page one [Jan-May]
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 dusky-based bill.

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 alcids).

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. Roberson

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.

Horned PuffinThere 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 had 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 yard bird!
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 caracara! This one was a youngster with buffy neck and wing coverts [photos below © D. Roberson]. Compare this first-cycle bird with the adult (photo at bottom of this page). The two chased each other about the golf course. Two caracaras in Monterey? Aye Caramba! 
Brian Sullivan found this interesting second-cycle gull at Pt. Pinos on the morning of 5 Feb (there was also a first-cycle Glaucous Gull standing nearby). His series of photos documented MTY's first Slaty-backed Gull (photo © B.L. Sullivan). Key characters shown in this shot are the extremely pale eye, the extensively white head and breast, and the very pale wing coverts. 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 past 3 winters.

On 13 Feb, David Vander Pluym photographed an adult gull at the Salinas River mouth which may well have been another Slaty-backed Gull. Alas, flight shots are not available, but the on-ground photos are certainly suggestive of this vagrant species to California.

January 2007 was a very fine month in MTY. There were numerous 'stake-outs' left over from December 2006. Among these were a mixed flock of geese along Dolan Road in Moss Landing that included up to 18 Snow Geese (at least 14 shown above © D. Roberson). Although larger flocks have been 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 population, plus these migrants: up to 18 Snow, up to 6 Ross's, up to 12 Aleutian Cackling, 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 December; you can see the band on the bird in the shot (arrow in photo, below right) 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 through those nights. Neither the Blue-winged Warbler nor the daily Eastern Phoebe in Pacific Grove has been seen since.

Another great first-of-the-year highlight was the adult female Brown Booby that roosted on the Coast Guard pier in Monterey harbor. Discovered on 28 Dec 2006, she was seen daily well into January. The booby often foraged in Monterey Bay during the day. Glen Tepke and Ryan Terrill have posted very dramatic flight shots from a 21 Jan boat trip. 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 Monterey Peninsula throughout much of 2006. In early 2007 it seemed settled in on the Pebble Beach golf course near Pt. Joe (photo left © D. Roberson), where it dined on an occasional coot.
More highlights will be posted as they arise and are documented with photos.






Page created 4 Jan 2007