WHO WAS WHO  IN CALIFORNIA BIRDING
1965-1989
STEVE BAILEY  [Stephen F. Bailey]

Steve Bailey is an active northern California birder best known for his interest and expertise in seabirds, and his long association with museum collections. Steve grew up in New Jersey, and attended college in Wisconsin, before coming to U.C. Berkeley for graduate school in the early 1970s. He first appears in the California literature in the winter 1971-72 issue of American Birds (Rock Sandpiper at Alameda naval air station). Working at his PhD at Berkeley, he had ready access to the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology; he and fellow grad student Van Remsen arranged weekly evening sessions with local birders, going through field i.d. problems and checking them against skins at MVZ, a year-long invaluable learning experience. In the 1980s, Steve would become the collections manager for birds and mammals at the California Academy of Sciences. In 1992, just after the close of our period of review in 1989, he would become Director of the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, a position he held until his retirement just over a decade later.

Perhaps his foremost interest was seabirds. Steve was often a leader on Shearwater Journeys boat trips during our period of review, and after moving to the Monterey Peninsula, he regularly led Monterey Bay boat trips for Jim Booker's patrons and, later, for Monterey Bay Seabirds. He participated in numerous governmental pelagic surveys in the 1980s and 1990s, many of which took him on large research vessels into very choppy seas. His research interests took him as far distant as the Revillagigedo Islands in the eastern tropical Pacific, and the north coast of New Guinea, where he studied the ecology of pelagic terns. Steve, along with Peter Pyle and David Yee, led a California survey expedition a hundred miles offshore from Marin to Mendocino counties in April 1989, and the results were impressive: 98 Murphy's Petrels (one collected), 113 Cook's Petrels, and 136 Horned Puffins. Steve translated his oceanic expertise into several important published papers (e.g., Bailey et al. 1989, Roberson & Bailey 1991).

Steve served as northern California's Region Editor for seabirds for American Birds for 21 seasons during our period of review (second only to Dick Erickson in the years 1965-1989) but he continued to serve well into the late 1990s, a span of 13 years overall.

Photo (above) aboard a boat on Monterey Bay, 23 Nov 1971 © Van Remsen
 

In his younger days, Steve was an active State birder in the 1970s, including the long distance drives to visit desert oases in migration. The "Bailey box" a meticulously arranged set of i.d. guides and papers in a convenient travel box was a standard feature of those car trips. He would learn much of California well, and in the late 1980s would undertake various avian population research projects in the extreme northeast. He served two terms on the California Bird Records Committee, including the last four years of our period of review (1986-1989). Steve was also an author of several species accounts in the 3 volume Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding (1983), including the western species of Empidonax flycatcher. His i.d. summaries were the best available at the time.

After the close of our period of review, Steve would lead a wide variety of natural history tours for the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. He also began to enjoy world birding, including cruises to the Antarctic with visits of subAntarctic islands, and visited such remote locales as Irian Jaya (western New Guinea) and Madagascar. Upon retirement, he moved to Arcata and began a new career as a naturalist and field guide. Currently (2005) he is working as a naturalist guide in Costa Rica.

Photo (right) has Steve Bailey (left) with Kimball Garrett and Guy McCaskie on the National Park Service dock on Santa Barbara I., 20 Sep 1974 © D. Roberson
 


Official Bird Name: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
 
Significant bird records: many records of local interest, and many vagrants; those of Statewide interest include
  • Murphy's Petrel  29 Apr 1989 offshore SM first CA specimen was among 198 Murphy's documented [co-finder]
  • Cerulean Warbler  27 Oct 1978  Carmel R. mouth MTY 5th CA record
  • Bar-tailed Godwit  11 Sep 1988  Salinas R. mouth MTY 6th CA record
  • Zone-tailed Hawk  22 May 1976  Ft. Piute SBE 7th modern CA rec (12th overall)
  • Franklin's Gull  summer 1989  Lower Klamath NWR, SIS first CA nests
Several other important finds occurred after our period of review, including California's first Dark-rumped Petrel on 3 May 1992 about 69 nmi southwest of Pt. Reyes MRN

Selected publications 1989:

  • Bailey, S.F. 1989a. Least Auklet in California. West. Birds 20:38-40.
  • Bailey, S.F. 1989b. First record of Chuck-will's-widow in California. West. Birds 20:93-95.
  • Bailey, S.F., Pyle, P., and Spear, L.B. 1989. Dark Pterodroma petrels in the North Pacific: Identification, status, and North American occurrence. Am. Birds 43:400-415.
  • McLaren, I. A., Morlan, J., Smith, P.W., Gosselin, M., and Bailey, S.F. 1989. Eurasian Siskins in North America - distinguishing females from green morph Pine Siskins. Amer. Birds 43:1268-1274.

Selected publications after 1989:
  • Bailey, S.F. 1991. Bill characters separating Trumpeter and Tundra Swans: a cautionary note. Birding 23: 89-91.
  • Roberson, D., and Bailey, S.F. 1991. Cookilaria petrels in the eastern Pacific Ocean: Identification and distribution. Am. Birds 45:399-403, 1067-1081.
  • Patten, M.A., Bailey, S.F., and Stallcup, R. 1998. First records of the White-winged Junco for California. West. Birds 29: 41-48.
Recent photo (right) shows Steve holding a MTY record of Mottled Petrel at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, 22 Jan 2004 © D. Roberson

All photos © to photographers identified on this page; all rights reserved.
All text © Don Roberson; all rights reserved.

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