MONTEREY COUNTY HIGHLIGHTS: 2004
These highlights chronicle the year 2004. Created incrementally as new
photos were available, the year runs generally "backwards" on this page.
abbreviation "MTY" means "Monterey County" in the text below. Text by
Don Roberson. 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.
As always, fall migration starts with shorebirds in July, beginning
with adults and then the first juvenals at month's end. Of local interest
were an alternate plumaged Stilt Sandpiper on 24 July (below left;
found by Rick Fournier, photo © John Sorensen) and several
Sandpipers, including this juvenal 31 July (below right;
Don Roberson). Both were at an undisclosed non-public location in the
lower Salinas Valley, but Moonglow Dairy's public-accessible pond #1 hosted
an adult Pectoral Sandpiper in mid-month (Rob Fowler) and an adult Baird's
Sandpiper at month's end (R. Fournier, B.G. Elliott).
was much quieter in July than during the mad-cap days of June. The only
vagrants left were the nesting Northern Parulas (see below) but it appears
that attempt failed by mid-month. A pair of Hooded Warblers (also see below)
remained at Big Sur R. mouth through July but no evidence of nesting was
obtained. It was, however, a great summer for some nesting larids. The
Tern colony at Salinas R. mouth, which has been intermittent over the
past two decades, was phenomenally successful. On 17 July at least 221
flightless fledglings were present among over 450 adults (one of the youngsters
is shown at right with its parents; photo © D. Roberson). The most
young ever produced here before were 48 counted 17 July 2002, and the maximum
numbers of pairs at the Elkhorn Slough colony were 188 pairs in 1994, so
this is the most successful breeding season in recorded history. The Heermann's
Gull colony at Roberts Lake, Seaside, had fledged 9 juvenals by mid-month;
this is one more than the previous high and the 9-11 nesting pairs were
many more than prior maximums of just 3 pairs. Presumably many of the "new"
pairs were birds originally hatched here in 1999 or 2000 and now adult,
but it also looks as if most of these first nesting attempts failed. The
9 fledglings were hatched from only 4 or 5 nests, so about half the nesting
pairs failed to hatch eggs.
|On 28 June, Dave Werner was at Stillwater Cove in Pebble Beach during
strong southwesterly winds. Amazingly, an adult Masked Booby flew
in off the ocean, circled past Dave, and headed back to sea! There are
only two previous records of adult Masked Boobies in MTY.
Vireo banded by BSOL on 20 May (below) remained near the lab, singing
each morning and watched by many [this photo, left, is of the bird
on 24 May at the BSOL bridge © D. Roberson]. It seemed to open the
floodgates on the most remarkable spring in BSOL history. On 24 May, Rob
Fowler found a singing Cerulean Warbler — just the 4th MTY record
and the first in spring. Then on 29 May, BSOL banded the first of three
different Prothonotary Warblers at the Big Sur R. mouth (right).
On 3 June, Rob Fowler & Pascal Cauchois were wading the Big Sur River
for views of a singing Chestnut-sided Warbler when Rob found a singing
Vireo (6th MTY record) and a different Yellow-throated Vireo
(9th MTY record)! Both of these lingered some time. Several Red-eyed
Vireos added to the mix that week, but more astonishing were a singing
Mourning Warbler on 5 June (found by Rob Fowler; just the 2nd spring
bird in MTY) plus a female Canada Warbler on 8 June (found by Jeremy
Bird; the first ever spring record in the county).
at BSOL were also busy with both a male (below left) and female (below
center) Hooded Warbler on 15 June, and a first-summer Summer
Tanager (below right; "SY" in banding lingo) on 30 June. The pair of
Hooded Warblers seemed to be on territory — could they provide the first
breeding for the county? Meanwhile, Rob Fowler & Matt Brady found an
actual nest of Northern Parula (the first actual nest found since
1952) on 14 June (see below). Rounding off the extraordinary spring at
Big Sur were a singing Yellow-throated Warbler on 13 June
(Scott & Linda Terrill et al.; first Big Sur R. mouth record), a singing
Philadelphia Vireo on 15 June (Rob Fowler & Matt Brady; first spring
record for MTY) and a Gray Catbird on 28 June. Not to mention several
Franklin's Gulls, a couple Indigo Buntings, up to six Black-and-white Warblers,
an American Redstart or two, and a slew of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (Rob
Fowler's photo of one male eating elderberries is to the right).
||The Northern Parula nest (left; photo © Rob Fowler)
was in a sycamore just west of the Cooper Cabin eucalyptus grove. This
sycamore has often been used as a song post by males over the past decade;
this year's male Northern Parula (right; photo © Bill
Hill — see more shots on his
web site) vigorously defended this site (there were up to 3-4 males
in Andrew Molera SP this June). But when the young hatched in late June,
it was the female who did almost all of the feeding during the first week
of July .....
|Not to be outdone, BSOL banders Jessica Griffiths and Eric Miller captured
two fabulous vagrants along the Salinas River on Camp Roberts near Bradley:
an Ovenbird (above right) on 15 June, and a White-eyed
Vireo (lower right) on 22 June. The vireo is the first inland
record for the county and completes an truly remarkable vireo spring here.
All in-hand photos © and courtesy of Big Sur Ornithology
Lab, operated by Ventana Wilderness Society
Big Sur Ornithology Lab banded two fine vagrants in mid
May: a female Kentucky Warbler 14 May (below left; recaptured 18
& 19 May) and a male Yellow-throated Vireo 20 May (both photo
courtesy Ventana Wilderness Society & Sarah Stock). The Kentucky is
the first record for the Big Sur R. mouth, and the 4th MTY record; the
vireo was the 8th county record, half of which have been at the Big Sur
|In late April, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, as is often their wont, drifted
towards the coast and appeared at Moonglow Dairy. In March, when I put
together the multipage Monterey
County annotated, illustrated checklist, I failed to locate any photos
of this species taken in MTY. This seemed ridiculous — it had occurred
dozens of times and hundreds of individuals had been recorded — but there
it was. No photos. So I hopefully put "photo to come?" in the box the photo
should have been. Now I actually have the shot in hand.
Steve Gerow counted 32 Yellow-heads at Moonglow on 26 April but no adult
males. These two adult males were among 18 Yellow-heads seen the next day.
right © Don Roberson, 27 Apr 2004.
Observers enjoying the Yellow-billed Loon (see below) in mid April
could also view up to 8 Lawrence's Goldfinch at the west end of
the small Moss Landing cemetery adjacent to Moss Landing Marine Lab. This
species has nested here in previous years and appear likely to do so again.
Although Lawrence's is usually considered a bird of the arid interior foothills,
small groups have bred in isolated patches of cypress along the coast in
about half of the years over the past decade or so.
This digiscoped male Lawrence's Goldfinch (left) was taken
23 Apr 2004 at Moss Landing cemetery © Don Roberson
||Mid-April produced a surprising Yellow-billed Loon on Elkhorn
Slough. Found by Shirley Murphy at Kirby Park on 15 Apr, the worn juvenal
was present the next day when nicely photographed by © Greg Hofmann
(top left) & © Don Roberson (bottom left). It had
been actively feeding just before Greg's shot, and looks very sleek, but
was sunning itself by the time of my photo an hour later.
|As winter progressed into spring, some lingering rarities began their
prealternate molt into a much more colorful plumage. A nice example was
this Palm Warbler (right) around the parking lot of Carmel River
SB; photo'd 18 March [© Bill Hill].
|The first couple months of 2004 were often rainy, and few birds of
interest were noted save for the wintering Black-throated Green Warbler
in Seaside still present for its 2nd winter. On 29 Feb, Richard Ternullo
found a Marbled Murrelet inside Monterey harbor, and Bill Hill
took this fine photo that afternoon (right). On 5 March, R.J. Adams
located a Ross's Goose hanging out with the barnyard geese at Locke-Paddon
pond, Marina. These photos are from 6 March (below; digiscope ©
More highlights will be posted as they arise and are documented with
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Page last updated 28 July 2004