|These highlights chronicle the year 2007. 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.
|Spring 2007 will have to be remembered as the
Spring of the Puffins. In commentaries & photos farther down this
page you'll find references to an amazing set of winter observations.
They all led up to the 19 May pelagic trip run by Richard Ternullo
& Roger Wolfe for "Monterey Seabirds." Shortly after leaving the
harbor the first Horned Puffin (above) was found off
the Monterey Aquarium. It had a quite dusky face and a dark-based bill.
Just a little to the west, off Hopkins Marine Station, was Horned
Puffin #2 (below left) with a much whiter face (but still much dark in
the lores) and brighter bill. An hour later, 0.85 nmi off Carmel Pt.,
was Horned Puffin #3 (below right) with a fairly white face but
On the way home, we stopped by the Aquarium once
more and, again, found two Horned Puffins. Photos of the first one show
it to be bird #2, still present. But photos of the other one (above
left) show yet another individual, with a very white face (including
the loral area) and a very bright bill. A bit farther offshore were two
more puffins (one is above right) — oh, sorry, these were Tufted
Puffin. This may be the first pelagic trip in Monterey Bay to
record both puffins (or three, if you count Rhinoceros Auklet as a
'puffin' — it is much more closely related to puffins than other
Finally, a flapping bird in the surf off Del Monte
Beach, Monterey (below — ignored by the kid with the boogie board — was
yet a fifth Horned Puffin. This made for 7 puffins in all (5 Horned, 2
Tufted) and a seven-alcid day (a late Ancient Murrelet near the harbor
was also unusual).
all photos from 19
May © Don Roberson
The next set of photos deal with
shore-based observations of Horned Puffin . . . It is a little hard to
say for sure, but I think the photos show all 3 puffins found at
different times off the Aquarium from the 19 May boat: numbers 4, 2,
and 1, respectively (although the bottom two shots might be bird#2 at
different angles). Observers from shore on 19 May also saw up to two
puffins at any single time from the Aquarium deck.
|It had been an unbelievable winter for Horned
Puffin. In MTY there were six shore-based observations from
Pt. Pinos and three from boat trips, plus another at the Santa Cruz
pier SCZ. Yet another was just off the Monterey Aquarium on 14 May
(photo right © Robert Scoles) and it was seen again from there on
17 May (Tanner Easterla). Birders chasing it that evening were
successful (Rita Carratello & Steve Rovell, below; a county bird
for each! digiscoped photo below right © D. Roberson), and then
they ended up seeing two different Horned Puffins! While one puffin was
out at kelp line, and drifting toward the Monterey harbor, another
began diving just yards off the deck (photo bottom © Steve
Rovell). The photos may actually be of the three different birds, but
we know there were at least two.
||This year's BSOL birdathon from 4 pm on 27 Apr through
4 pm on 28 Apr was very successful: 250 species
located throughout the county within those 24 hours. Participants
received a T-shirt with this fabulous Carole Rose design for Harlequin
Ducks (left). More details and many
photos are elsewhere on this web site. In addition to finding many
great county birds, birders raised about $7000 for Ventana Wildlife
Society's Big Sur Ornithology Lab.
22 April was a red-letter day in several ways. Enjoying
their backyard patio on Washington Park in Pacific Grove, Bill &
Emmy Reese were startled by a bright, flitty little warbler at their
bird bath. "Whoa," said Emmy, "what the hell is that? Go get the
binoculars." Bill did. It was a male Golden-winged Warbler,
which took a sip, flew to an oak and gave the short buzzy song, and was
soon off. Efforts later in the afternoon to refind it were futile. But
the Reese's new yard bird proved to be the long-awaited first
record for Monterey County.
Out on Monterey Bay, the first Monterey Seabirds pelagic
trip of the year headed north on 22 April to intersect a pod of ~15
Orca [Killer Whale] west of Moss Landing (some of them shown below).
They'd killed a Gray Whale calf the previous day. The boatload of
birders had a good, close look at the carcass, but the Orcas were
already headed well to the west, out towards the open ocean.
The pelagic trip also headed west and then south past
Pt. Pinos, with many Black-footed Albatross as constant companions. It
was at a point 8.1 nmi W of Cypress Pt. that a huge, pink-billed, dark
albatross suddenly came sailing in behind the boat. Matt Sadowski,
visiting from San Diego, was the first to shout "Short-tailed
Albatross!" The youngster swam right in for what most
considered to be decent looks.
All 22 Apr boat trip photos © D.
There were hundreds of photos taken of this magnificent bird.
This one (above) shows that it is a youngster already starting to
become pale on the belly; that it is just beginning wing molt; and that
it is banded on the right leg. Note also that the "bubble-gum" pink
bill is already turning a baby-blue color at the tip.
|The rare albatross was not the only unusual seabird on
Monterey Bay in April. On whale-watching trip on 11 Apr, an adult
female Brown Booby was a couple miles north of
Pacific Grove (photo right © Roger Wolfe). Is this the same bird
that roosted on the breakwater in Dec-Jan? Two additional Brown Boobies
were around Santa Cruz over the past month, and photos show them to be
different birds than this clean white-bellied adult.
There was an amazing
run of Horned Puffin
observations this winter. Singles were seen on boat trips just off the
Pacific Grove coast on 11 Feb (Ryan Terrill, Steve Howell et al.) and
26 March (Richard Ternullo), and this one (photo left © Roger
Wolfe) was seen 5 nmi west of Pt. Pinos on 17 Feb. More were seen
from shore at Pt. Pinos on 3 dates: 23 Dec 2006 (Tom Wurster, Liga
Auzins); 4 Jan 2007 (Brian Sullivan); and then in gale-force winds on
27 March, Brian Sullivan had 3 observations from Pt. Pinos and Don
Roberson had another. Sullivan even snapped photos of two of this birds
on 27 Mar (photos below, left & center © B.L.
Sullivan). Others have been reported in north Monterey Bay in SCZ.
On 28 March, one was found freshly dead at Pt. Pinos (below right, photo
© B.J. Weed).
All were in basic plumage; those in March were getting
bright-colored bills. Surely there was a movement of this species into
Monterey Bay this winter, but how many of the observed birds are
repeats is uncertain. Some of the photos look like different birds.
By late March, the one-year
anniversary of Monterey's adult Crested Caracara
passed, assuming that the Pt. Sur and Pt. Joe birds are the same
individual. In late March it had taken to flying to Pacific Grove
occasionally; Brian L. Sullivan took this shot (right) of it over his
P.G. home, at the corner of Washington Park, on 28 March. What a great
|On 25 Feb, John Sorensen took his brother to Pt. Joe to
look for the Crested
Caracara. They found it — and the adult was joined by a second
This one was a youngster with buffy neck and wing coverts [photos below
© D. Roberson]. Compare this first-cycle bird with the adult
at bottom of this page). The two chased each other about the golf
Two caracaras in Monterey? Aye Caramba!
Sullivan found this interesting second-cycle gull at Pt. Pinos on the
of 5 Feb (there was also a first-cycle Glaucous Gull standing nearby).
of photos documented MTY's first Slaty-backed Gull (photo
B.L. Sullivan). Key characters shown in this shot are the extremely
eye, the extensively white head and breast, and the very pale wing
Brian's flight shots showed other important details. There have been a
series of records of Slaty-backed Gull in the S.F. Bay area over the
On 13 Feb, David Vander Pluym photographed an
adult gull at the Salinas River mouth which may well have been
Gull. Alas, flight shots are not available, but the on-ground
are certainly suggestive of this vagrant species to California.
|January 2007 was a very fine month in MTY. There were
left over from December 2006. Among these were a mixed flock of geese
Dolan Road in Moss Landing that included up to 18 Snow Geese
least 14 shown above © D. Roberson). Although larger flocks have
seen in flight over the county, never have this many wintered locally.
The core of the flock was at least 490 Canada Geese of the resident
plus these migrants: up to 18 Snow, up to 6 Ross's, up to 12 Aleutian
two minima Cackling, and one Greater White-fronted Goose.
There were a smattering of winter Palm Warblers
(below left at
Lovers Pt on 1 Jan © Glen Price). Most remarkable was the Blue-winged
Warbler, discovered in late October, that attempted to winter near
Carmel River mouth. This bird was actually banded by BSOL on 21
you can see the band on the bird in the shot (arrow in photo, below
taken on 7 Jan (© Ryan Terrill).
The county suffered through a record-breaking cold snap
over the weekend
of 13-15 Jan — with temperatures dropping into the 20s in Carmel Valley
— and we fear that a number of wintering landbirds did not make it
those nights. Neither the Blue-winged Warbler nor the daily Eastern
in Pacific Grove has been seen since.
|Another great first-of-the-year highlight was the adult
Booby that roosted on the Coast Guard pier in Monterey harbor.
on 28 Dec 2006, she was seen daily well into January. The booby often
in Monterey Bay during the day. Glen
Tepke and Ryan
Terrill have posted very dramatic flight shots from a 21 Jan boat
This photo (right © D. Roberson) was also taken 21 Jan — the booby
had just returned from sea and was preening.
||The adult Crested Caracara remaining into the
New Year. First
discovery in March 2006 at Pt. Sur, it moved between there and the
Peninsula throughout much of 2006. In early 2007 it seemed settled in
the Pebble Beach golf course near Pt. Joe (photo left © D.
where it dined on an occasional coot.
|More highlights will be posted as they arise and
HIGHLIGHTS FROM FALL 2006
OF THE WORLD