:
  • John Luther told a story at the countdown about how he and Steve Rovell watched an American Robin play with and then consume a Ring-necked Snake Diadophis punctatus in Robinson Canyon. This is a small, secretive snake rarely seen in the open, but the robin had it at mid-day. The robin kept flipping the little snake up in the air rather than eating it and perhaps this was because of the foul-smelling secretion the snake can make to deter predators....
  • On the final morning of the count period, Rita Carratello & Don Roberson watched this young Red-tailed Hawk (right) fly up to a telephone pole near Moss Landing with the largest Common Garter-Snake Thamnophis sirtalis either of them had ever seen. While trying to tear into the prey, the young hawk managed to drop it and it fell to earth while the hawk was looking up. Thereafter the hawk kept staring at the perch as if to say: "Where'd it go? It was just here a minute ago...."
Apologies to John Sullivan [great herp website] for the sad news about snakes. As to birds, we found 248 species of them during our "America's Birdiest County" event.....
The 2004 fund-raising event got excellent local coverage in the media: two front-page stories in the "Local" section of Monterey County Herald, and a nice article in the Carmel Pinecone. Features on the "America's Birdiest County" competition appeared on KSBW, channel 6, on the 6 & 11 o'clock news on both Friday and Saturday nights, and by 11 o'clock on Saturday they had the story of our potential victory.

Here are some more scenes from the countdown event:

Some of the crowd outdoors in front of the Wild Bird Center store, awaiting dinner.... Others were inside checking out the silent auction.
Some of the crowd includes (from left): David Vander Pluym (in back left), Rick Fournier (in green cap, back to camera), Ryan Terrill (in rear; red t-shirt), and Brian Weed (green sweater; smiling after a good day....).
More birdathoners, including John Luther (plaid shirt to left), Scott Terrill (white t-shirt with birds in center), Steve Bailey (in back, immediately right of Terrill), and Steve Rovell (back to camera, right side).
South county specialists Helen & Jim Banks, so critical to any Big Day success, arrive for the party.
John Sorensen and Bill Hill appear to be the first in line....
Three smiling observers, left to right: Roger Wolfe, Mark Paxton, R.J. Adams. All found important species for the birdathon.
Out-of-town ringer Scott Terrill (left) chats with Big Sur Ornithology Lab coordinator Sarah Stock (right); Roger Wolfe is in back (green shirt).

And as we wind down, some trivia. In 2003, we recorded 248 species. This year (2004) we also found 248 species. But in each year there were 18 birds missed the other year. They are:

Found in 2003, missed in 2004:
  • Black-vented Shearwater
  • Eurasian Wigeon
  • Greater Scaup
  • Harlequin Duck
  • Black Scoter
  • Pacific Golden-Plover
  • Solitary Sandpiper
  • Mew Gull
  • Common Tern
  • Least Tern
  • Black Skimmer
  • Marbled Murrelet
  • Black Swift
  • Lewis's Woodpecker
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Gray Flycatcher
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Palm Warbler
Found in 2004, missed in 2003
  • Greater White-fronted Goose
  • Ross's Goose
  • Canvasback
  • Lesser Scaup
  • White-winged Scoter
  • Yellow-billed Loon
  • White-faced Ibis
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Wilson's Phalarope
  • Laughing Gull
  • Black-legged Kittiwake
  • Black Tern
  • Flammulated Owl
  • Costa's Hummingbird
  • Calliope Hummingbird
  • Rufous Hummingbird
  • Black-chinned Sparrow
  • Fox Sparrow
And finally,
and thanks to Jill Himonas (Wild Bird Center) for organizing the entire event not to mention providing some of the birder prizes; the rest of the staff at Wild Bird Center for making the event go forward, and with setup and tear-down; Kristina Westphal of Whole Foods for the wonderful meal; Kelly Sorenson of Ventana Wilderness Society for attending the organizational meetings, providing direction, and pouring wine at the event; Sheila Foster of VWS for publicity; Sarah Stock & Jessica Griffiths of BSOL for arranging most of the auction items and in numerous other organizational matters; Rita Carratello for running "birdathon central" and keeping in contact with virtually all the teams; Carole Rose for the fine artwork; and to all the participants who made this year's event a ringing success.


Page created 30 Apr-3 May 2004