shown here holding a Crested Auklet in Alaska (photo © David W.
Nelson) was an amazing guy. He was a top birder, a incomparable wit, a
good friend, a connoisseur of the weird and unusual, and a world
traveler. We treasure his last postcard to us from Madagascar, telling
of yet another search for the Red Owl (inset).
Luke was tragically killed in an auto accident in Uganda in June 2009. The web page and the event described is in his honor.
Luke was also a brilliant lawyer and founder of the Center for Race, Poverty, and the Environment,
an organization that strives for environmental justice by, among other
things, taking legal action against polluters. His organization has
suffered a severe loss with his death.
Luke's life and contributions, a group of his closest birding friends
organized a statewide birding event over the weekend of 26-27
September. The idea was to send birders to all corners of the State and
try to find as many species as possible that weekend. It was organized
county by county. Those wishing to pledge support can do so at this web site. This sort of Statewide 'birdathon' has not been done before.
Luke would have gotten a kick out of it; he was a fan of Big Days (left; Luke on a Kings County big day in 1999).
He may even have smiled at this shot of a Bullfrog watching me chase down a Canyon Wren for the count.
was a bullfrog ... was a good friend of mine. Never understood a single
thing he said, but I helped him drink his wine. And he always had some
mighty fine wine. "
Or in Luke's case, root beer.
follows is the story of the Luke Cole Memorial effort in Monterey
County. We had great weather over the weekend and a clear night on
Saturday night that brought a change-over in migrants the next day. We
were fortunate to have four different pelagic trips over the weekend
(one each day from Monterey Seabirds and from Shearwater Journeys), so
we got excellent seabird coverage, and the dates coincided with the Monterey Bay Bird Festival.
to organizer Clay Kempf and the field trip leaders (Tim Amaral, Kumaran
Arul, Rita Carratello, Bill Hill, Yohn Gideon, Bob & Bernadette
Ramer), we were able to obtain their observations within the county
over the weekend, including an owling trip (Steve Rovell). Birders who
signed up to do portions of the county were R.J. Adams, Robert Horn,
Scott & Linda Terrill, Chris Tenney, Mike Tyner, Brian Weed, and
Don Roberson. We also benefited from the independent weekend birding
efforts of Chuck Bancroft, Pat & Phil Gordon, Chris Hartzell, Oscar
Johnson, Brian Sullivan, Kent Van Vuren, and those who contributed
sightings to eBird.
The total for Monterey County over the Luke Cole Weekend was 232 species.
understand that the effort went well throughout California, with 48 of
58 counties participating, and with a Statewide group total will be
approximately 380. The Statewide organizers were Steve Glover, Mark
Eaton, Alan Hopkins, and Brent Plater; many thanks for their efforts.
the past 7 years, Monterey Audubon has organized a spring birdathon to
support various causes, and we chose the weekend closest to the
April/May divide as the “best” date for such a countywide effort. Results
have ranged from 230 to 252 species. I find it remarkable that we got
232 species during a fall weekend. The Luke Cole Event was not nearly
as highly organized as the spring efforts, and depended much more on a
good migration day and many more pelagics than we do in spring, but it
did have the advantage of being a two-day effort, rather than one-day
events in the spring. Still, 232 species is impressive.
We did well in a variety categories. Raptors, for example, were strong: best was a Broad-winged Hawk
at Big Sur R. mouth on Sunday (S&L Terrill) but also impressive
were at least 4 Osprey, 4 Peregrine (above, one scatters gulls at the
Salinas River mouth on 26 Sep), 3 Merlin, 2 Prairie Falcon, 2 Golden
Eagle, and a Bald Eagle. Mike Tyner, who works for Ventana Wildlife
Society, got to see two wild-fledged California Condor.
It was a good weekend for offshore seabirds. Highlights included Manx
Shearwater, numbers of Black-vented Shearwater, a Wilson’s
Storm-Petrel, South Polar Skuas and Sabine’s Gulls, plus jaegers (Pomarine Jaeger, right, 27 Sep © Tom Grey) and Xantus’s Murrelet (reports from Roger Wolfe, Debi Shearwater, the Terrills et al.).
a couple Tufted Puffin and a Flesh-footed Shearwater were at the SCZ
side of Monterey Bay [but they help in the Santa Cruz County effort ! ]
||Vagrant landbirds. Big Sur R. mouth had vagrant Black-and-white Warbler (left), Prairie Warbler (right), and Clay-colored Sparrow on Sunday (photos © Scott & Linda Terrill); another Black-and-white Warbler was near Anderson Canyon (M. Tyner). Carmel R. mouth had two Northern Waterthrush (R. Carratello, B. Hill). A feeder in Carmel Highlands had a lingering White-winged Dove (C. Hartzell) and a birdbath in Pacific Grove attracted a male American Redstart (R. Carratello).
Western landbird migrants.
We did very well in this category. Particularly unexpected were
Red-breasted Sapsucker (M. Tyner) and Vesper Sparrow (D. Roberson) at
Big Sur R. mouth; another early Vesper Sparrow was near Parkfield on
Sunday (C. Tenney). There were single Black-chinned Hummingbirds near
Salinas (D. Roberson) and in Pacific Grove (O. Johnson), and a
female-type Purple Martin near Salinas (B. Sullivan). More expected but
scarce species included Vaux’s Swift (K. Van Vuren) and a late Cliff
Swallow near Salinas (B. Sullivan, 1-2 migrant Western Kingbird (B.
Sullivan, the Terrills), an Ash-throated Flycatcher (D. Roberson at
Wagon Caves), Bank Swallow and Yellow-headed Blackbird (K. Arul at
Salinas R. mouth), Cassin’s Vireo on south side Pajaro River (the
Gordons), Hermit Warbler and Lawrence’s Goldfinch in Pacific Grove (O.
Johnson), Western Tanagers near Parkfield (C. Tenney) and at Moonglow
(B & B Ramer); there was also a Hooded Oriole there (D. Weidemann).
A young male Lazuli Bunting (left) was at a Pacific Grove feeder (R. Carratello, ph D. Roberson).
Waterfowl and waders. A flock of 43 Gr. White-fronted Geese flew over a site near Salinas (O. Johnson), which also hosted at least 52 (!) Pectoral Sandpiper, 5 Baird’s Sandpiper, a Solitary Sandpiper, and a Pacific Golden-Plover
(ad adult in molt; right © D. Roberson). There were Brant at Big
Sur & Salinas R. mouths. Unexpected Wood Ducks were over Monterey
harbor (D. Shearwater) and near Bradley (C. Tenney). The summering
Bufflehead at Jetty Road remained (m.ob.). R.J. Adams had a flock of 4
Greater Scaup on L. San Antonio; an imm. male was photographed at Pt.
Lobos (Chuck Bancroft). A White-faced Ibis was seen from the Elkhorn
Slough Safari pontoon boat (m.ob.). A major surprise inland was a Brown
Pelican among the many Am. White Pelicans on L. San Antonio (R.J.
A summering Red-throated Loon was still at Moss Landing, but the
weekend saw arriving loons of all three regular species. Gulls were
also arriving, with a small smattering of Glaucous-winged, an adult
Herring offshore (R. Wolfe), and single Mews at Big Sur R. mouth &
Pt. Pinos (D. Roberson). The weekend also saw the first arriving
Ruby-crowned Kinglets, American Pipits, Yellow-rumped Warblers,
Lincoln’s & Golden-crowned Sparrows, and one Fox Sparrow (R.
Carratello at Carmel R. mouth).
Finally, local birders made efforts to search out and locate –
sometimes at the cost of long journeys in 101 degree weather in south
county — for such scarce residents as Burrowing Owl, Phainopepla, Rock
& Canyon Wren, and Rufous-crowned & Sage Sparrow. On the Big
Sur coast, an American Dipper was rounded up (M. Tyner). Red Crossbill
bred in Pebble Beach this summer, and one was recorded on the count (B.
Sullivan). A nice combination of all these categories of birds accounts
for a successful event.
course, we always have unexpected misses. Those in that category were
Wandering Tattler, Lesser Yellowlegs, White-throated Swift, and
Nashville Warbler (the swift is resident; the rest are regular migrants
in small numbers). The full list for Monterey County during 26-27 Sep
|Greater White-fronted Goose
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
South Polar Skua
Great Horned Owl
N. Saw-whet Owl
Black-throated Gray Warbler