MONTEREY COUNTY HIGHLIGHTS: 2005 part two
These highlights chronicle the year 2005. Created incrementally as new photos were available, the year runs generally "backwards" on this page. The 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.
 
On 20 Nov, Rick Fournier discovered this juvenal Swainson's Hawk in a field adjacent to Moro Cojo Slough, on land now protected by the Elkhorn Slough Foundation (photo, above, © John Sorensen). There was also a Ferruginous Hawk, 4-6 White-tailed Kites, 3 Northern Harriers, and a half-dozen Red-tailed Hawks in the same field. This was the first Swainson's Hawk to be photographed in MTY, and there were only single previous records for the months of November and December. Now, November had its second record and this one nicely documented and December got its second record on the Monterey Peninsula Christmas Count on 27 Dec, when Rob Fowler & Steve Rovell had an adult light-morph individual in flight over Lovers Pt., Pacific Grove. This year's Monterey Peninsula CBC recorded 170 species during a break in the weather. Both the Big Sur and Moss Landing counts had rain and wind
Just after Thanksgiving, Scott & Linda Terrill found a White-winged Dove at Esplanade in Pacific Grove on 25 Nov (photo, right, © D. Roberson 26 Nov). This is a prime date for this southwestern vagrant; none have yet wintered in MTY. This one did not winter either. .
A Thanksgiving treat was this brilliant male Hooded Merganser near El Estero in Monterey (Pete Munter, photo 24 Nov © Blake Matheson).
In early November, Ryan Terrill found a juv. Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at a limited access wetlands near Salinas (above). it was present at least 2-5 Nov. Although this is rather late for a Calidris to be in full juvenal plumage, it is typical of this species. Note that the bright orange breast has worn to a dull tan, but it still retains the bright red cap and contrasting white supercilium. It was also well patterned above (photos © Blake Matheson).. Also in Salinas on 31 Oct-1 Nov was an adult Northern Goshawk (John Sorensen +), about the 5th MTY record. It was chasing Rock Pigeons.
The highlight of late October was this Brown Thrasher (right; © Bill Hill in yet another exceptional shot) at a birder's yard in the Carmel Highlands that is filled with bird feeders (Chris Hartzell). This is the 11th MTY record, and the 6th in fall, all between 12 Oct-29 Nov. The remaining records are of spring migrants (4) and one summering bird. This bird was at least 26 Oct-2 Nov. Birders chasing it also turned up two Clay-colored and a White-throated Sparrow and a Baltimore Oriole (Scott Terrill), a classic 'Patagonia Rest Stop' effect
Meanwhile, in adjacent Santa Cruz County, a Crested Caracara has been present the entire autumn along Hwy 1 at Swanton Rd. This shot (left; © D. Roberson) was taken on 30 Oct about 3/4 mi up Swanton Road. The bird is an adult, and there is a very good chance it was the same bird present at this same locale in fall 2002. The bird was then molting out of juvenal plumage and had been initially found in MTY; see a separate web page on that 2002 occurrence.
The first week of October featured the return of last winter's Vermilion Flycatchers to Moonglow Dairy in Moss Landing. A first-year male had been discovered here on 10 Oct 2004 by Steve Getty, and the presence of two imm males was noted by 29 Oct 2004.  Both were seen through 30 Jan 2005 (on several dates both birds were present at the same time), but then only a single bird was found through 5 March. This autumn's bird was first seen at pond#1 on 4 Oct 2005 (Alex Darocy) but it or the 2nd bird appeared at its 'usual' spot in the small wetland patch within a couple of days. By late October it was clear that two males were present again; both now in adult plumage (one bird left and below; photo © D. Roberson from 13 Oct). Additional photos from last winter are HERE (near the bottom of the page) and a comparison of last winter's bird to this fall's bird is on Bill Hill's web site. There are only 7 MTY records of this attractive little flycatcher (and none yet for SCZ).
On 14 Oct, birders chasing the Vermilion were treated to an adult and young Sandhill Crane on Moro Cojo Slough, opposite the turnoff to Moonglow on Dolan Road. This is the youngster molting from juvenal to first-basic plumage in flight (right; © Blake Matheson). Throughout the period, Moonglow continued to host a Cattle Egret (now known as "George" per Carol Calcagno), and varying numbers of White-faced Ibis.
Other major highlights from late September through mid-October were a male Painted Bunting, briefly seen at Carmel River mouth 24 Sep (written details from Lynn Hemink, also seen by Bev Brock); a Gray Catbird at the corner of Acropolis & Shell in Pacific Grove on 5 Oct (sketch & details by Don Roberson; far right); another Stilt Sandpiper near Salinas in early October (Ryan Terrill +), and a male Black-throated Blue Warbler at Moonglow Dairy on 12 Oct (photo © Brewster Young, near right).
The Carmel River mouth riparian heated up in late September. Here's a gallery of vagrant warblers there the first month of fall 2005: Chestnut-sided Warbler, imm female (above left 25 Sep; Bill Hill) & imm male (above right 1 Oct; D. Roberson); Blackpoll Warbler (left; 29 Sep, D. Roberson), Northern Waterthrush (below left 5 Sep; B. Hill), and Canada Warbler (imm female (below right 1 Oct; B. Hill). Canada is the rarest among this bunch, discovered on 1 Oct by David McIntyre for the 18th MTY record. The fall-out of Chestnut-sided Warblers was incredible: at least 10 different birds in the county between 2 Sep & 2 Oct.
Pelagic trips on Monterey Bay again made headlines in September. By mid-month, storm-petrel flocks had gathered in the north Bay with hundreds of Ashy & Black, and dozens of Least Storm-Petrels. A Monterey Seabirds trip on 17 Sep found not only an early Short-tailed Shearwater in SCZ waters (Todd Easterla, Don Roberson; photo left © Martin Meyers) but on the return leg birders came upon MTY's third record of Hawaiian (Dark-rumped) Petrel about 9 nmi off Pt. Pinos. Full details on that bird, and other shots from the trip, can be reached by clicking on the sketch of the petrel, below.
Fall warbler season in early September featured a good showing of southwestern vagrants, with at least 3 Lucy's and 2 Virginia's. A singing male Hooded Warbler summered at Carmel R. mouth and was still singing to early October. The best vagrant warbler to mid-month was a Prothonotary at Esplanade in Pacific Grove 15-16 Sep (Blake Matheson, Tim Amaral). A very odd "Yellow Warbler with wingbars," plus a white vent and tail spots, puzzled many observers 5-15 Sep (photo below right;  D. Roberson). A discussion of this bird was posted on the internet, leading to at least 3 experts suggesting it could be a Yellow X Blackpoll or Bay-breasted hybrid, a combination that has never before been documented.
On 30 July, Carol Nichols and other kayakers discovered an adult Laughing Gull near the Brown Pelican roost on Elkhorn Slough (below left; © Melinda Nakagawa). It then lingered for the rest of the summer and into the fall, completing a pre-basic molt. By the time it was photographed on 13 Sep (below right; © Peter Weber it had lost much of its black hood. It was still present into November. Greg Meyer has commented that it seems likely this is the same Laughing Gull that we first found on Elkhorn Slough in late April, as he saw it again in May and June. Given its scarcity locally (only 13 records), this seems a reasonable suggestion. Accordingly, it appears this bird has been present locally for 7 months.

Fall shorebird migration was comparatively hum-drum. The numbers of Baird's and Pectorals were routine, as were the five juvenal Semipalmated Sandpipers. The most interesting waders were single juvenal Stilt Sandpipers at Salinas R. mouth 20 Aug (Ryan Terrill, David Vander Pluym) and near Salinas 21 Aug (flight shot, left, Blake Matheson); a juv. Ruff at Salinas 16 Sep (Rick Fournier), and a juv. American Golden-Plover at Carmel River SB 10-12 Sep (R.J. Adams; photo left Bill Hill).
Pelagic birds took center stage in August. One of two Ancient Murrelet found by Richard Ternullo in July lingered inside Monterey harbor, actively chasing small fish and delighting boatloads of birders. Alas, this individual was oiled and likely flightless (right; photo D. Roberson on 14 Aug). Its remiges are all missing or beat up. Whether it can survive with these disabilities is not known.

A boat trip on 12 Aug had a young Short-tailed Albatross on Monterey Bay (Jeri Langham, D.L. Shearwater); photos by Don Doolittle are on-line elsewhere. It was banded; apparently a good percentage of the remaining population on Torishima Island (off Japan) have been banded.

On 14 August, Todd Easterla spotted a Manx Shearwater ~5.5 nmi W of Pt. Pinos. It was a brief fly-by, but quick shots by 3 photographers give us a good handle on this bird. Note the white flank patch, the extensively white underwings, and the 'ear-surround' pattern to the face.

Photos (clockwise from top left): Dan Singer, Don Roberson, Blake Matheson

Interestingly enough, word came this summer that an apparent nesting burrow of Manx Shearwater was discovered off Vancouver I., British Columbia. This new findings confirms my earlier comments, based on the regular spring and fall passage through California waters, that "this North Atlantic species apparently colonized the North Pacific in the early 1900s" (Roberson 2002; Monterey Birds, 2d ed., p. 92). The standard identification paper remains Roberson (1996) "Identifying Manx Shearwater in the northeastern Pacific," Birding 28: 18-33.
Another interesting observation on the 14 Aug pelagic trip was the discovery of Xantus's Murrelet youngsters that still had much natal downy feathers above (photo right; D. Roberson). These are "paired up" with an adult (probably the father) and, once the downy feathers are lost, the young will look like the adult. See further discussion of the implications of these observations elsewhere on this web site.
It is too bad that many birders haven't learned to be interested in unseasonal birds. Golden-crowned Sparrow, for example, is common here in winter but it is a real rarity in summer. There are only 7 prior summer records. We have more summer records of Rose-breasted Grosbeak than of Golden-crowned Sparrow. Partly this is because people don't report unseasonal birds. This summer, a Golden-crowned Sparrow (above) appeared at my feeder in Pacific Grove on 19 June and it is still there today (22 June) when this photo (above) was taken. This is only the second summer record for the Monterey Peninsula. I would be curious to find out how long in stayed but as we leave on vacation within days, this may never be known.
The second half of 2005 began (for purposes of this web page) with an adult Little Blue Heron at the Big Sur R. mouth on 13 June. It was found by Mike Tyner in the morning but was very skittish. It was still there at mid-day when Bill Hill took these great shots (below; © Bill Hill). Alas, it was gone by the time others chased it after work. This is the third spring/summer record for MTY, each of which has been a 'one-day-wonder' adult. The prior records were: 30 Apr 1998 Big Sur R. mouth and 19 June 1999 Carmel R. mouth.
CLICK HERE FOR HIGHLIGHTS
OF FIRST HALF OF 2005
More highlights will be posted as they arise and are documented with photos.

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