anonsally replied to your post “Today we are going birdwatching. I mean, more than usual.” …

Friday, December 20th, 2019

replied to your post “Today we are going birdwatching.
I mean, more than usual.”

post a report!

We came, we saw, we listed.

The final tally for the 11th annual Carpinteria CBC was 155 species found by roughly 75 humans. That’s 3 species short of our all-time high of 158, and quite respectable, I think, given that our pelagic excursion was cancelled due to gale warnings in the Santa Barbara Channel and the afternoon sweep-up-the-birds crew was hampered by the strong winds.

It was my second year running things, and I learned a lot (again). I’m kicking myself about some of the common species we missed: no Rock Wren, no Red-winged Blackbird, no Sanderling, no Dunlin. If I’d done a better job of organizing we could have beaten our record.

But there were some definite highlights. I hiked up Romero Canyon in the dark and recorded the vocalizations of our only Western Screech Owl, and then, just as it was getting light, made a recording of (mostly) wind noise through which you can faintly hear the toots of our only Northern Pygmy-Owl.

Mario hiked up the Franklin Trail before sunrise and got what I believe is only the second Green-tailed Towhee reported in the county this year. (I’m heading up there tomorrow to see if it’s still there.) Patrick, birding on private property on the northern edge of the Carpinteria valley, got the first Painted Redstart recorded in Santa Barbara County in years. Craig and Jenny delivered the Costa’s Hummingbird they’d had staked out for weeks, and Glenn got the Northern Waterthrush in Carp Creek.

And the compilation dinner was fun. My partner in crime organized catered Italian food, which was yummy, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

I’m glad it’s done for the year; organizing 75 birdwatchers to do a 15-mile-diameter big day is no joke, at least for an introvert like me. But it’s also kind of exhilarating to be part of a one-day effort on that scale. I’m doing two more CBC’s this cycle; Cachuma on 12/27 and Santa Barbara on ¼. But those are just birdwatching solo, which is pure fun; someone else has to do the work. :-)

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kaiyves replied to your post “Dipped on the oriole this afternoon. Trying again tomorrow.” You ATE…

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

kaiyves replied to your post “Dipped on the oriole this afternoon. Trying again tomorrow.”

You ATE an oriole?!?! ;-)

anonsally replied to your post “Dipped on the oriole this afternoon. Trying again tomorrow.”

Good luck! (but what does this mean?)

I guess it’s only fairly recently, and only around fairly hard-core birdwatchers, that I’ve heard the phrase “dipped” used this way. It means to try to see a particular reported rarity, but come up empty.

I dipped on the Orchard Oriole again today. But someone else saw him, so he’s still around.

A Nashville Warbler has also seen several times in the same spot.

And a short distance away people have been consistently seeing a Blackburnian Warbler…

…and a Swamp Sparrow.

All of those would be great if we could get them for the count. Ten more days…

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Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), photo by Wikipedia…

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), photo by Wikipedia user Captain-tucker

I’m helping to organize our local Christmas Bird Count this year, and as part of that I’ve created a page listing upcoming classes and bird walks. If you live in or around Carpinteria, California and want to participate either in the pre-count fun or the count itself (which will take place Saturday, December 16, 2017), check it out!

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Hello, hello! Should I add more clues of my location as the days draw closer? I think it would be fitting. Here’s another hint: I got to watch the end of Poe Party a bit earlier than it was released. As a result, I also met Shipwrecked and talked to them. They were just as lovely in-person as they are on-screen. How is the bird counting progressing and what is your favourite bird in the region you’ve seen? – Your Poe Party Secret Santa

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Ooh; I’m guessing that means you may have been at the Buffer Festival screening in Toronto. Lucky you!

The preparation for the Christmas bird count continues; this morning I was able to go into the part of the salt marsh that normally is closed to the public. We had 49 species, which is pretty good for me. My favorite bird during this morning’s outing was probably the first-winter Bonaparte’s Gull that flew through my spotting scope’s field of view while I was trying to look at a different bird. Here’s a photo of a first-winter Bonaparte’s Gull courtesy of Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren on Flickr:

My favorite bird overall in this region would be hard to pick; there are so many of them that I really love. I’ve sometimes said White-tailed Kite in the past, and it’s definitely at or near the top of the list. I’ll keep thinking about it.

Thanks for checking in, Santa! Hope you’re doing well!

(full count from this morning’s bird outing after a cut)

Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve (restricted access), Santa Barbara, California, US
Dec 8, 2016 7:34 AM – 10:33 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Tide 3.5’ and falling
49 species (+1 other taxa)

Brant  2
Mallard  2
Bufflehead  13
Red-breasted Merganser  4
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Eared Grebe  1
Western Grebe  1
Double-crested Cormorant  16
Brown Pelican  4
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  2
Snowy Egret  4
Turkey Vulture  6
Osprey  2
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Black-bellied Plover  74
Snowy Plover  8
Semipalmated Plover  2
Killdeer  2
Whimbrel  7
Long-billed Curlew  16
Marbled Godwit  7
Sanderling  40
Western Sandpiper  8
peep sp.  2
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Greater Yellowlegs  3
Willet  12
Bonaparte’s Gull  1
Ring-billed Gull  1
Western Gull  3
Eurasian Collared-Dove  2
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Allen’s Hummingbird  1
Belted Kingfisher  1     Female, perched on mudbank
Black Phoebe  2
Say’s Phoebe  1
American Crow  3
Bushtit  6
Marsh Wren  1
Northern Mockingbird  2
American Pipit  1
Common Yellowthroat  1
White-crowned Sparrow  12
Savannah Sparrow  13
Song Sparrow  4
Lincoln’s Sparrow  1
California Towhee  2
Western Meadowlark  2
House Finch  24

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

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Best hobby or best hobby?

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Best hobby or best hobby?

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Hi, your Secret Santa here! It’s finally December! What’s your favourite thing to do during this time of the year?

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

I like trying to uncover secrets by analyzing regional spelling variations!

Dad joke.

No, actually, one thing I look forward to all year is the Christmas bird count. This year our local count will be on December 18. I love having an excuse to spend all day birdwatching. I could do that any day, of course, but doing it as part of an organized effort that produces useful citizen-science data, and has the added fun of being a competition in which our local small-but-doughty birb fandom gets to measure itself against the nationally-ranked powerhouse up the road in Santa Barbara (spoiler: we lose) is fun.

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Photos from our afternoon hike into Rancho Monte Alegre for the…

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Photos from our afternoon hike into Rancho Monte Alegre for the Carpinteria Christmas Bird Count on December 20, 2013.

View of Carp from RMA – Rancho Monte Alegre is a former ranch that is being developed with a small number of super-expensive hilltop estates. (I guess the brochure probably doesn’t describe them exactly like that, but that’s what they are.) It’s behind a locked gate, but they’ve been nice enough to let us enter the property each year for the Christmas Count.

I like this first photo because you get a really nice view of Carpinteria, where I live. There’s the city itself along the ocean, then a row of greenhouses that are used for flower-growing (mostly), then a belt of avocado orchards and ranch houses, leading up to the chaparral where the photo was taken.

Carp from the Santa Monica Creek debris dam – Santa Barbara County flood control (I assume) has done a bunch of work on Santa Monica Creek, including building a big dam of boulders across the creekbed. The idea, I think, is that in the event of a major mud/debris flood, all that stuff would be caught by the dam so it wouldn’t destroy the housing downstream. As someone who lives in one of those houses I appreciate the sentiment, though I kind of wish the flood control work (which happened in the early 1970s) had given a little more thought to the habitat values of the creek. Especially in the lower portion, the channelization of the creek to make it a more efficient water-conveying device also served to make it essentially unusable by migrating steelhead trout, which is a real shame given the great steelhead habitat in the upper creek. It also sacrificed a lot of prime riparian habitat along the lower creek.

Anyway, here we are standing on the debris dam looking south across some of the big trees that remain in the upper reaches of the creek. That’s Frederic, one of the awesome citizen scientists who joined me for the afternoon outing.

Standing snag – Down in that riparian habitat that you can see in the previous picture is this sycamore snag. I don’t know which woodpeckers nested in it (Nuttall’s, maybe?) but clearly there were many years’ worth of nest holes hollowed out in that trunk.

Flood control inlets – This is a really interesting part of the flood control feature on the creek. We’re standing on the same debris dam as in photo #2, but this time looking north into the catch basin. There are three different boxy structures at different heights; each one contains a giant culvert that leads under the dam. The idea, I assume, is that in a flooding event water will collect behind the dam, and as it rises it will begin to drain through one, then two, and finally through all three of the culverts. You can’t see it in this photo, but there was a pool of water at the level of the lowest culvert, and from atop the dam we could hear the water trickling into it.

RMA cattle pond – This artificial pond was our main objective for the Christmas count, because it’s one of the few places in our count circle that reliably produces sightings (or more properly, hearings) of Sora, a shy rail that likes to hide in cattails. We tried clapping next to the reeds (which can startle Soras into vocalizing), but had no luck. Later, though, on our way out, we stopped by the pond one more time, and Wayne, one of our group, played a recorded Sora call — and a Sora responded! Yay!

The full list of bird species recorded by our group is in this post.

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