Friday, March 21, 2008

Bulletin #31 - Monterey CA winter birds #3

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
March 21, 2008

Bulletin #31 – winter birds Monterey California #3

Hello friends,

Grebes were well represented in Monterey harbor. There were 4 species – Eared, Horned, Western and Clark’s all easily seen.

The striking, large (25”)Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis) was close to the pier and gave me my best pictures yet of this species. The first shows the adult with yellow bill and black feathers around the eye. The second shows one sleeping on the water. click ‘next’ once

The very similar Clark’s Grebe (Aechmophorus clarkii) has an orange bill and white around the eye. This is the non-breeding plumage with some black feathers above and behind the eye. It also has more white on the flanks than the Western Grebe. click ‘next’ once

The non-breeding plumage Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) is smaller than the previous birds at only 13” in length. It is black and white with red eye and black auriculars. This bird appears to have a yellowish eye that occurs in juvenile birds, but the reflection appears to be more red, so it may be an artifact of the flash. He has an all black bill.

The very similar Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritis) has no black below the eye. It is also in non-breeding plumage. He also has a white tip on the bill.

In the last bulletin, I showed the male Hooded Merganser. I also got a photo of the female. She has a reddish brown crest. Here are the pair. click ‘next’ once

The Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) appears superficially black as do all the cormorants. However, many black birds are iridescent in the sunlight. I caught this bird sitting on a rock in the afternoon sun. He has a beautiful greenish coloration with yellow bill and red face. In breeding plumage he also has white flank patches. These white patches enable ready identification of this species when flying or when swimming as in the second photo. click ‘next’ once

The Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans) is a common cute little flycatcher that occurs in the southwest USA and California. He is easy to identify as he is all black except white belly.

His cousin, the Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya) is brown with a reddish-brown belly. This was only the second time I had ever seen this bird. Both these phoebes occur as vagrants on the upper Texas coast. click ‘next’ once

I was also looking for several specific shorebirds. My nemesis was the Surfbird. It is supposed to winter on rocky coasts along California and Oregon. I looked along miles of shoreline and didn’t see a single bird. However, I found a bird that I didn’t expect to find. The evening prior to my birding with my guide, I looked at the range maps in the field guide to see if there were any birds that might be there, that I wasn’t aware of. One of these was the Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva). This bird breeds in Alaska and Siberia, and winters primarily in the South Pacific, Asia and Australia. However, a few migrate to the US west coast in winter. I asked my guide, Rick Fournier, about this and he agreed that a few of them were around. They would be found in muddy fields rather than on the shore. In my extensive search for the Surfbird, I found 2 of these birds on the shore. It was not a lifer for me as I have seen many in Hawaii. If you have ever been to Hawaii in winter, they are all over the lawns at the hotels. The bird is more brown or golden than the more common Black-bellied Plover. It also does not have the black underwing. I saw this bird fly and confirmed no black.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonald

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