Roberson is a native northern California birder best known for his publications,
his knowledge of and devotion to Monterey County, and his extensive State
birding in the 1970s. He began birding on his own when he was 13 years
old after reading about Christmas Bird Counts in Reader's Digest,
but did not intersect with the wider birding subculture until he moved
to Berkeley in 1972. He first appears in American Birds in fall
1971 in southern California (under the name "Don Raberson," two Blue-footed
Boobies still at the Salton Sea 6 Nov 1971) and in fall 1972 in northern
California (Virginia's Warbler in Marin County). A protégé
of Van Remsen and Laurie Binford, he actively participated in the birding
group centered around U.C. Berkeley in the mid-1970s, although he went
to college and law school elsewhere in the Bay area. He actively birded
the entire State in the mid-to-late 1970s, especially during "Big Year"
efforts in 1975 and 1977; he published a small book about the latter effort
(when he was second to Guy McCaskie) in 1978 (Birders' California).
His tome on rarities from Alaska to California appeared in 1980 (Rare
Birds of the West Coast).
Roberson moved to Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula in April 1979 and has resided there ever since. He focused heavily on Monterey County birds during the 1980s, and published Monterey Birds, an authoritative status and distributional review, in 1985. [This book eventually went out-of-print, but an entirely new edition appeared in 2002.] He was also a major force in Monterey County's breeding bird atlas project (1988-1992), and was the senior editor of its publication (Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Monterey County, 1993). During his surveys of Monterey County he 'discovered,' arranged access, and popularized birding at privately operated Moonglow Dairy in Moss Landing, and was also one of the earliest birders at the Big Sur R. mouth. He led numerous Monterey Bay boat trips (and continues to do so today) and also sailed aboard several 'platforms-of-opportunity' research cruises farther offshore. He was the voice of the Monterey rare bird alert for many years in the '80s and '90s.
Photo (left or above): 14 Oct 1973 Pt. Diablo MRN ©
served 7 years on the California Bird Records Committee (CBRC) during the
period here under consideration, and was Secretary from 1986-1990. He spearheaded
the CBRC's 'old records review project' when he personally contacted hundreds
of observers, and visited all the State's museums, to obtain details of
early records or photos of old specimens. He also acted as a fill-in Regional
editor for American Birds in one season [later, in the 1990s, he
would serve five years as a landbird Regional editor].
Don organized the Big Day teams that tied Texas in 1983 (an effort extensively covered by the media), and then led the team that beat Texas and set the national record in 1984 (these were both Big Days using an airplane). He participated in many other Big Day efforts during the period, many of which set monthly or county-level records. In fall 1989, just as our period of review concluded, he spent four months at sea in the eastern tropical Pacific as a seabird observer aboard a NOAA tuna-porpoise cruise. This experience, combined with a Chapman research grant to visit east coast museums, led to a series of papers on the i.d. and distribution of tropical seabirds that would be published in the 1990s.
Don became interested in foreign travels in 1975 when he was a part of Van Remsen's pick-up tour of Colombia. His travels became more frequent in the 1980s and after the close of our period of review. He will shortly reach two world birding goals: seeing a member of every bird family, and observing half the birds in the world (~5000). He has continued to be an active birder in Monterey County, and both the county and his world travels are featured on his web site. He has continued to chase vagrants for his State list, and now has the second highest California list (after Guy McCaskie).
Photo (right): 29 May 1978 Mesquite Springs, Death Valley INY © Brad Schram
Official Bird Name: American Woodcock
Ticky Token: Yes
Selected publications 1975-1989:
More recent mug shot (right) at a PhotoShop class ~2002
All photos © to photographers identified on this page; all rights
All text © Don Roberson; all rights reserved.
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