Some video I took with my phone yesterday while hiking around in…

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Some video I took with my phone yesterday while hiking around in Rancho Monte Alegre for the Christmas bird count.

When I was 12 I lived with my grandparents in Florida for six months. I remember one day I spent bird watching at the Bok Tower Gardens, and how pretty it was when a light rain started falling and all the other visitors left.

I thought of that yesterday, when I drove past the locked gate into the private estate development of Rancho Monte Alegre in the hills above Carpinteria. It was raining off and on as I hiked around, and there was no one else there; just me, the birds, and the tree frogs I frightened into silence with my galumphing.

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Rancho Monte Alegre, December 21, 2014 Like I’ve been…

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Rancho Monte Alegre, December 21, 2014

Like I’ve been doing for the last several years, I got permission to enter the private Rancho Monte Alegre parcel north of Carpinteria for the annual Christmas Bird Count this year. The count is next Saturday, December 27, but this afternoon I hiked in to scout the area beforehand.

I didn’t take a lot of photos, but above are a few things I noticed: The sun going down early over the Santa Barbara Channel, some Rhopalomyia californica galls in coyote brush, and tracks in the mud near a rainwater pool: a young skunk (I think? not sure if it was striped or spotted) and an adult mountain lion.

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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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