“People often ask me how it is that I seem to be so much at peace. There is a primary reason — and it is available to all who wish to have it. Here’s a simple prerequisite to attaining peace at that level. I invite you to observe the beasts, birds and fish and let them teach you. Let this be a daily routine and life, as you know it, will never be the same.”
– Eddie Bo

Monday, January 5, 2015

Day 5 - Goleta Birding, Hits and Misses

As I mentioned before, in the wake of the Santa Barbara Christmas Bird Count there are many birds out there that would be useful additions to my year's list.  In fact, if I could see them all I could instantly add 50% to the present total.

Many of these birds were found in Goleta, the community located to the west of Santa Barbara.  So I decided to head out that way and track down some of the more difficult to find species.  Target species for today included Red Phalarope, Black-vented Shearwater, Rhinoceros Auklet, and Parasitic Jaeger. These are all sea-dwelling birds and would be found looking from the bluffs and scanning out over the ocean.  Also on the list, the rare (for Santa Barbara) Dusky-capped Flycatcher.  In addition to these notable species, there were a couple dozen more common species I might encounter.

My first stop was the little pond in Anisqoyo Park, located in the student community of Isla Vista which is adjacent to the University of California Campus (UCSB).  On CBC day 5 Hooded Mergansers were found in this spot.  Since it was on the way and these ducks can sometimes be hard to find, I stopped.  Within short order I was watching 5 female Hooded Mergansers diving among the multitude of Mallards.

That taken care of, I headed west of Isla Vista to do some seawatching from the bluffs.  Although it was high tide, most of the birds were (as usual) well offshore.  A spotting scope would have been helpful (note to self - figure out how to haul the scope!).  I took me quite a bit longer than I had anticipated to scan through the birds on the water.  There was a good level of activity with many loons, pelicans, grebes, and gulls.  I did not find any Phalaropes or Jaegers, but was successful in locating a Black-vented Shearwater and 1 or maybe 2 Rhinoceros Auklets in among the gulls.  OK, 2 for 4 on the seawatch, but 2 high quality sightings - and the Auklet was not a species I had anticipated seeing this year.

With less time left than I had anticipated, and many opportunities for places to visit, I decided to pass a couple of very good birding spots and head directly for the Dusky-capped Flycatcher.  I figured I should concentrate on the unusual birds first, as they may disappear at any time.  I eventually found my way to the spot where the bird was reported, and had been seen yesterday.  Right away I ran into local birder Wim Van Dam, fearless leader of the wildly successful Santa Barbara CBC mountain crew "Team Edelweiss".  He had not seen the Flycatcher, but did point out a pair of White-tailed Kites perched nearby.  I had not seen this species yet this year.  Their numbers have been dropping due to the severe drought, and at this point in time it is always nice to find one (or two!) of these beauties.

White-tailed Kites, Goleta

We searched the area for about half an hour, but the Flycatcher was not to be seen - by us.  Of course, as the day wore on there were sighting reports both before and after we were looking.  Hopefully this one will stick around and give me another chance.

On the way home I made a couple of quick stops to round up some more common species.  First stop was the UCSB Soccer field, which is very attractive to geese at this time of year.  There were 3 species of geese present, including the Greater White-fronted Goose, as pictured below.

Greater White-fronted Goose, Goleta

My last stop was at Goleta Beach.  It seems there is always something interesting to see at this park, bird-wise.  Although I did not spend much time searching, the pick for today was a pair of Hooded Mergansers.  I must say these are some of my favorite ducks, especially the males - as you can see below.

Hooded Merganser (male), Goleta Beach

I believe there will be more visits to Goleta in my near future.

Overall today I added 13 species to the year list, including one life bird, the Rhinoceros Auklet.

Today I rode 31.7 miles.

More later,


  1. Finally someone local doing a Big Year. I'm going to add ya to my RSS feeder. I'll probably see ya up there at some point. Hopefully that Tufted Duck will show soon again. Still haven't seen that Gray Hawk either

  2. Let me know wen you are coming. Grey Hawk had been quite reliable this year, but you are right the Tufted Duck has gone MIA.