Santa Barbara Birding | A Tale of Two Counts

Santa Barbara Birding | A Tale of Two Counts

Whilst birders adore the rain as a great deal as any individual – following all, water commonly means more birds – lots of of us have been grousing about the foul disorders on New Year’s Eve, Santa Barbara Audubon’s formal Christmas Bird Count (CBC) working day. There was hope that the rain would keep off till midmorning, but it was not to be as dawn bit by bit glimmered into currently being, down arrived the continual rain that only permit up for a few minutes at a time all working day lengthy. 

Birding in the rain is complicated for a lot of reasons. Birders depend upon hearing calls as a single of the greatest approaches to identify birds, and with rain this results in being rather complicated. For these of us searching for landbirds, the constant movement of leaves as they had been struck by raindrops created finding compact birds challenging. Insert to this the fogging up of optics and eyeglasses, and you can see the problems we confronted.

Not only that, but several top-notch out-of-town birders, deterred by the forecast, produced a previous-minute final decision to forego the rely this year. We nonetheless had about 150 birders out braving the features, some birding the mountains in which 4 inches of rain fell, others likely out on the ocean in tricky situations. Despite all these hurdles, we logged 195 species, a minimal decreased than our typical tally in the very low 200s, but however remarkably superior thinking of the conditions.

This Lucy’s warbler was a superior discover on count day | Credit score: Hugh Ranson 

There ended up some painful misses. A couple “stake out” birds were missed, species that experienced been witnessed regularly up to rely working day (and numerous of them the day after!). These involve winter wren, tropical kingbird (it was not a superior working day for flycatchers), American bittern, brief-eared owl, and osprey. In the days major up to the rely I had viewed 4 distinctive black-throated gray warblers in tipu trees, but all have been lacking in action on rely working day. I invested in excess of an hour and a fifty percent staring into the tipu trees at the Milpas Put up Place of work, where one of these warblers had been the trees experienced been bouncing with warblers for the duration of the sunny times in advance of the gloom set in, but in the rain they ended up eerily quiet. A person “good” hen that did briefly pop into the tipus soon after an hour’s wait was a Lucy’s warbler, a bird that need to be wintering on the west coast of Mexico. I was also delighted to locate the scarce-in-wintertime warbling vireo at Bohnett Park, back for its tenth winter at this place.

One of the good values of the annual depend is that we are capable to census the birds in our location and examine populations from yr to yr. Sadly, due to the fact of the climate, many species will have been beneath-counted this year. The exact was not correct of the Carpinteria CBC that was held on December 17, a gloriously sunny, warm working day. The Carpinteria count is comparatively new and doesn’t draw in as several contributors. This year’s count, having said that, had its ideal species full with 162 seen, four a lot more than the prior greatest.

As members in the count, Mark Brilliant and I experienced the superior fortune to be aboard the Channelkeeper, skippered by Penny Owens. Our task was to census the ocean portion of the rely circle, and we experienced wonderfully calm circumstances with which to do it unfortunately, however, seabirds had been couple and significantly concerning. Items were about to improve, nevertheless, when we achieved Rincon Island at the south conclusion of the circle. Rincon Island is the human-designed island, connected to the land by a very long pier, that you can see as you drive by Mussel Shoals on the 101. We motored near to the island in look for of rocky shorebirds, but as we turned alongside the pier, we observed a flock of surf scoters, ocean heading ducks, and with them, two much larger brown ducks. With an quickly racing heartbeat, I recognized these ducks as eiders, but they and the scoters immediately flew off in advance of we could get fantastic appears and photos, and gentle stress briefly ensued.

The two unusual king eiders, the young female in the foreground and the adult feminine at the rear | Credit rating: Hugh Ranson

Eiders are sea ducks of the significant Arctic, rarely noticed as significantly south as California. I knew we had to re-obtain these birds and get appropriate documentation. Fortuitously, we were in call with Linus Blomqvist, who was conducting a sea view with his scope from on major of the island. He before long relocated the birds nearer to shore, and was in a position to affirm that the birds had been in fact eiders. Penny held the boat in posture, and soon the eiders swam again to us, and Mark and I fired off hundreds of shots. The birds ended up two feminine king eiders (the females are colloquially referred to as queen eiders and the grownup males are a impressive chicken — do glimpse them up). What a thrill to be in the proper place and the proper time to see these lovely birds that ended up much from their regular Arctic house.

The king eiders ended up witnessed irregularly at Rincon Island for a few of days in advance of they relocated to Ventura Pier, wherever they remained at the time of writing, feeding on mussels and other invertebrates from the pilings of the pier. They have now been witnessed by hundreds of birders and have been aged as an grownup feminine and a initially wintertime woman the intimate in me wishes to consider they are mom and daughter.

There is an exciting postscript to the tale of the eiders: a month ahead of the birds appeared at Rincon, Wyoming experienced its first ever document of king eider, two girls that put in a handful of times on a lake ahead of it froze about. Images clearly show that the birds ended up an adult and a youthful feminine. Offered that “our” birds and the Wyoming birds show up to be the only out-of-assortment king eiders witnessed in the west this wintertime, and that previous California documents have only involved single birds, it would seem rather likely to me that these are the exact birds embarking on a terrific winter odyssey.

The Ninth Annual Winter Fowl Depend for Young children is on January 21 at Lake Los Carneros. For information, stop by

A male summer tanager, photographed at the zoo a couple of times in advance of the CBC, was also seen on count day | Credit score: Hugh Ranson

Assistance the Santa Barbara Unbiased via a very long-expression or a solitary contribution.