Santa Barbara Birding | A Tale of Two Counts

Timothy Hill

Although birders enjoy the rain as much as any one – after all, h2o normally implies extra birds – many of us ended up grousing about the foul circumstances on New Year’s Eve, Santa Barbara Audubon’s formal Xmas Chook Depend (CBC) day. There was hope that the rain would maintain off until midmorning, but it wasn’t to be as dawn bit by bit glimmered into getting, down came the constant rain that only permit up for a handful of minutes at a time all working day extended. 

Birding in the rain is complicated for quite a few good reasons. Birders count upon hearing phone calls as one of the very best ways to find birds, and with rain this becomes rather difficult. For individuals of us on the lookout for landbirds, the continual motion of leaves as they have been struck by raindrops manufactured getting tiny birds difficult. Incorporate to this the fogging up of optics and eyeglasses, and you can see the difficulties we confronted.

Not only that, but numerous major-notch out-of-town birders, deterred by the forecast, made a past-moment selection to forego the rely this year. We continue to experienced about 150 birders out braving the features, some birding the mountains where four inches of rain fell, other individuals likely out on the ocean in difficult ailments. Regardless of all these hurdles, we logged 195 species, a minor decreased than our regular tally in the very low 200s, but still remarkably superior contemplating the circumstances.

This Lucy’s warbler was a very good discover on count day | Credit rating: Hugh Ranson 

There have been some agonizing misses. A couple of “stake out” birds were skipped, species that experienced been viewed regularly up to depend day (and several of them the working day right after!). These involve winter wren, tropical kingbird (it was not a great day for flycatchers), American bittern, small-eared owl, and osprey. In the times major up to the depend I had observed 4 various black-throated grey warblers in tipu trees, but all were being lacking in motion on count working day. I spent over an hour and a half staring into the tipu trees at the Milpas Put up Business, where by just one of these warblers had been the trees experienced been bouncing with warblers during the sunny days just before the gloom set in, but in the rain they were eerily peaceful. One particular “good” chicken that did briefly pop into the tipus following an hour’s wait was a Lucy’s warbler, a fowl that must be wintering on the west coastline of Mexico. I was also delighted to find the exceptional-in-wintertime warbling vireo at Bohnett Park, back again for its tenth winter season at this site.

A person of the fantastic values of the yearly depend is that we are equipped to census the birds in our space and review populations from year to calendar year. However, mainly because of the weather conditions, a lot of species will have been underneath-counted this yr. The exact same was not real of the Carpinteria CBC that was held on December 17, a gloriously sunny, warm day. The Carpinteria count is relatively new and does not appeal to as lots of contributors. This year’s rely, nevertheless, had its very best species whole with 162 noticed, four extra than the former most effective.

As members in the count, Mark Dazzling and I had the very good fortune to be aboard the Channelkeeper, skippered by Penny Owens. Our career was to census the ocean part of the rely circle, and we experienced beautifully quiet situations with which to do it sadly, though, seabirds had been handful of and considerably concerning. Issues were about to modify, having said that, when we arrived at Rincon Island at the south stop of the circle. Rincon Island is the human-designed island, linked to the land by a extended pier, that you can see as you generate by Mussel Shoals on the 101. We motored shut to the island in search of rocky shorebirds, but as we turned alongside the pier, we found a flock of surf scoters, ocean likely ducks, and with them, two larger brown ducks. With an promptly racing heartbeat, I recognized these ducks as eiders, but they and the scoters instantly flew off before we could get fantastic appears to be like and photographs, and moderate stress briefly ensued.

The two rare king eiders, the youthful feminine in the foreground and the adult woman at the rear | Credit history: Hugh Ranson

Eiders are sea ducks of the higher Arctic, almost never viewed as much south as California. I realized we had to re-obtain these birds and get right documentation. Luckily, we were in get hold of with Linus Blomqvist, who was conducting a sea look at with his scope from on major of the island. He soon relocated the birds nearer to shore, and was capable to affirm that the birds had been indeed eiders. Penny held the boat in position, and shortly the eiders swam back again toward us, and Mark and I fired off hundreds of images. The birds have been two feminine king eiders (the ladies are colloquially referred to as queen eiders and the grownup males are a stunning hen — do appear them up). What a thrill to be in the right place and the ideal time to see these beautiful birds that ended up much from their ordinary Arctic dwelling.

The king eiders were observed irregularly at Rincon Island for a couple of days in advance of they relocated to Ventura Pier, where they remained at the time of crafting, feeding on mussels and other invertebrates from the pilings of the pier. They have now been found by hundreds of birders and have been aged as an grownup female and a initially winter season woman the romantic in me desires to believe that they are mom and daughter.

There is an exciting postscript to the story of the eiders: a thirty day period before the birds appeared at Rincon, Wyoming experienced its initially ever report of king eider, two ladies that spent a number of times on a lake ahead of it froze more than. Pictures exhibit that the birds were being an adult and a young woman. Provided that “our” birds and the Wyoming birds surface to be the only out-of-vary king eiders noticed in the west this wintertime, and that earlier California data have only involved single birds, it appears rather likely to me that these are the same birds embarking on a excellent winter season odyssey.

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

A male summer tanager, photographed at the zoo a several days right before the CBC, was also seen on count day | Credit history: Hugh Ranson

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