These highlights chronicle the year 2017. Created
incrementally as new photos were available, the year runs generally
"backwards" on this page.
At the very bottom of this web page you'll find the story of Rick Fournier's discovery of the first nesting Eared Grebes in MTY. By mid-May, Rick counted at least 28 precocial young among the 103 grebes tallied.
Major vagrant highlights at the end of May included this stunning male Magnolia Warbler at Pt. Lobos State Reserve on 30 May (right © Kent Van Vuren) and the discovery of two — count 'em, two — singing Yellow-throated Vireos
along the Carmel River, upstream of the river mouth, at the recently
abandoned Rancho Cañada golf course. Michael Rieser found the
first Yellow-throated Vireo on 28 May along the river in the eastern
end of the old golf course (near the public South Bank Trail), and he
found the second one on 29 May at the western end of the old golf
course when following up on a report of an unknown singing vireo there.
Both Yellow-throated Vireos continued in their
respective locales through 6 June, and one could sometimes stand
between sites and hear both at the same time (photo below left is vireo
#1, taken 30 May, © Michael Rieser). Vireo #2 lingered through 13
|On 24 May, a male Blue-winged Warbler appeared briefly in our Pacific Grove yard. By the time a camera was located, it was gone. Fortunately, two days later on 26 May, the Blue-winged Warbler reappeared and took a bath, permitting photography (above © Don Roberson, left © Rita Carratello). Alas, by the time other birders arrived, it had finished the bath and was gone. For us, though, this concluded a string of May rarities in our yard (see below). As Dorothy Gale famously said: "If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard."|
|A visitor attending a conference at Asilomar Conference Grounds discovered this Philadelphia Vireo along the nearby Pacific Grove hiking trail on 19 May (left © Mark Sawyer). It was seen again by a few locals the next foggy morning. This is the first May record for MTY, and just the second in spring for the county. The first was at Big Sur R. mouth on 15 June 2004 (Rob Fowler, Matt Brady). The plumage of this spring bird — with rather little bright yellow below beyond the throat — was of concern to some westerners until expert comments and photos in the Macaulay library were obtained (helpful comments provided by Tony Leukering, Rob Fowler, Brian Sullivan).|
There are resident Pileated Woodpecker in the Dougas-fir forests of upland Santa Cruz Co., the next county north of Monterey. That population is expanding. Since 1994 there have been at least 8 Pileated that moved south into MTY, primarily to wilderness in the Santa Lucia Mts. There is a prior record for Pt. Lobos (Sep 2000), and two recent vagrants on the Monterey Peninsula, including one in Washington Park, Pacific Grove, on 16 Apr 2015 [photo in spring 2015 highlights, halfway down page]. A female was videotaped at Bottchers Gap in Nov 2013 [photo in fall 2013 highlights] and was present off-and-on there for several months. This last summer the Soberanes fire burned over Bottchers Gap and much of the Ventana Wilderness. Could that be a reason a Pileated Woodpecker visited Pt. Lobos this spring? Corey Utter took this very nice photo of a female in Cypress Grove, Pt. Lobos, on 13 May (right © C. Utter). Based on reported vocalizations it may still be there, but more photographic evidence has not yet been obtained.
northwest winds at 30-35 knots for 2 days made for spectacular
seawatching from shore on Saturday, 6 May. Some impressive flights
continued in lesser numbers for several days thereafter. In sheer
numbers, phalaropes led the pelagic parade. Brian Sullivan and Paul
Fenwick spent 12 hours at Pt. Pinos on 6 May, and other locals joined
them for varying shorter periods. Sullivan & Fenwick tallied 169,000 Red-necked Phalaropes and 1927 Red Phalaropes
over the daylight hours. The vast majority were in full breeding
plumage (i.e., alternate plumage); this lovely example of Red Phalarope
was photographed by Bill Hill in the Monterey Harbor that date (left,
© B. Hill).
Back to Pt. Pinos on 6 May — perhaps much unexpected, given the date, was the spectacle of 2335 Sabine's Gulls
passing the Point during that day (38 of them in the photo above,
© Brian L. Sullivan). We've had impressive near-shore flights in
the fall before, but for the spring this is unprecedented. Brian
Sullivan also took the first photo ever of a Laysan Albatross
from shore in MTY on 6 May (right, way out beyond the red buoy ©
B.L. Sullivan). And then there were the storm-petrels: 2 Ashy, 2
Leach's, and 195 Fork-taileds! The winds pushed them so close that
Brian, Paul, and others photographed a good many of those from shore.
There have been spectacular numbers of Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels inshore previously. Impressive spring incursions occurred in March or April in 1971, 1985, and (most recently) 1995, when up to 300 Fork-taileds were in the harbor and one was pushed as far inland as Hastings NHR!
However, what is entirely new this year is the first breeding of Eared Grebes in MTY. On 5 May Rick Fournier counted 43 active nests and saw pairs with precocial young from private conservation land adjacent to Moro Cojo Slough, between Castroville and Moss Landing. There is no public access here, but Fournier has done surveys under permits for years. For the first time in years, the water levels were high enough to create a shallow marsh in places. Several nests can be seen in this long-distance photo of the site (5 May © R. Fournier). In the photos below, a parent feeds three precocial young (below left, 5 May © R. Fournier) or a youngster rides on a parent's back while another trails behind (below right, 6 May © D. Roberson).
At the time of Grinnell & Miller (1944), Eared Grebes bred the length of California, south to San Diego Co., but mostly east of the Sierra Nevada. Nesting in central California was very sporadic — as water conditions permitted — at Los Banos, Merced Co., and nearby Fresno Co. Later they bred irregularly in south San Francisco Bay (Small 1994) and continue to do so now in southwestern Alameda Co. (Steve Rottenborn, in litt.). While Roberson (2002) suggested that local breeding might occur if conditions permitted, this 2017 event is the first evidence ever for our county.
|More highlights will be posted as they arise and
Page created 7 May 2017, last updated 4 July 2017