A little long-winded post, but a great start to the year!
For me January 1st is always an exciting day to look forward. Today had the added excitement of beginning the Green Big Year. I started the project by watching the birds visiting our feeder and bath in the yard. This morning it was just about as cold as it gets here in Santa Barbara, perhaps below freezing.
This did not appear to slow down the birds. The first species of the year I identified was a White-crowned Sparrow, chipping away at the ice in the birdbath. Well not really, but I was surprised this little Sparrow was intent on taking the polar plunge. An hour of watching in the yard yielded 22 species. Nothing highly unusual, the most notable bird was a White-throated Sparrow which I see here from time to time.
With the temperature warming up a bit I hopped on the bike (forgetting my camera in the process) and pedaled about 10+ miles out to Lake Los Carneros in Goleta. A Nelson's Sparrow Had been spotted there yesterday afternoon. It has been several years since this species has been seen in Santa Barbara County, so it generated some excitement among local birders. When I arrived several of them were searching the area for said bird. I would have preferred that they all had their binoculars pointed at this bird when I arrived, but it was not to be, and it has not been reported again as I write this. The transient nature of such sightings is par for the course.
A consolation was the presence of two immature Thayer's Gulls, a species I had yet to positively identify in person. Adding a species to one's life list is a good way to start the year! I spent some time birding around the lake, enjoying the warming temperatures. I collected another 26 species before departing.
Next stop was Devereux Slough and environs. I was hoping to see the Orioles - a female Bullock's Oriole and a Male Baltimore Oriole have been reported here for a couple weeks. Earlier in the morning I had gotten directions for a blooming Eucalyptus Tree that they favor. Sure enough, within a few minutes of arrival I had great views of both Orioles, the Baltimore being especially gorgeous. As a bonus a Nashville Warbler (also previously reported) was there as well. 3 unusual birds straight away - the morning was going quite well! I spent about an hour looking over the slough, adding 19 species to the day's total.
Moving along to Coal Oil Point, which is located near the mouth of the slough, and provides a good vantage over the beach and sea. The tide was very low, and there were many shorebirds present. Also a good amount of activity out over the water - a spotting scope would have been helpful (I need to figure out how I can haul my scope around on the bike). Another half hour or so, and 18 species were added to the list - nothing out of the ordinary.
At this point I decided to start heading for home. Of course there are always a few more places to check out along the way, so I stopped at the lagoon at UCSB for a quick look. 15 minutes and 8 species later, I was on the way. One final look out over Goleta Bay yielded a couple of Surf Scoters - the last of the 94 species on the day.
This is certainly more than 1/3 of the species I am likely to see all year in this endeavor, so a fantastic start!
I rode 28 miles today, chilly but not much wind.
Happy New Year!