page three [mid-October – December]

These highlights chronicle the year 2013. 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.

As usual, the year 's highlights conclude with the Monterey Peninsula Christmas Bird Count, this year on 27 Dec. The "bird of the count" was a Brown Thrasher (above, photo 28 Dec © D. Roberson) at a private yard in Pacific Grove. It would remain into the new year . . . Other excellent year-end finds – both in private back yards – were a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Pacific Grove (below left, photo 28 Dec © D. Roberson) and a male Black-headed Grosbeak in Del Rey Oaks (below right, photo 27 Dec © D. Roberson).

On 12 Dec Shawn Wagoner discovered this Sage Thrasher (above) at the UC MBEST center in Marina, and it stayed for at least a week, delighting local birders (photo 12 Dec © Shawn Wagoner). This thrasher is rare in MTY, and most have occurred farther east or south in the county.

Mid-November brought two excellent flycatchers to MTY. An Eastern Phoebe was at a restricted access area near the Salinas River in Salinas 11-12 Nov (Don Roberson, Rita Carratello; digiscoped photo below left © D. Roberson), and on 16 Nov a young Dusky-capped Flycatcher was discovered at El Carmelo Cemetery in Pacific Grove by Blake Matheson (photo below right © D. Roberson). The Dusky-capped is the rarer bird, there being just 8 MTY records, and the last was way back in 1996 — 17 years ago. We have been averaging about one Eastern Phoebe a year — usually in late fall or winter — and this year marks the 100th anniversary of the first MTY record (7 Mar 1913 in Monterey).

Pileated Woodpecker is a resident bird of the Santa Cruz Mountains, which has long been its southernmost range extension along the California coastal mountains. The first MTY record was the corpse of a female picked up in the Costco parking lot in Seaside on 5 June 1994 (and now a specimen as Calif. Academy of Sciences, San Francisco). Since then there have been a half-dozen sightings in the Santa Lucia Mts or along the Big Sur coast — some better documented with details than others — but photographic confirmation of a live bird has been lacking. Until now.

During the first week of November 2013, resident ranger Larry Born heard and then saw an adult female Pileated Woodpecker in the campground at Bottchers Gap in the Santa Lucia Nat'l Forest. Over a period of several days, the woodpecker came back to one Black Oak to work on a diseased limb, where it fed on carpenter ants. The woodpecker's workings at very apparent (photo right © D. Roberson). On about 6 November, Born took a very nice handheld video (a screen shot with my point-and-shoot of that video is below). This is the first photo of this species in MTY.

In the video the Pileated hammers very vigorously at the wood, and the blows are very audible on film. The bird hammers so hard at one time that puffs of sawdust appear in the air. Greg Meyer heard about the event on 8 Nov (but did not see the bird) and reported to MBB after his camping trip on 11 Nov. Efforts to see it thereafter failed. It was last seen on 10 Nov, per Larry Born.


While August through early October had its run of excellent waders and seabirds — including the unprecedented invasion of Blue-footed Boobies — late October brought the more expected "eastern fall vagrant landbirds," but in exceptional diversity. It seemed like there was something great to 'chase' every weekend for the weeks following the middle of October. The best was during the final week of October, when Cooper Scollan and Brandt Bates discovered a hatch-year (HY in banding lingo, meaning born this year) Rusty Blackbird feeding on the lawn in San Carlos Cemetery, near El Estero, in downtown Monterey, on 27 Oct. This was just the 9th MTY record and the first since 1993, some 20 years ago (photo above 28 Oct © Don Roberson). The Rusty remained cooperative for just two days. However, on 11 November visiting birder Kumaran Arul stopped at the cemetery to look for the blackbird (perhaps not realizing it had been gone for 2 weeks?), and discovered MTY's second imm Painted Bunting of the fall — this time a brightish one that may be a HY male (photo right 13 Nov © Bill Hill). It remained until at least 14 Nov, to the delight of many local listers. There are now about 10 MTY records.

Late Oct-early Nov was also good for Tropical Kingbirds, with five reported, including this one at Garrapata SP on 6 Nov (photo below © Cooper Scollan).

On the morning of 17 Oct, Don Roberson & Rita Carratello were doing a loop around Laguna Grande when Don spotted a HY Magnolia Warbler along the north side of the lake. That bird would remain 9 days, and would be seen by many (photo second row below left © Rick LeBaudour). Don came back in the afternoon for photos (his shots were poor) but he also found a Blackpoll Warbler, two Brewer's Sparrows, and two Clay-colored Sparrows. These would grow to 3 Clay-coloreds by the next day, and many of the sparrows would remain until 25 Oct (two quite different Clay-colors are shown in the first row below: a bright one, below left, © Rick LeBaudour on 22 Oct, and a dull one, below right, © D. Roberson on 17 Oct). Meanwhile, on 19 Oct, Don discovered yet another HY Magnolia Warbler near the Carmel R. mouth . . . birders chasing it dipped but found two Black-and-white Warblers (both still present the next day, one photo'd 20 Oct, below right © D. Roberson).






Page created 16 Nov 2013, last updated 24 Jan 2014