Monterey Christmas Count; 12.28.09
- On December 28, 2009, shrouded in a dull palor of white and gray, 60 hardy birders ventured out for the Monterey Peninsula's annual Christmas Bird Count. Our final total for the Count appears to have settled in at 178 species; rather close to par for the course. Our count circle stretches from the sage flats of the old Fort Ord in the North to the fragrant canyon of Soberanes in the South, and from the offshore waters of the bay east to the oak lands of Corral de Tierra and the Santa Lucias.
Highlight passerine included Tropical Kingbird, Baltimore Oriole and Tennessee Warbler all in outer Pacific Grove. Among our few, rare anseriforms were Ross's and Cackling Geese along with a handsome Redhead at the Carmel River Lagoon, and a male Harlequin Duck we thought might not be present this year, but who appeared undaunted and flawless in Monterey Harbor, nonetheless. White-winged Scoter were also observed, as were several female Hooded Merganser inland, above the Carmel River Valley. Perhaps our most unseasonable species was a Western Tanager calling deep in Del Monte Forest.
On the seas a crowded boat recorded unprecedented numbers of Black-vented Shearwaters, and scattered amongst them was at least one Manx Shearwater. The best bird, by vote, was a covey of Mountain Quail on the heights at Palo Corona; a splendid first for our now centuries old circle. Among our somewhat more expected but nevertheless notable birds, the Owls were swept at Robinson Canyon, where even the rarest resident species, Long-eared Owl, in addition to our imperilled Spotted Owl, made their customary appearances.
This year's count recorded all time highs for the following species: Black-footed Albatross, Black-vented Shearwater, Red-shouldered Hawk, Black-bellied Plover and, inevitably, Eurasian Collared-Dove (102 up from app. 60 the previous year).
There were many notable misses including several ducks, Wandering Tattler, plus Rock & Canyon Wren, among others. But we did manage some of our more obscure specialty or otherwise important species including Surfbird, Tricolored Blackbird, Horned Lark, Hermit Warbler and Sage along with Rufous-crowned Sparrow.
Happy new year &
Blake T. Matheson
President, Monterey Peninsula Audubon Society
Legal Advisor, The Xerces Society
"Men still live who, in their youth, remember Passenger Pigeons. Trees still live who, in their youth, were shaken by a living wind. But a decade hence only the oldest oaks will remember, and at long last only the hills will know." Leopold (1949).
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