page two [June–Aug]

These highlights chronicle the year 2012. 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.

A great early fall migrant was this (probably female) Prothonotary Warbler at the Carmel River mouth on 29 Aug, found by Rick Fournier (photo, left, © Rick Fournier). The breaks the "early date" for this vagrant in fall migration by nearly two weeks! There are now about 18 records for Monterey County.

Another good vagrant in August was a Lucy's Warbler at Big Sur R. mouth on 21 Aug (D. Roberson).

Red-eyed Vireos are eastern vagrants to MTY during spring and fall migration, but rarely does one spent the summer locally. Yet that is just what we believe occurred with this Red-eyed Vireo discovered on 14 Aug by Kent Van Vuren along the creek above upper Carr Lake, Salinas (photo, right, © Kent Van Vuren). Details of the plumage and the reddish eye (hard to see in this shot) showed it to be at least one full year old, and at the mid-August date we presume it was attempting to summer along this creek. It continued to be seen into late August, so the attempt appears to have been successful.

In at least 4 previous years (1993, 1994, 1997, 2001) a Red-eyed Vireo has been suspected of attempting to summer along the Big Sur River in Andrew Molera SP, and in 2000 a summering bird was along the Carmel River in Carmel Valley.

As most observers know by now, shorebird migration begins late June/early July with the passage of adults southward, followed a month later by the southward migration of HY [hatch-year] birds in juvenal plumage. Most of our rarities are juvs that stray during their first flight south, but occasionally an adult migrant of a scarce species will be encountered in fall migration. This year such adults included a Solitary Sandpiper near Salinas on 29 July (below left, photo © Brian L. Sullivan) and a Pectoral Sandpiper in early August (below right; found by Kent Van Vuren, photo 14 Aug © D. Roberson). The Solitary is the first adult to be documented in MTY in fall migration.
A visit to the (now abandoned) fire lookout on Chews Ridge on 4 July found a family of just-fledged Purple Martin still at the nest tree in the huge burn area from the 'Basin Complex fire' of summer 2008 (right © Don Roberson). This new nesting site for this "species of special concern" in California was discovered just this year. Another new site — a family just fledged from a telephone pole —was discovered not far from San Clemente Dam in late June (Ryan DiGaudio).
Another fun discovery at Chews Ridge on 4 July was an extensive patch of blooming penstemon, actively explored by 20+ hummingbirds. Some were Anna's but most were young Selasphorus. With some patience, five were photographed and all proved to be imm male Allen's Hummingbirds. The key to hummingbird i.d. is to first age and sex the individuals. Young birds, like all these, have rows of green dots across the throat, which look like thin green streaks at a distance, and lack the colorful lower center red spot shown by adult females. They also have bill corrugations that can be seen in enlarged photos. Once the age is known as first-year (=imm), then Allen's and Rufous can be sexed by rump pattern (more extensively rufous in males, and especially in male Allen's (below left) and details of the central rectrices (known as R1). Once one knows these are imm males, details of the tip of R2 (the next tail feather out from the central pair) are important (below right; same bird as above). On all the birds photographed, R2 lacked the indented 'nipple' shape shown by imm male Rufous. This, plus the relative width of R5, plus the extent of rufous on the rump of some, identifies these as imm male Allen's. Allen's does not breed at this elevation (5000' elev) but is believed to have upslope movements after breeding. The many present at just one spot suggests that huge numbers are visiting flowers in the Santa Lucia Range this July. Later in the month the first southward movement of young Rufous Hummingbirds should begin. [I used Howell, S.N.G., 2002, Hummingbirds of North America: the Photographic Guide, to sort out this i.d. problem.]

A curious example of a common bird was this leucistic Western Scrub-Jay in a Pacific Grove yard through June (photo 3 June © Arieh Whisenhunt MD). By early July it was molting in new flight and tail feathers that had a completely different appearance (below, photo 8 July © Arieh Whisenhunt). So it was just the juvenal feathers that were leucistic!

Leucistic and/or melanistic individuals occur in most (all?) populations of birds, but they tend to be rare. Sometimes, though, as in the population of American Crows in Pacific Grove, the recessive gene is expressed more often than normal. In P.G., it is not that unusual to see a white patch in the wings of a crow.

The amazing "Blue" Snow Goose continued to engage the golfcourse next to Crespi Pond, Pt. Pinos, into July [more on the story just below]. This excellent photo (right © Bill Hill) illustrates several points nicely. First, note the lovely pale-blue upperwing coverts when it spreads its wings. Since we get so few "Blue Geese" here in California, I was not even aware they had this character. Second, see how it looks like there are pale-brown tips to two of the outer primaries? Actually, if you look again, you'll find that these are the very old and worn old primaries, lying just underneath the still-growing almost blackish, new primaries.
The damndest thing happened at Crespi Pond in early June. An odd-looking darkish goose with a white head appeared on 5 June, along with a smaller adult Greater White-fronted Goose, and the first few local birders to notice it thought "some sort of hybrid." It looked "huge" when approached closely, but at that time no Canada Geese were around. Later, when seen next to large moffitti-type Canada Goose (two adults with two half-grown young; e.g., below, photo 10 June © D. Roberson), it was clearly smaller, with stockier but shorter neck, and still heavy-bodied. In the meantime, photos were circulated with a possible but unlikely theory . . .

. . . and the survey said: yes, as unlikely as it may seem, that is a "Blue" Goose, to wit, the rare-to-California dark morph of Snow Goose Chen caerulescens. There has never been one documented in MTY before (photo right 6 June © D. Roberson).

Steven Mlodinow, who has published several papers on goose i.d. and has documented Canada X Snow Goose previously in Washington State, wrote (pers. com.) that "Methinks that this is a torn and tattered Blue Goose. Usually Snow x Canada hybrids show substantial dusky on the bill and dull colored legs . . . I don't see any reason to invoke Canada Goose in this bird."

Clearly the wings and tail are quite old and worn, but the back and scapular feathers are fresh and new, and the legs and bill quite pink.

It is hard to know what to make of this goose. Small numbers of Brant summer each year. A few other migrant geese, possibly injured, have summered locally, including several Greater White-fronted Geese and at least one 'Ridgway's' Cackling Goose. Migrant species of geese in June are presumably summering, as this is long past migration. That our first Snow Goose to summer should be the rare (in California) "Blue Goose" is mind-boggling. We do have a handful of white Snow Geese each winter in the county, but never before has a dark morph been among them.

[AFN does include a report of six "Blue" Geese at Pebble Beach on 14-22 July 1968. There is no documentation to support this claim, so I am skeptical and essentially dismissed it in Monterey Birds, 2d ed.]





Page created 10 June 2012, last updated 6 Sep 2012