The 24-hours between 1 May (4 pm) to 2 May (4 pm) was the period chosen for the 2009 Birdathon, sponsored by the Monterey Peninsula Audubon Society.
It seemed like a good date when chosen, but after an all-night rain, 2
May began as a gloomy overcast day (left) with rain drops
spattering the windshield (inset).
Further, the 13
years of fundraising for Big Sur Ornithology Lab had ended with VWS's
closing of BSOL last summer, and the effort was an ad hoc
last-minute affair without long-range organization. Numbers of birders
were half that of prior recent efforts, so countywide coverage was
spread rather thin. Yet the organizers and participants put together a
in the mountains the rain dampened bird song, and everything was soaked
(right; Larry Rose in green, green, drippy-fog wet forest on Fremont
Peak © Carole Rose). Owling was miserable. Chris Tenney's planned
hike to Cone Peak was wiped out because the road to get there was
In the lowlands, a huge flock of at least 66
American White Pelican feeding at dawn on McCluskey Slough broke up and
seemed to appear everywhere (e.g., some were in Moss Landing harbor by
mid-day; shown at top of page © D. Roberson ).
day brightened throughout Saturday, and many local birds were found.
Tim Amaral (below) and his group on Fremont Peak actually had a decent
migrant fall-out as the rain clouds lifted.
participating had a fine time, and the views of the county in spring
could be spectacular (right, Fremont Peak at dawn © Marcos
Rangel). Coverage coordinator Karen Shihadeh sent birders to all
corners of the county. Jill Himonas, May Tenney, Jan Scott, and Bette
Mayer managed to organize a really fun countdown. The event was held
once again at Wild Bird Center in Del Monte Center, where we were
treated to a great meal prepared by Kristina Scrivani of Whole Foods Salud!,
accented with wine and stories from the day. The participation fees
also raised several thousand dollars for Monterey Audubon's scholarship
Pushing the birdathon into May, combined with
poor weather and coverage spread very thin, resulted in our lowest
birdathon total ever: 230 species. In analyzing the
results, I noted 15 species (local breeding, regular migrants) that
were missed this year, offset by 15 unusual species that are worth
celebrating. Had we been able to add the 15 "missing" birds, our total
would have been close to our "usual" average of about 245–250 species.
But there were many birds of interest — so onto the birds!
|Late lingering waterfowl were a mixed bag. We came up with some nice surprises — like this Greater White-fronted Goose
at a winery pond in Gonzales (above © Chris Hartzell), but quite a
number of wintering ducks were gone, including, alas, the pair of
Harlequin Ducks that had spent all winter in Monterey harbor.
Birdathoners did find:
- 'Aleutian' Cackling Goose at Crespi Pond (has been present all winter, but the Snow Goose is gone)
- Northern Pintail at Carmel R. mouth (photo © Bill Hill, right; also Karen Shihadeh & field trip)
- Green-winged Teal at Zmudowski & Moro Cojo (D. Roberson)
- Blue-winged Teal near Kirby Park (D. Roberson, Rita Carratello)
- Greater Scaup on upper Elkhorn Slough (D. Roberson)
- Lesser Scaup at Hudson Landing (male, Rita Carratello) and another at Salinas R. mouth (Steve Rovell)
- Bufflehead at Pajaro R. mouth (Steve Gerow, Nanci Adams) & Carmel R. mouth (C. Hohenberger, M. Rieser et al.)
We did reasonably well with some late gulls, including several widely scattered Herring Gull and two Thayer's Gull
at Salinas R. mouth (Tim Amaral, Carole & Larry Rose; photo left
© Marcos Rangel), but Mew Gull was missed. Of note were two
first-cycle Glaucous Gulls:
one at Salinas R. mouth on 2 May (Tim
Amaral & team), and another at Little Sur R. mouth late on 1 May
Flat calm conditions in the rain on
Friday afternoon, and little wind on Saturday, limited pelagic
observations from shore. Richard Ternullo had a couple good birds on
his Saturday whale-watch trip: Flesh-footed Shearwater and Cassin's Auklet. A late Horned Grebe
was in Monterey harbor (Brian Weed). The Ventana Wildlife Society's
condor team was tracking condors throughout the day, and did observe a
"countable" California Condor (i.e., hatched from a local nest).
Notable waterbird migrants included:
- White-faced Ibis (3) at Castroville ponds (Don Roberson, Rita Carratello, and unnamed poachers)
- Common Moorhen (2) on Laguna Grande & another at Locke Paddon pond (Steve Rovell)
- Pacific Golden-Plover at Salinas R. mouth (Tim Amaral)
- Lesser Yellowlegs at Castroville (Don Roberson)
- flock of 21 Ruddy Turnstone at Moss Landing (photo of one, right © D. Roberson)
- late Wilson's Snipe at Carmel R. mouth (Craig Hohenberger, Michael Rieser et al.) and Zmudowski (D. Roberson)
- early Elegant Tern
at Pt. Pinos on 1 May (Brian Weed) and another at Pajaro R. mouth 2 May
(S. Gerow, N. Adams); also four Forster's Tern were at Pt. Pinos on 1
May, where they are quite rare (DR)
Landbirds of note were comparatively few, but among them were a flock of 31 Yellow-headed Blackbird at Moonglow Dairy (one shown at left © Don Roberson).
At Fremont Peak, Tim Amaral & team heard a 'whitting' Empidonax Flycatcher (likely Gray or Dusky) and had a fall-out of several dozen Hermit Warbler, plus a Nashville. They also found a male Rufous Hummingbird in Chualar Canyon.
Chris Tenney had a small flock of 3 Ruby-crowned Kinglet near Memorial Park, and added a scarce breeder Black-chinned Hummingbird and a singing Black-chinned Sparrow there. Wally & Lois Goldfrank and Bob & Bernadette Ramer had a late Lincoln's Sparrow at Big Sur River mouth, and the VWS banding team contributed a netted Hermit Thrush there. Roberson had a late American Pipit at Moonglow Diary.
As always, finding the scarce residents is the heart of any county-wide effort. The only Bald Eagles were 3 first-year birds by R.J. Adams at Lake San Antonio, and the only Loggerhead Shrike was by Kellie Morgantini in south county. Steve Rovell had an Osprey at Salinas R. mouth. Two parties found Greater Roadrunner (the Hartzells and the Amaral team) and both got photos: this one (below) is © Chris Hartzell.
A real surprise was a male Sharp-shinned Hawk
carrying nesting material at Elkhorn Slough Estuarine Reserve (Mark
Paxton, Steven Johnston & bird walk participants). This is the
first evidence of nesting in the Elkhorn Slough watershed. Breeding Purple Martins
were located at Andrew Molera State Park (the Goldfranks & the
Ramers) and in the Santa Lucia Range (Scott & Linda Terrill). Grasshopper and Sage Sparrows on territory were at Ft. Ord (David & Jane Styer).
We were not able to get coverage for the known Bank Swallow colonies this year, but the Amaral team had a migrant in the lower Salinas Valley. Likewise, no one went to the Burrowing Owl colonies
in the King City grasslands, but one was very fortuitously found within
the City of Salinas by the Amaral team (photo to come, I hope!).
Finding a Burrowing Owl was particularly important this year, because the owl is featured
on this year's Birdathon Tshirt / sweatshirt. You can order a Tshirt or sweatshirt in your
preferred design and color at the on-line MPAS shop.
efforts in the rain did produce our resident owls, including N. Pygmy,
Spotted, and Long-eared (thanks to Steve Rovell and to Scott &
Our annual Birdathon is during the peak of spring migration, but many local species have nesting well underway. This Wilson's Warbler was carrying nesting material at Frog Pond Natural Area (right; fine photo © Steve Rovell).
number of scarce breeding species were missed this year, including
American Bittern, Flammulated Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, Costa's
Hummingbird, and Blue Grosbeak. Also missed were scarce migrants like
Red Knot, Wilson's & Red Phalaropes, and Black Skimmer, and the last lingering
Red-necked Grebe, American Wigeon, White-winged Scoter, Common
Goldeneye, and Fox & White-throated Sparrow appeared to be gone (or
our coverage was not strong enough to find them).
Coverage, it turns out, is quite important to a high species count. We hope to recruit more of you next year!
A list of this year's species follows:
|Gr. White-fronted Goose
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
California Condor [a wild-fledged young was seen]
Great Horned Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
N. Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Gray Warbler
& Chris Tenney had the idea to continue our annual birdathon
efforts, but this year as an MPAS fundraiser. Karen
Shihadeh organized this year's coverage effort, and Jill Himonas was on
top of everything through the Wild Bird Center. The countdown was
organized by May Tenney, Jan Scott, and Bette
Mayer; Leann Adler was very helpful with the event. Kristina Scrivani
of Whole Foods' Salud!
prepared our great meal. Chris & Ame Hartzell, Bill Hill, Don
Roberson, Carole Rose & John Sorensen contributed art for the Salud!
room reception. Karen Shihadeh and Mark Paxton led public walks for the
birdathon; Richard Ternullo provided sightings from his whale-watching
trip. Access to non-public lands was
provided by California State Parks, Santa Lucia Conservancy, Elkhorn
Slough Foundation, and others. Monterey Peninsula Audubon Society
hosted the entire event. Chris Hartzell, Bill Hill, Marcos Rangel, Carole Rose, and Steve Rovell
graciously provided photographs for this web page. Karen Shihadeh
created a lovely birdathon t-shirt, available on-line. Finally, the many
participants and financial supporters are much appreciated.