Mendocino Pt Arena - Jan. 1, 2007 -- Light-morph Harlan's Hawk, Albatross, etc.
- Ron Thorn and I drove to Pt Arena to see the Laysan
Albatross on Jan. 1 -- great way to start the new year
with perfect weather and beautiful views.
We stopped at a cove just before Fort Ross. There we
saw 150 ANCIENT MURRELETTES, 400 RHINOCEROUS
AUKLETS,20-30 SURFBIRDS and BLACK TURNSTONES. Two
WHITE-WINGED SCOTERs flew by. [Sonoma County]
When we arrived at Pt Arena about 11-11:30AM, no Al.
Locals told us that he/she always comes in around
mid-day and stays for the rest of the day.
We birded Miner's Road and Alder Creek Road next. We
saw some terrific raptors, esepcially from the Alder
creek road turnoff, right at the top by the house/farm
First we saw one, then 2, FERRUGINOUS HAWKS. One was
an adult (sitting in front of the farm facing the
ocean) and the other, which we saw on the east side of
route 1 over the farmland, was an immature with no
rufous markings under the wings. Soon the adult joined
the immature and both flew together over the farm
Next, Ron spotted this really intersting RED-TAILED
HAWK. From the dark brown-black back, white/light gray
tail with narrow subterminal band, and heavily
streaked breast, Ron thought it was probably a light
morph HARLAN'S HAWK, which apparently is pretty rare.
Once he got home, he did some more research and agrees
(see his comments below). I looked it up in Raptors of
Western North America and it fits well with the photos
of the light morph Harlan's. So that was pretty
exciting. We got to watch it for quite awhile.
We also saw 2 PEREGRINE FALCONS, AMERICAN KESTRELS, a
NORTHERN HARRIER and a WHITE-TAILED KITE.
Back at Pt Arena, Al had indeed arrived, floating in
his usual position on the north side of the pier. He
floated to about 20' from shore and stayed there, head
tucked. Eventually, a friendly surfer who had "known"
Al for 10 years got into the water near the bird, and
amazingly, Al woke up, opened his bill and started
making all kinds of noises, swam over to the surfer,
mouthed the surfer's hand coverings with it bill. The
surfer said that Al is this friendly toward all of
them and will even climb in their laps while they are
surfing! He also says that surfers don't feed Al, but
he sure looks used to expecting good things from their
hands. I have all this on photos, but I have to get
them off the camera onto my computer. Next Al
proceeded to search around him for bits of stick-like
things in the water, apparently clearing them out of
his way? He would pick them up, move them, put them
down. He was not eating them. he also picked up a
couple of round items, maybe floating snails,and moved
We left around 2:30 or 3pm and headed over to highway
101 via Mountain View Road (thanks Dean Manley for the
tip.) In addition to VARIED THRUSHES and TOWNSEND'S
WARBLERS, we found 3 MOUNTAIN QUAIL. We had pulled
over to check the Birding Mendocino book, and wham,
there they were! pretty amazing coincidence. They
froze, so we got quite good and close looks.
It was a lovely way to start the new year!
Kris Olson, Menlo Park, CA
From RON THORN, on the LIGHT MORPH HARLAN'S HAWK
I did some additional checking of references and we
did see a light-morph adult Harlan's Hawk. There are
intermediates between the light and dark
morph. The intermediate would show dark underwings and
a dark breast with white mottling. Our bird had the
underwings as a light-morph adult Red-tailed Hawk. On
the breast of our bird, there was dark streaking
forming a breast band and the rest of the underparts
white. The upperparts were a dark brown and I could
not detect any white mottling. I thought the tail was
a pale gray with a distinct broad terminal band. There
was dark shading extending from the terminal band
inward along the edges of the