a web page by Don Roberson

To belong to this group, one must have recorded 400 or more species on his or her Monterey County (MTY) bird list. Members are shown at their current list totals; read the details of each to see when they joined the Club (e.g., Ron Branson was first to hit 400 on 4 Sep 1988). While members are careful about the species they include on their lists — and most are verified by photos, rarity committee review, publication, or a strong reputation — this is just a listing game and should not be taken too seriously. The commentary is light-hearted; words in quotation marks are quotes from the observer. There are now 21 members; sadly, 4 of them are now deceased.

Last updated 1 March 2017

Don Roberson

Hit 400 mark: 10 Oct 1988 with Gray Wagtail at Salinas R. mouth
Current total [March 2017]: 469
Has been birding MTY since: 1973, resident since 1979, and Resides at Pacific Grove
Occupation: research attorney
Most satisfying birds? probably the most satisfying were a singing Blue-winged Warbler at Big Sur R. mouth (9 June 2001); identifying a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher at Pt. Pinos (21 Sep 2004; fortunately it called!); noticing a Grace's Warbler at my back yard fountain while watching football (5 Sep 2014); and the sheer good fortune to have an adult Nazca Booby fly past our boat on Monterey Bay (16 July 2016).
Worst miss? Magnificent Frigatebird
What he likes about MTY? "I moved to Pacific Grove in 1979 because Pt. Pinos was my favorite birding spot in the world. Alas, birding for vagrants at the Pt. Pinos golf course went downhill in the 1980s with construction of the driving range. In compensation, the possibilities of Big Sur River mouth, Moonglow Dairy, and Salinas WTP were discovered. Birding at those spots peaked in the 1990s when BSOL existed and before the Salinas ponds were closed down. Now I appreciate new things – such as the amazing string of luck to accomplish the 'gull trifecta' in January 2017 – but I still treasure Pt. Pinos in a big storm, where one can still scope wonderful seabirds from the comfort of your car."

Photo: Sep 2015 Dinosaur NM, Utah © Rita Carratello

Rita Carratello

Hit 400 mark: 2 Feb 1999 with Grace's Warbler at Jacks Peak
Current total [March 2017]: 440
Has been birding MTY since: 1988 and Resides in Pacific Grove
Occupation: Retired educator
Most satisfying birds? Rita spotted such rarities as Canada Warbler, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Blue-winged Warbler in the county, but writes "I had a very recent satisfying moment at Wharf #2 (Monterey Harbor). Don and I were looking at the Yellow-billed Loon that had been previously discovered in December. The bird was right below us offering fantastic views. I said that I wished somebody would come so I could share this excellent experience with them. Lo and behold somebody did come. The out-of-town visitor asked 'has anybody seen the Yellow-billed Loon?' and I was able say 'Yes, it's right there,' and all I had to do was point at it."
Worst miss?
Gray Flycatcher, again and again
What she likes about MTY?
She's enjoyed local projects, such as desk-top publishing the Monterey County Breeding Bird Atlas, and edited the Audubon newsletter Sanderling for years. She also has hosted some great birds in her garden, including two Hooded Warblers, a Townsend's Solitaire, and a wintering Green-tailed Towhee.

Photo:Sep 2016 O'Reilly's, Queensland, Australia © D. Roberson

Bob [Robert F.] Tintle

Hit 400 mark: 23 June 1996 with Whip-poor-will at Big Sur R. mouth
Current total [March 2015]: 437
Has been birding MTY since: 1983 and Resides at Pacific Grove
Occupation: retired Biology and Chemistry teacher, Stevenson School
Most satisfying birds? "probably Great Crested Flycatcher (30 Sept. 1984, Andrew Molera State Park) and Grace's Warbler (12 Dec 1998, Jacks Peak) since I found those two myself, but Broad-billed Hummingbird, found with Chris Tenney" (29 Sep 1984 Carmel R. mouth) "and Pine Warbler, found with Bob Maurer" (24 Oct 1993 Big Sur R. mouth) "are right up there also."
Worst miss? "Laysan Albatross, Gray Flycatcher, and Common Grackle rank at the top"
What he likes about MTY? "Monterey County has an incredible variety of habitats all easily accessible, causing a remarkable diversity of plant species both native and introduced all of which favors a wonderful assortment of animals of all types, including birds of course. Also, the county is located coastally at a latitude that favors vagrants from both the far north and south of us. Finally, Monterey County is home to a terrific group of birders in whose company I have enjoyed some of the best times of my life."

Photo: 11 Apr 2004, Pt. Sur © D. Roberson [pictured with wife Rosemary]

Steve [Stephen F.] Bailey

Hit 400 mark: 4 Nov 1997 with Brown Thrasher at Pfeiffer-Big Sur S.P.
Current total [March 2017]: 436
Has been birding MTY since: 1971, resident 1992–2004, now Resides at Arcata, CA
Occupation: Bird tour leader; retired Director, Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History
Claim to fame: found the rarest vagrant of anyone during breeding bird atlasing — a Yellow-throated Warbler. Steve was seabird editor for American Birds for 14 years
What's he doing lately? Steve saw 3110 birds while globe-trotting in 2007, the 3rd highest world year list on record! His current world list is nearing 8000.

Photo: Jan 2004, Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History © D. Roberson [with MTY specimen of Mottled Petrel]

Steve Rovell

Hit 400 mark: 28 July 1999 with Yellow-throated Vireo at Big Sur R. mouth
Current total [March 2017]: 433
Has been birding MTY since: 1990, and Resides at Marina
Occupation: Biology and Earth Science teacher at Alisal High School
Most satisfying birds?: "I feel my best find was Clark's Nutcracker up at Jacks Peak."
Worst miss?
: "Zone-tailed Hawk !!! I looked for that guy maybe a dozen times!" Steve says "I'm still waiting to see Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Broad-winged Hawk, Northern Goshawk, and Least Flycatcher. I feel I can see those if I put more time into it . . . Gotta wait until the kids are gone, I guess."
What he likes about MTY?: Steve mentions "the record-setting Monterey County Big Day total of 208 with John Sterling and Scott Terrill," and says "I've got a pretty good yard list of 113 species in 18 years here in Marina . . . Best yard birds would have to be Harris's Sparrow, Yellow-breasted Chat, a December Indigo Bunting, and Clay-colored Sparrow. Just goes to show how creating habitat can bring in the birds."

Photo: 23 May 2004, Big Sur R. mouth © D. Roberson

Craig Hohenberger

Hit 400 mark: 9 Sep 1998 with Yellow-throated Warbler at Carmel R. mouth
Current total [March 2017]: 431
Has been birding MTY since: 1975, resident since 1985, but now Resides in Montana
Occupation: retired biology teacher
Most satisfying bird? the most satisfying was "the Garganey that I found with my MPC class" (25 Apr 1998)
Worst miss? "the bird that got away was a Upland Sandpiper at Molera"
What's he doing lately? After founding the Big Sur Ornithology Lab in the 1990s and then initiating banding project at Carmel Middle School, Craig retired in 2012 and moved to Montana, where he has built a home and has started another banding project.

Photo: May 2004, Big Sur R. mouth © D. Roberson

Brian J. Weed

Hit 400 mark: 29 Nov 1997 with Williamson's Sapsucker at Jacks Peak
Current total [March 2017]: 431
Has been birding MTY since: 1981 (keeping lists since '83) and Resides at Pacific Grove
Occupation: Grandparent
Most satisfying bird?: "My favorite bird is the one from my yard - the Rusty Blackbird" (3 Jan 1987, Cedar St., P.G.)
Worst miss?: "My worst miss is the Zone-tailed Hawk. I spent many hours looking for this bird while others close by in space and time were reporting "I just saw the Zone-tailed." I did, however, make the acquaintance of almost ever Turkey Vulture in the county. Some I knew by name."
What's he doing lately?: a long-time Pt. Lobos docent and expert, Brian continues to teach a popular adult education class in birding. He and his class discovered the Yellow-billed Loon at Del Monte Beach, Monterey, on 31 Jan 2012, which became perhaps the most chased Yellow-billed in local history.

Photo: 1 May 2004, Monterey © D. Roberson

Ron [Ronald L.] Branson

Hit 400 mark: 4 Sep 1988 with Hudsonian Godwit at Salinas R. mouth
Current total [March 2017]: 423
Has been birding MTY since: 1961, and Resides at Monterey
Occupation: retired Physician
Claim to fame: was very active in finding first MTY records in the late '60s, and was first member of 400 club. He was the county's first premier bird photographer, and many of his photos from the 1960s-70s have not been repeated.
What's he doing lately? traveled widely, photographed a lot of flowers, and Ron participated in his 57rd consecutive Monterey Peninsula Christmas Bird Count in Dec 2016

Photo: Jan 1994, Carmel R. mouth © D. Roberson

Kent Van Vuren

Hit 400 mark: 6 Jan 2005 with Cackling Goose at Moss Landing
Current total [March 2017]: 422
Has been birding MTY since: 1976, resident since 1982, and Resides at Prunedale
Occupation: retired teacher
Most satisfying bird?: Kent saw a Zone-tailed Hawk fly over his Prunedale home (20 Nov 2005), and has had American Tree Sparrow at his feeder (12-13 Nov 2006). He helped pioneer birding in San Benito County, and has found many first-county records in other northern California counties when living in the Sacramento Valley.
What liked about MTY? "I like birding in Monterey because of all the varied habitats. In 15 minutes I can be a Moss Landing of the Salinas wastewater ponds. Great weather and plenty of opportunity to find rare birds."

Photo: Mar 2006, Prunedale © Kent Van Vuren

Rick Fournier

Hit 400 mark: 8 May 2003 with White-winged Dove at Carmel R. mouth
Current total [March 2017]: 422
Has been birding MTY since: 1988 and Resides at Walker Valley near Elkhorn Slough
Occupation: professional bird guide / bird surveys
Most satisfying bird?: "For me the most satisfying that I was involved with was the Curlew Sandpiper" (15 Aug 2013) "but most recently, a Rusty Blackbird" (27 Oct 2013).
Worst miss?: Black-tailed Gull
What he likes about MTY? Rick discovered many new birding spots and has a long list of rarities in his "home patch" around Elkhorn Slough. "Two of my county fantasy birds are Eurasian Dotterel and Golden-winged Warbler."
   Rick is the owner of Monterey Birding Adventures, guiding birders locally and beyond.

Photo: 26 Oct 2003, Moonglow Dairy © D. Roberson

Alan Baldridge

Hit 400 mark: 15 Nov 2001 with Scarlet Tanager at Laguna Grande Park, Seaside
Current total [life]: 413
Had been birding MTY since: 1966, was a long time resident of Pacific Grove, now deceased
Occupation: Retired librarian, Hopkins Marine Station
Claim to fame: co-wrote The Bird Year (1980), a natural history of local birds. Alan discovered the Swallow-tailed Gull at Hopkins in 1985, and has hosted many rarities in yard, including a Kentucky Warbler! (21-29 Oct 1990). Alan was honored, along with wife Sheila, at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for exceptional service to local natural history studies, and continues to be an important mentor with Monterey chapter of the American Cetacean Society

Alan passed away at age 80 on May 28, 2014.

Photo: 8 Aug 2013 Carmel Valley, on Alan's 80th birthday © Rita Carratello

John Luther

Hit 400 mark: 31 Oct 2014 with Mountain Plover at Zmudowski
Current total [March 2017]: 413
Has been birding MTY since: his "first list might have been in June 1968 with Dr. Howard Cogswell's ornithology class at Pt. Lobos." This means that although John has never lived in MTY, he has been birding here for nearly 50 years. Resides at Oakland, Alameda Co.
Occupation: retired Biology/Natural History teacher from College of Alameda
Most satisfying bird?: "standing next to Steve Howell on a pelagic trip when Great-winged Petrel flew by long ago" (18 Oct 1998).
Worst miss?
: Streaked Shearwater
What he likes about MTY? "I like Monterey County most for its great diversity of habitats including, of course, its spectacular coast and ocean." John keeps his county lists NIB [=no introduced birds] for purposes of comparison on John Sterling's web site, and didn't notice reaching 400 in MTY until he got to 400 NIB with Philadelphia Vireo on 12 Sep 2015 at Big Sur R. mouth. His recent successful chases include Lesser Black-backed & Slaty-backed Gulls, and Scarlet Tanager.

Photo: Dec 2016, Alameda © J.S. Luther

Bruce Gerow

Hit 400 mark: 22 Nov 1998 with Chestnut-collared Longspur near Gonzales
Current total [life]: 412
Had been birding MTY since: 1981, was a life-long county resident; now deceased
Claim to fame: discovered the birding potential at the Salinas wastewater ponds and found MTY's first Upland Sandpiper there on 12 Sep 1997

Bruce passed away at age 73 on 15 June 2004. His son Steve is a premier birder in Santa Cruz.

Photo: Sep 1992, Moss Landing © D. Roberson

Bill Hill

Hit 400 mark: 5 Nov 2009 with American Tree Sparrow at Carmel R. mouth
Current total [March 2017]: 411
Has been birding MTY since: 1992, resident since 1945 (3d generation), and Resides at Carmel
Occupation: retired fire chief, Carmel
Most satisfying bird?: "No doubt my personal best find is the shared discovery of the Little Curlew at Carmel River mouth in 1994."
What he likes about MTY? "I love birding in Monterey County because it is a top place to bird that people travel many miles to see. I am already here. I am pretty sure I hold the record for a Monterey County list that is the highest percentage of a life list. When I started birding seriously in the early 1990s I was fortunate to meet and bird with experienced people who were very generous with their knowledge about birds and birding. That continues today. I am not much for travel so this is a pretty good place to be settled down." Bill has become one of the county's premier bird photographers.

Photo: 6 Sep 2014, Laguna Grande © D. Roberson

June Buntin

Hit 400 mark: 3 Jan 1999 with Grace's Warbler at Jacks Peak
Current total [life]: 410
Had been birding MTY since: 1984, a long-time resident in Salinas, now deceased
Claim to fame: discovered (with Ruth Doudiet) the first on-shore Masked Booby in California, at the Salinas R. mouth in June 1992. She also hosted such great backyard birds as Harris's Sparrow and Dickcissel in her Salinas yard

June was in her 80s when she passed away on 23 Nov 2008

Photo: Sep 1985, Moonglow Dairy © D. Roberson

Chris Tenney

Hit 400 mark: 7 Sep 2000 with Yellow-throated Vireo at Carmel R. mouth
Current total [March 2017]: 406
Has been birding MTY since: 1980, and Resides at Monterey
Occupation: retired teacher, now freelance researcher & traveler
Claim to fame: co-editor of Monterey County Breeding Bird Atlas (1992); during the Atlas project, spent more hours atlasing than anyone and created the data-base
What's up lately? authored two fascicles in Birds of North America project (Black-chinned Sparrow, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet), and has become a local expert on butterflies. In 2015 he embarked on a "Big Year" for U.S. butterflies.

Photo: May 2006, Monterey © D. Roberson

Scott Terrill

Hit 400 mark: 24 Oct 2011 with Black-throated Blue Warbler at Pt. Pinos
Current total [March 2017]: 405
Has been birding MTY since: 1964 (he did his first boat trip that year) but has never lived in Monterey Co.
Scott resides at Los Gatos SCZ
Occupation: environmental consultant
Most satisfying bird(s) in MTY? "Best birds found by me were probably Greater Shearwater off Pt. Lobos (29 Nov 2008) and Streaked Shearwater off Cypress Point (30 Sep 2006)."
What he likes about MTY? "I have really enjoyed birding in Monterey County since I was a kid. It's an amazing and wonderful placed to bird with a remarkable diversity of habitats."

Photo: May 2004, Monterey © D. Roberson

Richard Ternullo

Hit 400 mark: 27 Feb 2013 with Nelson's Sparrow at Moonglow Dairy
Current total [life]: 403
Had been birding MTY since: 1992, legendary boat captain; now deceased
Most satisfying bird? "Prairie Warbler -- it was recorded at the old milk truck at Moon Glow [present Oct 1995-Feb 1996], I walked up and there it was, took about 10 seconds. Chasing is easy!" [Richard didn't mention it, but he has probably seen more MTY pelagics than all the rest of us combined!]
Worst miss? "I hate Evening Grosbeak."
What he likes about MTY? Richard wrote in 2015: "I've grown up here all my life (nearly). Birding has lead me to know so many wonderful people that helped 'show me the way' by their helpfulness and kindness. I can't help driving around the county and see the changes that I would have never appreciated without keeping a list. Listing, if done well, is the most educational of experiences. And we never are done learning something are we?"

Richard passed away at age 66 on August 24, 2016.

Photo: Apr 2007, Monterey Bay © D. Roberson

Tim Amaral

Hit 400 mark: 5 Jan 2013 with Arctic Loon at Monterey Harbor
Current total [March 2015]: 402
Has been birding MTY since: 1994, and Resides at Prunedale
Occupation: Adult education teacher
Most satisfying bird?: "My favorite find is the 12 Oct 2008 Streaked Shearwater on a Monterey Seabirds trip. It was one of those rare moments where my brain and my tongue were actually synchronized. I called out the Seabirds' leader trifecta: the right bird, the right directions, and the a "stop the boat!" shout that everyone could hear."
Worst miss? "My arch-nemesis bird is Evening Grosbeak."
What he likes about MTY? "Reasons why I love birding in Monterey County: First, because I don't get to travel very often (I only have an ABA list of 537 species but because I live in this area I have 400 of them in one county). Second, after a tough day in the field, I can get a really good taco just about anywhere. And most of all, I can go to sea and find cool things with a great group of people on Monterey Seabirds."

Photo: Aug 2015, Monterey harbor © fide T Amaral

Jim Booker

Hit 400 mark: 24 May 2000 with White-eyed Vireo at Big Sur R. mouth
Current total [March 2015]: 401
Has been birding MTY since: 1978, resident 1995-2001, now Resides at Athens, Texas
Occupation: environmental consultant
Most satisfying bird?: Jim says "for me, standing waist deep in the Carmel River with Todd Easterla and spotting a Great-tailed Grackle flying north with some blackbirds" (which was a first county record at the time — 8 May 1994), "then alerting Don and the gang and attempting to re-find it without success, then on a hunch, since the bird was flying north, re-finding it later that same day at Moonglow Dairy" is his most memorable experience. He also writes that he "found the first Common Grackle for the county years after that at the housing on Point Sur" (21 Apr 1998).
Worst miss?
: Bar-tailed Godwit
What he likes about MTY? Monterey's "incredible diversity," Jim says. Since his tenure as banding director at Big Sur Ornithology Lab 1995–2000, Jim moved to south Texas and now works with the World Birding Center in Edinburg and with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park.

Photo: 4 Mar 2000, near Anderson Peak © D. Roberson

Blake T. Matheson

Hit 400 mark: 25 Jan 2017 with Lesser Black-backed Gull at Marina
Current total [March 2017]: 400
Has been birding MTY since: 2000, when, as a High School senior, I took Bob Tintle’s ornithology elective. I was gone for much of 2002-2009 for undergrad and grad school, and missed some fine rarities during that era. Resides at Pacific Grove
Occupation: CEO
Most satisfying bird?: "From a rarity perspective, seeing a Hawaiian Petrel from Point Pinos was a thrill. Tufted Puffin, California Condor, Mountain Quail, any Albatross, Golden Eagle and Ferruginous Hawk are all special birds to me, even though they are, in some cases, resident. Every encounter with one of them feels supremely “satisfying.”
Worst miss?
: "Missing 2016’s Great Frigatebird by less than five minutes."
What's he likes about MTY?
: "Five generations of my family have now lived on the Monterey Peninsula. Discovering the birding lifestyle has deepened my relationship with home, ineffably so. Whether I'm finding a rarity like Scarlet Tanager or Slaty-backed Gull or simply watching a Pacific Wren forage in some dark, conifer-strewn canyon, the feeling I get when out in the field is a sense of profound place and deep belonging."

Photo: 1 May 2012, Monterey © D. Roberson

400 Club wannabees — those birders who can see the Promised Land not too far away in their future . . . . Those with current MTY lists not far below 400 include:

  • the late Rich Stallcup 393
  • John Sterling 389
  • Larry Rose 389
  • Carole Rose 385
  • Brian Sullivan 383
  • Chris Hartzell 382
  • Cooper Scollan 381
  • Paul Fenwick 376
  • Dan Singer 373
  • Matt Brady 371
  • Ryan Terrill 366
  • Rob Fowler 365
  • Sarah Lane 360

If there are others in this category, we love to hear from them; email Don




  page created 18 Apr 2000, updated 4 Mar 2017  
all text & photos © Don Roberson, except as otherwise indicated; all rights reserved