Friday, March 14, 2008

Bulletin #30 - Monterey CA winter birds #

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
March 14, 2008

Bulletin #30 – winter birds Monterey California #2

Hello friends,

Many Canadian arctic and Alaskan birds winter along the central California coast. It has been several years since I was there over this period, so I managed to get several new bird photos as well as 4 life birds.

I hired the same guide again, Rick Fournier of Monterey Birding Adventures, for a day. As I had sent him a ‘wish list’ of birds that I wanted to see and photograph, we had a great day. His email is

The next life bird was the Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus). This is one of the two native North American swans. There is a third swan species that has been introduced. The adults are white with black bill and small yellow spot on the bill below the eye. The juveniles are brownish with pink bill and they gradually molt to adult plumage over the first winter. The first photo is an adult and the second is an adult and juvenile together. The second photo was taken with both a 1.4x and 2x extenders, for effective size of 1400mm lens and manually focusing. This is very difficult under best of circumstances, but with the swans swimming, even more difficult. click ‘next’ once

The male Canvasback (Aythya valisineria) is closely related to the Redhead. The difference between these ducks is the shape of the head. The Redhead has a round head. This bird has a sloping forehead that flows right into the bill.

The male Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) is a beautiful duck in brown, black and white with a yellow eye and large white crest patch. This bird occurs regularly along the upper Texas coast in winter.

The male Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) is our smallest duck species at 13”. He is mostly white bodied and has large white patch on his head. The dark of his head is black or purplish in the light. Here are photos of 2 different birds. click ‘next’ once

I also got a number of photos of sparrows and related species.

The Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla) is a large bird (7.25”) that breeds in BC, Yukon and Alaska and winters from Washington to California. It is not listed on the upper Texas coast checklist.

The sexes are similar plumage. The first photo is an adult that is almost in full breeding plumage with clear breast, golden crown patch bordered with black. The black is not quite total behind the eye. Notice also the bicolored bill. The 1st winter birds have a totally gray bill. The second photo is a non-breeding adult with no black against the yellow forehead. click ‘next’ once

The common Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) occurs almost everywhere in North America as a breeder, permanent resident or winter resident. The breast streaking coalescing to a central breast spot are the key to identifying this common bird. I got my best photos ever of this bird on this trip. It was in a mixed flock with the Golden-crowned Sparrows above. click ‘next’ once

The next bird is the common Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis). Again, this is a bird occurs throughout North America, but it has regional variations in coloration. Those on the upper Texas coast are rather drab, however, this one has more yellowish on head and face. This feature, according to my guide Rick Fournier, is typical of wintering Monterey birds.

I got great pictures of the Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis). This is another widely distributed bird across North America, but has marked regional plumage differences. The ‘Oregon’ plumaged birds of the west are perhaps the prettiest. The first photo is the male with black hood. The second photo is the female with a gray hood. click ‘next’ once

The last bird is the California Towhee (Pipilo crissalis). This drab brown bird has a rusty undertail patch.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonald

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