page two [16 May – 15 August]
These highlights chronicle the year 2008. Created incrementally as new photos were available, the year runs generally "backwards" on this page. Page One chronicled highlights from January through 15 May.
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.

There is a certain sense of healthy wonderment in being proven wrong. As far as birds go, it seems that the more I think I know, the less I actually know. Take the Long-tailed Duck that has been wintering in Monterey harbor. At first there were four, but then it got down to one female. I just reported to North American Birds that "one female continued to linger through May and is summering." I cited "m.ob." as the observers — it was what we all said.

I stopped by the harbor on 17 July. She was still there, but "she" is molting into a nice male plumage! [Or it looks that way . . maybe I'm wrong again?] The drake is going through a summer flightless period and, as Rita Carratello said when she saw this photo (right): it's a male Short-tailed Duck!

The summering female Harlequin Duck is also flightless and has molted in new body feathers. In this shot (below) she is just about the jump into the harbor to forage on sea-lettuce.

Big Sur Ornithology Lab has an on-going banding program at Camp Roberts, right near the intersection of the Nacimiento & Salinas rivers, and just barely north of the San Luis Obispo Co. line. They've had some interesting summer birds in the past, and 2008 was no exception. Rarities netted this summer include an Ovenbird on 3 June (left; male in breeding condition) and a Catbird on 26 June (below right; male in breeding condition), both on the Nacimiento, and a summering Golden-crowned Sparrow (below left) from 27 June-3 July on the Salinas River (photos © Ventana Wildlife Society, courtesy Josh Scollen).

Last spring/summer was the "year of the puffin." This summer may be turning into the "year of the murrelet." Starting in late June, an unexpected and early movement of Xantus's Murrelets appeared, many close to shore (e.g., seen during seawatches from Pt. Pinos or sitting on the sea at Bird Rock). In early July, a smattering of Marbled Murrelets appeared. Then on 13 July a pair of Ancient Murrelet (photo of one above © D. Roberson) were on the water at Bird Rock, Pebble Beach, and another flew by. One of the pair of Ancients appeared to be oiled, perhaps explaining its appearance on the water there, but both were actively diving.

Other significant birds of interest in early July were an adult Crested Caracara along Lapis Road, near Marina, on 4 July (Blake Matheson; could this be the bird from a few years' back returning?); an alt. pl. Semipalmated Sandpiper near Salinas 8 July (Matt Brady et al.); and a Bobolink in full breeding dress in lower Carmel Valley on 11-13 July (Inga & Dan Lebeaune; photo © Carole Rose, below ).

All could enjoy our local Monterey Bay breeding alcid — Pigeon Guillemot — as pairs were feeding young at the Monterey harbor (below) or along Cannery Row throughout this period [photos 7 July © D. Roberson].

Banders working on a MAPS station on the San Antonio River, just a mile upstream from Lake San Antonio, caught this female Hooded Warbler on 1 July (left © Darlene Woodbury). The female had a brood patch, which is considered "confirmed" breeding under breeding bird atlas standards (but some exceptions are noted in the fine print under this species in Monterey Birds 2d ed.). Given the date, this bird is likely on a nest.

A pair of Hooded Warblers at the Big Sur River mouth in summer 2004 fledged one young for the first fully confirmed breeding for MTY. Another female with brood patch was caught there in June 1994 and may also have been nesting.

On 27 June, out-of-town Jacob Saucier was very surprised to see a Horned Puffin inside Monterey harbor! Later that day, a Monterey Bay pelagic trip found a Horned Puffin, presumably the same one, off Sand City (right, photo © Debra Shearwater). This summer is not nearly like the spring/summer of 2007, in what might be called as the "year of the puffin," but Brian Sullivan did see Horned Puffins flying by Pt. Pinos during seawatches on 14 April and 3 July 2008. By early July, a few Xantus's Murrelets were in the Bay, suggesting an influx of warm water and lots of krill.

Moonglow Dairy had a heronry about 60 years ago, according to Louis Calcagno. This year a new heronry started to develop in late May with a few nests of Great Blue Heron (above left) and Great Egret (above right). Meanwhile, the heronry at Elkhorn Slough Nat'l Estuarine Reserve was doing poorly. This small satellite heronry at Moonglow is likely composed of failed breeders from ESERR.

By early July, 4 of 7 Great Blue Heron nests were still active and 2 had young [but an adult brought in something too large for the baby, above left, and ended up eating it itself], but the Great Egret nests seemed to be failing.

The eucalyptus grove at Moonglow Dairy is also the only nesting locale for Winter Wren in MTY outside the redwood groves of the Big Sur coast. The old grove mimics the same closed canopy. Here's a fledgling Winter Wren (left; taken 29 June) from Moonglow, so they were successful here again. But why was a Swainson's Thrush singing here that date?

On Saturday, 21 June, locals were treated to anomalous thunderstorms & lightening over the Peninsula and Monterey Bay. The storm cell was moving to the northeast as I took this photo (above) of Rita Carratello on Ft. Ord State Beach. We were caught in a brief downpour, but we were here to try to document a newly-discovered colony of Bank Swallow in Monterey County, located at the remotest portion of the beach (right & below). As we understand the story from Dave Dixon, the colony was discovered independently in early June by David Styer and Mary Paul of State Parks. On our visit, we saw at least 12 adults, some of them entering or leaving burrows (below).

Adults were observed feeding young in the burrows the following weekend (28 June; D. Styer, Carole Rose et al.). Chris Johnson's digiscoped shot shows a baby in the nest (left © C. Johnson). With young at this age, it means the colony was initiated by late April.

Many years ago there was a colony on Trafton Road near the Pajaro River mouth, but those cliffs mostly collapsed in winter 1973-74, and the colony was abandoned about 1981. The few colonies near King City have been on the decline; the once-famed Metz Road colony collapsed in the mid-1990s. Numbers at the San Lorenzo River colony have been down in recent years. So word of a new local colony of this State-listed threatened species is very welcome. Alas, the nest sites are within access of energetic climbers [graffiti appears on the same cliffs], but the only public access is a hike of 2 or more miles down the sand, so hopefully they will be safe enough this summer.

The Big Sur River mouth is famous for its vagrant landbirds during spring & fall migration. On 7 June Big Sur Ornithology Lab banded this Canada Warbler (right © VWS, courtesy Jessica Griffiths). This is the 2d spring record for MTY; one was seen here on 8 June 2004. Remarkably, another Canada Warbler – a male with longer gorget streaks — was seen at Big Sur R. mouth on 18 June (Ryan Terrill). More typical vagrants here this June included Chestnut-sided Warbler, American Redstart, Indigo Bunting & Rose-breasted Grosbeak, plus a Western Red Bat flying in the headlands patch at mid-day on 7 June.
Sometimes we can't really explain why a bird occurs. An example is this light-morph Swainson's Hawk at Garrapata SP on 13 June (right © Bill Bousman). It is a migratory bird but June is well after its spring migration. Indeed, this is the first June record in modern history for MTY. But days later there was another near Marina on 18 June (M. Tyner).
Late May and early June is spring vagrant season. An Eastern Kingbird (left) at the edge of the headlands patch at Big Sur R. mouth 25 May was one of those (photo © D. Roberson). Most of MTY's 30+ records of Eastern Kingbird have been in the fall, but this is the 4th at Big Sur R. mouth in late May/early June.

Big Sur Ornithology Lab (BSOL) banded its share of rarities the previous weekend, see the gallery below.
The rarest of the vagrants banded by BSOL on 17 May was this male Kentucky Warbler (right), just the 5th MTY record, but a Clay-colored Sparrow that day (below left) was our first ever in spring migration. On 16 May there was a very late Fox Sparrow (below right): it is one of the 'Sooty' forms, and measurements suggest it was either the townsendi or fuliginosa race, subspecies that do not winter commonly in our county (photos © Ventana Wildlife Society/BSOL, courtesy Josh Scullen, who also provided the measurement details).
GO TO PAGE THREE : highlights from 16 Aug-Dec 2008
GO TO PAGE ONE: highlights from 1 Jan–15 May 2008






Page created 24 Sep 2008