Text by Don Roberson

These highlights chronicle the second half of the year 2001. They were created incrementally and reposted as new photos were available so the year runs generally "backwards" on this page. Highlights from January through June 2001 are now on a second page. The abbreviation "MTY" means "Monterey County" in the text below. Photos on this page are copyrighted by the photographers to whom they are attributed, and may not be reproduced in any form (including other web sites) without the express consent of the photographer. You can check on current rarities on the BirdBox at 831-626-6605, sponsored by the Monterey Peninsula Audubon Society.

The final bird of local interest reported in 2001 was this Rock Wren (right; © 2001 Don Roberson) found on 31 December along the rocky shoreline of Pebble Beach, just south of Pt. Joe, by Bob Tintle. There are only a tiny handful of records for this interior species on the Monterey Peninsula. It is possible this is the same Rock Wren seen nearby almost two months earlier (4 Nov by Rick Fournier).

The Monterey Peninsula Christmas Bird Count on 29 December was held under rainy skies. Some 171 species were found on a cold, drippy day (not including a Redhead just a quarter-mile outside the count circle on Ft. Ord). Steve Rovell led the countdown where we heard about such rarities as Virginia's and Lucy's Warblers in Caledonia Park, Pacific Grove; two N. Rough-winged Swallows in Carmel Valley (very rare in winter); a half-dozen Barn Swallows in the vanguard of a flood of winter sightings early in 2002; two male Harlequin Ducks off Del Monte Beach; and one each Summer Tanager, Hooded Oriole, and Chipping Sparrow in Monterey. A juv. male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Caledonia Park, seen both before and after the count, slipped by unobserved on count day. The Monterey Bay Christmas Bird Count over that weekend added a Laysan Albatross and Manx Shearwater to a December of interest. The Big Sur Christmas Bird Count on 19 December had fine weather but not much to brag about beyond a very tantalizing glimpse of a Pileated Woodpecker...

November fizzled in comparison with the early fall, and even an attempted 24 hour pelagic trip to the Davidson Seamount was aborted by midnight 4 November due to heavy seas. But that very day Bernardo Alps, driving up the coast for the trip, located this Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (left; © 2001 Bernardo Alps) sitting on a fenceline along Hwy 1 just south of Pt. Sur. It was the only sighting of this fine rarity all fall. The only other November birds of real note were an American Tree Sparrow banded by BSOL on the 17th (Sarah Hamilton), and a McCown's Longspur east of Gonzales on the 18th (Bob Tintle, Blake Matheson; possibly the same bird here last fall that represented the first MTY record?).

Although the 24 hour boat trip did not materialize, highlights of regular daily trips on Monterey Bay this autumn included a Streaked Shearwater on 6 October about 12 mi west of Pt. Pinos (Todd McGrath, Shearwater Journeys) and a Greater Shearwater just into the SCZ side of Monterey Bay on 8 October (Jim Danzenbaker +).

[And while the late fall was rather slow here in Monterey, it was local birder Rob Fowler who was among a pick-up team doing a San Joaquin County big day that stumbled upon the Demoiselle Crane out in the Central Valley, a sighting that led a flood of observers to that little-worked spot and engendered much discussion over the controversial crane. It seems unlikely that the crane was a true vagrant from central Asia, but it was nevertheless a lovely bird to observe among the thousands of Sandhills present.]

The mid-October excitement was created by Alex Cruz who found an interesting tanager at Laguna Grande Park in Seaside on 14 October. He made field sketches that helped him identify the bird as a male Scarlet TanagerPiranga olivacea in a basic plumage when he returned home, and then turned the field sketches into some great watercolors (one is at right; © 2001 Alexander Cruz, Jr., reposted here with permission). He called the BirdBox that evening and many locals were present the next morning, including Bill Hill who obtained this photo (above; © 2001 Bill Hill; more on his website) of the bird as it ate a blackberry. The tanager fed on bees, wasps, and berries over the next few days, and was seen daily (if erratically) through 17 October. This was just the second MTY record, and the date span closely mirrored the previous bird (also a male) at the Carmel R. mouth 11-17 Oct 1987.

After a brief lull at the turn of the month, early October picked up with a plethora of eastern vagrants, including multiple Chestnut-sided, Magnolia & Prairie warblers and Baltimore Orioles (including 3 together in Pacific Grove 8 Oct). The rarest species in the set was this Philadelphia Vireo banded by Big Sur Ornithology Lab (left; photo © D. Roberson) that was later refound the same day (6 Oct) in a mixed feeding flock. [A mid-September report of this species in Carmel went undocumented and thus will not be included in the county database unless a description is received. Any details are still welcome; email them here]. There were also a few scattered Tropical Kingbirds, and the arrival of numerous wintering species. Two interesting wigeon that arrived at the Carmel R. mouth 9 Oct and remained to about month's end engendered much comment; see my full page about these hatch-year Eurasian Wigeon.

In late September two birds of great local interest were discovered. On 23 Sep 2001, Rob Fowler found this young Phainopepla (below; photo © D. Roberson) near the corner of Acropolis & Shell in Pacific Grove where it stayed the entire day, flycatching from the top of a scrubby live oak . It represents the first record for the entire Monterey Peninsula.
Two days later, among a wave of new arrivals following a stormy lightening-accented night, Don Roberson found an imm. Calliope Hummingbird at Pt. Pinos. His sketch (below in colored pencil) accompanies a full written description.

This is the first Calliope ever found in fall migration (two prior reports of adult males in Oct & Nov 1975 are inadequately documented; adults males should be well south of the U.S. by those dates). There are 7 prior Pacific Grove records, all during the last two weeks of April in spring migration.
Mid-September saw a number of good birds banded or seen at the Big Sur R. mouth, including this Worm-eating Warbler banded 19 Sep and recaptured 20 Sep by Big Sur Ornithology Lab (digital photo right by Jason Scott, courtesy Ventana Wilderness Society). Other more typical vagrants banded there in September included American Redstart and Northern Waterthrush, and Chestnut-sided Warbler and Red-eyed Vireo were seen nearby. On 22 September, Rita Carratello & Don Roberson saw a Northern Goshawk -- only the 3rd MTY record -- fly across the main trail near the river mouth itself.

It seems to be a banner fall for Tennessee Warblers with a half-dozen reported by mid-month from five sites, including a bird bath in Pacific Grove that also hosted a Chestnut-sided Warbler a couple days later (Rita Carratello).

 Rita Carratello & Don Roberson discovered two Buff-breasted Sandpipers while birding a permit-only site in the lower Salinas Valley on 9 September. They were able to reach Bill Hill and John Sorensen by phone to come and document the record: a Bill Hill photo is above; one of the John Sorensen shots (left) shows unusual territorial defense maneuvers. What could provoke such behaviors in juvenal birds during migration? Very unusual and interesting. Carleton Eyster found another Buff-breasted Sandpiper on public property at the pond at Salinas R. mouth NWR on 13 September. Yet a 4th was near Salinas at least 19-23 Sep (B. H. Gerow). These are the first "Buffies" in MTY since 1993.
The fall vagrant passerine season began, as is often typical, with a couple Northern Waterthrushes at Carmel & Big Sur R. mouths but then the Big Sur Ornithology Lab raised the stakes dramatically by capturing this young Painted Bunting on 5 September (right; photo by Jason Scott). Could we possibly see another fall like last fall when four were near Big Sur, including three banded by BSOL? Photos of those previous three banded birds are on the Year 2000 Highlights page. Also in early September, Jason had Virginia's Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, and American Redstart in the chickadee flocks he was studying along the Big Sur River, and others had Prairie Warbler and Rose-breasted Grosbeak there.
Shorebirding was reasonably good in August with several juvenal Ruff, including this one (right in a great shot by John Sorensen) at the Carmel R. mouth 22-23 August. When one considers the Red-necked Stint from July (see below) and the Common Greenshanks up in Humboldt County in early September, one might wonder if this will prove to be a great shorebird year.

For the second year in a row American White Pelicans made summer news. Large numbers were being seen from the Salinas R. mouth (e.g., 124 on 11 Aug) to the Pajaro R. mouth (~140 in flight overhead on 25 Aug). A group of 42 peeled off from that flock and headed south; Rita Carratello & Don Roberson followed them to Jetty Rd. on Moss Landing harbor (photo below © D. Roberson) where they joined diving Brown Pelican to feed in mass formation on running bait fish. We know of no previous record of White Pelicans actually feeding in Moss Landing harbor.

The most exciting discovery of the summer was by Doug George who came upon this Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis (left in an absolutely stunning photo by John Sorensen). Doug is the primary field researcher on Snowy Plovers around Moss Landing and discovered the bird while doing plover work. Longtime residents may recall that it was Snowy Plover researchers, including George, who discovered Wilson's Plover in Moss Landing back in September 1992 (and that find led to Clay Kempf's discovery of a Mongolian Plover in the same Snowy flock for a double treat that autumn). Unfortunately for birders the stint was in an extremely sensitive closed area during the peak of Snowy Plover hatching & fledging, and public access was impossible. It was present only two days (13-14 July 2001) but Doug did arrange for it to be documented, including some wonderful photographs by Sorensen. This is the first Monterey County record of Red-necked Stint. To date, all acceptable records in California have been of alternate-plumaged individuals. Two have been in spring (early May & mid-June) and the remaining half-dozen or so have been adults in July during the early part of fall migration.

In years past there have been claims of breeding plumaged Red-necked Stints that have likely been Sanderlings in breeding (=alternate) plumage. Unless one lives on the coast and go shorebirding in July, one may be unfamiliar with this plumage of Sanderling. One really cool thing you can notice on John Sorensen's photo of the Red-necked Stint is the presence of a hind toe (the short toe pointing backwards). Sanderling is the only shorebird to lack this toe, presumably as an adaptation to running swiftly on beaches. This point is not usually discussed in wader literature but is mentioned by Dennis Paulson in his wonderful 1993 book Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest. The classic identification papers on stints remain Jonsson & Grant (1984) and Veit & Jonsson (1987).

Literature cited:
Jonsson, L., and P. J. Grant. 1984. Identification of stints and peeps. British Birds 77: 293-315

Veit, R., and L. Jonsson. 1987. Field identification of smaller sandpipers within the genus Calidris. Amer. Birds 41: 212-236







Page initiated 28 Feb 2001, last updated 31 Dec 2001