Friday, September 28, 2007

Bulletin #13 - Monterey CA

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas

Bulletin #13 – Monterey CA birds

Hello friends,

I was back in California on vacation over the week of Labor Day. Despite vacationing there for the past 25 years, I always seem to pick up new birds!

The first lifer for me was the Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis). I saw this unusual bird on the Carmel River mouth beach in the washed up kelp. I took some photos. When got back to my hotel and looked at them carefully, I was convinced that it was this species. This is a common migrant spring and fall on the upper Texas coast, but in 15 years had never found it. It is a rare migrant along the California coast and is a reportable bird! I saw the bird 3 days in a row and got many photos of it. In the Peterson’s western birds, it says that most of the birds found in California are juveniles. This bird was a juvenile. I called the bird in to the Monterey bird hotline and others came and saw it!

There are a couple of species of gulls and terns that breed in Mexico and then disperse northwards along the coast after breeding. These birds are only seen in the fall in Monterey County.

The first is the Heerman’s Gull (Larus heermanni). This is the most distinctive of all the ABA area gulls with its dark gray coloration. I was able to find several different plumages in the large flocke of these gulls.

Here is the adult non-breeding plumage.

The next is 2nd winter plumage. The face is darker and the plumage has some brownish feathers.

Lastly is the 1st summer plumage with a pinkish bill and very dark all over.

The other bird that breeds in Mexico and also extreme southern California is the Elegant Tern (Thalasseus elegans). Again, despite birding Monterey for 15 years, I had never found this bird until this trip. Actually, there are few terns along this area of the California coast. I found a flock of them at Moss Landing harbor. They are mid-sized terns (17”) with a long slender bill, bushy crest and a pinkish wash on the breast in some plumages.

Here is the adult non-breeding with black legs, orange bill and the pinkish wash on the breast.

The juveniles have a yellow beak and orange legs. These 2 photos seem to show a couple of juveniles with partial adult features. The first has a yellow beak but the black legs.

This next one seems to be a juvenile who has an adult orange beak, but still has the orange legs, although they have black patches starting.

If you remember an earlier bulletin (#3) about the Alcid family of seabirds, I found this Common Murre (Uria aalge)swimming just off the beach. This photo is the non-breeding plumage with white on the face

The very large Western Gull was featured in bulletin #3 as well. On this visit I found some babies. It was sort of strange to see this huge 24” dark baby gull following its parent around on the beach begging for food. Here is the baby in the begging posture on the beach.

And here he is getting regurgitated food from the parent.

The last new bird I found on this trip (a lifer) but it isn’t ABA countable yet, is the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus). These magnificent birds have been brought back from the brink of extinction with captive breeding programs at the San Diego and Los Angeles zoos. They are now being released back into the wild in Big Sur area and along the Grand Canyon in Arizona. They are all labeled and tracked. Also, the released birds are starting to pair up and have some wild offspring! What a success story.

Here is the adult with pink neck. Notice the tag #13 (same as this bulletin #!) on the wing. A number of them also have transmitters on their back so they can be tracked.

Here are a couple of juveniles. They have black necks. This photo sort of reminds me of an Edgar Allen Poe story with the carrion birds hanging around the house.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy Birding,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2007 David McDonald

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