page two [June – August]
These highlights chronicle the year 2009. 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.

Summer 2009 will surely be best remembered for its pelagic incursions. August was spectacular for Long-tailed Jaegers; more on that below (above a subadult Long-tail dives on a South Polar Skua; photo 16 Aug © D. Roberson).

Yet most impressive was the August incursion of Cook's Petrels nearshore (photo left 6 Aug, © Larry Sansone). It began with reports by Michael Force aboard a NOAA research ship 30 July, with one as close as 5 nmi off Ragged Pt., and then 31 July was the big bonanza. Force recorded 179 Cook's in MTY waters from his ship, while a boatload of birders off Pt. Sur tallied another 138, for a total of at least 317 that one day! Another 91 Cook's were recorded in 3 counties (MTY, SCZ, SM) on 2 August, and 22 more were in MTY waters on 6 Aug (including the one Sansone photographed, left). More birds were in northern Monterey Bay (but in SCZ or SM counties) on 21 & 23 August. While previous summer research cruises have found Cook's far offshore in summer (e.g., May 1991, Aug 1992), this year they could be found within the range of a one-day pelagic trip. Summer 2009 was showing signs of an emerging El Niño, and the incursion may be linked to this phenomena. The summers of 1991 & 1992 were also El Niño years.

A Hawaiian Petrel in MTY was seen by some on 2 Aug (Todd McGrath et al.), with others just to the north of our county. A Stejneger's Petrel was reported on 31 July (Michael Force; details not yet available.).

As to Long-tailed Jaegers, numbers offshore broke all records. Specific high counts include 107 within MTY waters on 16 August, and 177 counted in 3 counties offshore on 23 August. These numbers obliterate prior high count records. Birders had the option of studying plumages from juvenal (near right) to adult (far right; both 23 Aug © D. Roberson), but most birds were likely subadults in between.
A couple birds in late August sparked discussion. A very white gull offshore on 23 Aug (below left, © D. Roberson) had buff patches on its outer primaries and tail; given the bill shape, one current thought is that it is a leucistic Western Gull, possibly born this summer. At Andrew Molera SP on 22 Aug, VWS caught an adult male Painted Bunting (below right, © D. Roberson). The complete loss of feathers on the front part of the head, and the very ragged tail, strongly suggest this individual had recently been held in captivity. It is now agreed this was not a 'countable' wild vagrant.

A feeder in Carmel Highlands hosted not only a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in mid-August (with a Black-headed Grosbeak male, left © Chris Hartzell) but an imm. Rose-breasted Grosbeak that was fed seed by a female Black-headed on 11 August. Whether this was happenstance (a vagrant young male RBGR happened by when the female was feeding two other fledglings), or whether this might have represented a hybrid pairing (a male RBGR was present at the same time) could never be determined.

Otherwise summer 2009 was rather dreary, with weeks of fog along the coast. Pairs of Olive-sided Flycatcher did fledge young in Pacific Grove 24 July (Don Roberson) and Pebble Beach 18 July (Brian Sullivan), representing the first confirmed breeding for those locales. Red Crossbill bred in Del Monte Forest, Pebble Beach (Diane Tan; Brian Sullivan), which occurs only irregularly.

Bill Adams, a park host at Andrew Molera State Park, photographed several interesting birds in June, including this molting first-summer male Summer Tanager 3 June (near right), and an Eastern Kingbird next to a Western Kingbird on 17 June (far right; photos © Bill Adams).
Rick & Cheryl Fournier (left) had the best bird at the Big Sur R. mouth on 7 June: a male Orchard Oriole south of the river. Interesting birds on the north side that date including Rose-breasted Grosbeak (female below left) and Lawrence's Goldfinch (male below right; both © D. Roberson). It is possible that the male Orchard is the same bird Oscar Johnson had in the Cooper Cabin eucs 1 June, and that the female Rose-breast is the same as found there 31 May. The pair of Lawrence's may be nesting at the headlands.

California Audubon sponsored a statewide survey of Yellow-billed Magpie during the period 5-8 June. Volunteers reported these via California eBird. Locally, magpies were counted at various locales from Carmel Valley to King City, with a high of 58 found on a ranch near Corral de Tierra (Styers, Roses).

The Breeding Bird Atlas project (1988-1992; Roberson & Tenney 1993) estimated 3000 to 4000 pairs in MTY, where the species is widespread throughout the oak savanna of south county. Few of these areas are now checked, but it does seem likely that the population has declined with local extirpations of satellite colonies and the impact of the West Nile virus.





Page created 7 June 2009, updated 28 Aug 2009