In addition to regular bird walks, bird field trips and monthly educational programs, Santa Barbara Audubon Society has special events like the Christmas Bird Count and the Winter Bird Count for Kids!

Friday Bird Walks for the Winter of 2019/2020

Join Peter Thompson for some great birding and fun time on his Friday bird walks this winter!

Every 2nd and 4th Friday (usually) Peter hosts a casual and fun two hour walk at one of the south coast’s birding hot spots.  For beginners, this is a great opportunity to see the birds and find out where to bird. For the more experienced birder, here is your chance to share your knowledge and skills. Everyone is welcome. Cost is FREE!

Coming This Winter

Santa Barbara Harbor: Friday, December 6, 2019, 8:30 am - 10:30 am

Arroyo Burro School Open Space: Friday, December 20, 2019, 8:30 am - 10:30 am

Sand Point – For SBAS Members Only: Friday, January 10, 2020, 8:00 am - 11:00 am

North Campus Open Space: Friday, January 24, 2020, 8:30 am - 10:30 am

Lake Los Carneros: Friday, February 7, 2020, 8:30 am - 10:30 am

Andree Clark Bird Refuge: Friday, February 21, 2020, 8:30 am - 10:30 am

Friday Bird Walks for the Fall of 2019

Join Peter Thompson for some great birding and fun time on his Friday bird walks this Fall!

Every 2nd and 4th Friday (usually) Peter hosts a casual and fun two hour walk at one of the south coast’s birding hot spots.  For beginners, this is a great opportunity to see the birds and find out where to bird. For the more experienced birder, here is your chance to share your knowledge and skills. Everyone is welcome. Cost is FREE!


Coming This Fall

Toro Canyon Park:Friday, September 6, 2019, 8:30 am - 10:30 am

Goleta Beach Park: Friday, September 20, 2019, 8:30 am - 10:30 am

Honda Valley Open Space: Friday, October 11, 2019, 8:30 am - 10:30 am

Rocky Nook Park: Friday, October 25, 2019, 8:30 am - 10:30 am

Stevens Park: Friday, November 8, 2019, 8:30 am - 10:30 am

Winchester Canyon: Friday, November 22, 2019, 8:30 am - 10:30 am

Santa Barbara CBC – The List


The month before the count, you can help us by scouting your neighborhood or anywhere else within the count circle for any of the interesting or unusual birds on this list:

  • Cattle Egret
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Eurasian Wigeon
  • Greater Scaup
  • Mountain Quail
  • Common Gallinule
  • Virginia Rail
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • any owls (other than Barn, Great Horned, and Western-Screech)
  • White-throated Swift
  • any Hummingbirds (other than Anna’s or Allen’s)
  • Sapsuckers (other than Red-breasted)
  • Horned Lark
  • any swallows
  • Rock or Pacific Wrens
  • Common Raven
  • Phainopepla
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Black-throated Gray Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Hermit Warbler
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • any tanagers
  • any grosbeaks
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Tri-colored Blackbird
  • any orioles
  • Lawrence’s Goldfinch

PLUS: any montane species such as

  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Brown Creeper
  • Townsend’s Solitaire
  • Varied Thrush
  • Cassin’s Finch

Also, we’re interested in the more common species whose numbers may be lower than in previous years:

  • Sparrows (especially young ones)
  • Waterfowl (ducks)

If you see any of the above or know of any other interesting birds and you are not posting them to sbcobirding, please let Libby Patten know at: email hidden; JavaScript is required.

Santa Barbara CBC – Blog

120th CBC is coming up!

October 23rd, 2019

Howdy, birders! Greetings to all from the CBC team. Audubon’s 120th Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is coming soon with the Santa Barbara CBC to be held on Saturday, January 4, 2020. We encourage everyone to start getting out and scouting for the birds on The List page of this site. While this list hasn’t been updated for this year, many of the less common species remain the same each CBC. With the good rainfall last spring, it will be interesting to see how that affects bird numbers and diversity for this CBC. We’ll be back soon with more information. Enjoy your scouting missions in the meantime…


119th CBC is nearly here!

December 24th, 2018

Greetings to everyone from the CBC team!

You’re probably busy with holiday gatherings, but don’t forget that the 119th count (Saturday, 5 January) is almost here! We would really appreciate any scouting missions you can do between now and then. As for all CBCs, it’s exciting and helpful if you find and report rarities, but we have another concern this year as well. With recent years of drought and the devastating fires of the last year, it’s unclear how this loss of habitat has impacted the populations of common species. A number of folks have reported recently that they’re seeing fewer warblers, waterfowl, orioles and sparrows (especially young ones). So we hope you can help by checking out your neighborhoods or other areas and let us know what you’re seeing and what you’re NOT seeing in terms of the expected common species.

Let us know if you find anything noteworthy!

Here are a few places that could use some scouting:
Rocky Nook Park
Riviera parks
Montecito parks
San Marcos Foothills
Harbor and beaches
Arroyo Burro Creek
Douglas Family Preserve
Stow Grove
UCSB and SBCC campuses
Girsh Park “ditch” (briefly home to a Northern Waterthrush two years ago)
Other Isla Vista and Goleta hotspots
La Cumbre Peak environs

Check out “The List” page to get a list of species we’d like you to report to us.  We’ve also added some common species that we’d like to you to look for.

Let us know your observations by posting to this page or emailing Libby Patten at: EMAIL ADDRESS TBD.


Yes, Virginia, there will be a CBC!

December 19th, 2017

What a crazy and stressful last two weeks! I remember being a little annoyed when the power went out late on Monday, December 4. Little did any of us realize what we were in for after that. We hope everyone is hanging in there, in whatever way you’ve had to adjust to deal with this monster, the Thomas Fire. Just wanted to confirm that, yes, there will be a Santa Barbara CBC, and it will still be on Saturday, December 30th!

This won’t be a typical CBC – some areas might be inaccessible, the habitat in some areas damaged and scouting missions prior to CBC day greatly reduced because of poor air quality and road closures. Even though you might feel less enthusiastic about CBC on one level, it’s ultimately one of the most important CBCs just because of this upheaval. How have the birds responded? Where are they, how many and so forth. By participating, you will help to document what might be a revealing blip in the data for our bird communities. And hopefully, getting out for CBC will shake off some of the gloom brought on by all this fire, smoke and disruption. Indeed, the obsessive passion of birders to transcend obstacles was demonstrated on December 10, when a big surge in the fire and hideous air quality could not keep us from searching and refinding the rare Le Conte’s Sparrow (first found by Hugh Ranson) at the Bird Refuge.  Birding with masks is extra fun with glasses, we found… 😉


Getting ready for the 118th count

December 4th, 2017

Greetings to everyone from the CBC team!  The holidays are upon us and that means the 118th count, on Saturday, 30 December, is coming fast.  We  are busy making sure we have volunteers mapped to all of the count sites, but meanwhile we could use your help to get us ready for count day.  We obviously don’t know where some of the rarer species might pop up, so we hope you can help by checking out blooming trees and shrubs, fountains, or anyplace with regular water. Let us know if you find anything noteworthy!

When you want to take visitors for a walk or just need to escape the crazy holiday crowds for a while, here are a few places that could use some scouting:
Rocky Nook Park
Riviera parks
Montecito parks
San Marcos Foothills
Harbor and beaches
Arroyo Burro Creek
Douglas Family Preserve
Stow Grove
UCSB and SBCC campuses
Girsh Park “ditch” (briefly home to a Northern Waterthrush two years ago)
Other Isla Vista and Goleta hotspots
La Cumbre Peak environs

Check out “The List” page to get a list of species we’d like you to report to us.

Here’s a beautiful piece that hopefully will inspire you to get out and be rejuvenated by nature.🙂 

This is Wendell Berry reading his poem, “The Peace of Wild Things.”
It serves as a haunting and hopeful prologue to the documentary, GMO OMG.

117th results put to bed

March 5th, 2017

The end of each February is the National Audubon’s deadline for count results to be submitted by each circle’s compiler(s). We the four compilers of your count are happy to say that we jointly sent off our official numbers last Monday the 27th. Your can see these numbers for yourself under the tab “Latest Count Results”. Thanks to all who make this count a very special one year after year.

I have added a new link to an excel spreadsheet that summarizes data from the “modern era”, those counts from the 62nd through the most recent 117th. (There had been a 20-year lull in conducting counts, so no data from 1942 until 1962.) This page is called “Historical Summary Since the 62nd Count” and the link is also here:
Summary spreadsheet counts 62-117

Is it too soon to announce the date for the 118th count, on December 30, 2017? Safely away from any New Year’s celebrations. Then no counts for calendar year 2018, taking up again on January 5, 2019!


New reporting options for 117th count

December 23th, 2016

Hello all, it’s nice to be indoors today while the rain comes down, perhaps adding some water to our parched landscape when we count in 8 days.

For your convenience we have added 2 new forms on our “Forms” page, which allow for digital input of your species totals, and participant list and effort data. Traditionally, you would download the paper forms, print them, fill them out manually, and then submit them. Now you may now download a Word .docx file that you locally fill out and save electronically, and then attach to an email to us.

For more details see the “Information for Leaders” page. We hope that this makes our mutual efforts easier!


10 Days to go, astronomical info, tides

December 20th, 2016

Hello everyone, it’s December 20 as I write, the eve of the winter solstice, which takes place at 2:44 am on the 21st. By the 31st, count day, sunrise will be at 7:05 am and set at 4:59 pm. Here is how the tides look for the day:

2016-12-31 Sat  3:53 AM PST    2.3 feet  Low Tide
2016-12-31 Sat 10:01 AM PST    5.7 feet  High Tide
2016-12-31 Sat  5:20 PM PST   -0.5 feet  Low Tide

Which is to say that the lowest practical tide during daylight would be late afternoon.

The moon will not be a factor in owling. It will be a very young moon, showing as a waxing crescent at around 3–7% illumination and setting soon after the sun on both the 30th and 31st.


Best to You All on Thanksgiving 2016

November 25th, 2016

Hello all of you, greetings from the CBC team as we get ever closer to the 117th count, which will be on Saturday, 31 December, 2016, aka New Year’s Eve. Your day would generally be until afternoon or dusk birding, which does allow for you to party in the evening if that is your desire.

As we did last year, we are not sending out a broadcast email for registration. We are more informally contacting area and site leaders as to the makeup of their teams, and outreaching to the more independent roamers and specialty groups such as owlers and boat people. If you have any questions about this, such as your possible participation or placement, email us at email hidden; JavaScript is required; questions directly relating to the website may be delivered to email hidden; JavaScript is required.

Check with “The List” page to get a list of birds to report to us, unless you already report them to the yahoo users group sbcobirding. And do let us know of any special hot spot of perhaps a water hole or drip, or someone’s feeder area that is accessible.


2015 Changes to our Species Form

December 21, 2015

Please make sure that on your checklist for our upcoming count the heading reads “SPECIES LIST 2015.” This greatly facilitates our compiling effort the week after the count. There were not many changes from the 2014 list. We took out the line for White-winged Dove as it is not a regular species here. We also eliminated the line “Selasphorus sp.” We would prefer that unless you are positive of a Rufous Hummingbird ID, which would include appropriate documentation, that Allen’s Hummingbird would be the preferred default for this time of year. The Rufous are just too rare to be lumped in with Allen’s as a “spuh” category.


Some results from last year’s Count

November 25th, 2015

The National Audubon Society has released its summaries of the 115th count from last winter. There were a record 2462 circles in all, with over 72,000 observers that tallied over 68 million birds and detected 2106 bird species. Over 100 of these circles were outside the ABA area of the United States and Canada.

For a long time we have had the greatest number of field participants (ie, not including watchers at feeders) in the ABA area contributing to our Santa Barbara count. But this last count we fell one short of Oakland, CA’s 257. Congratulations to Oakland! There were only 6 counts with 200 or more field participants, and more remarkably, only 81, or just over 3%, of the counts that had 100 or more.

The following list are the 10 species that we either had the highest number counted in the ABA area or were tied for the high count:

Heermann’s Gull  1011
Spotted Owl   3
Common Poorwill   2
Acorn Woodpecker   1026 (all-time high!)
Dusky-capped Flycatcher   1
Orange-crowned Warbler   49
Lucy’s Warbler   1, tied with 2 other counts
Grace’s Warbler   1
Orchard Oriole   1, tied with 5 other counts
Bullock’s Oriole   13, tied with 1 other count


Yes, we are working on it….

November 25th, 2015

Preparations for Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), to be held on Saturday, January 2, 2016, are well underway, as compilers Rebecca Coulter, Jared Dawson, Liz Muraoka, and Joan Murdoch work out the hundreds of details required to conduct a bird survey of this scope. Santa Barbara’s CBC usually tops the list for number of participants (although not last year, see the previous post)—fortunately, we are lucky to have such a rich and diverse circle to cover! But as the drought wears on and we dream of rain, tracking where the birds are this season is a challenge. To make planning even more interesting, current projections for a “historically strong” El Nino weather pattern bring the other side of that coin to the forefront! Be careful what you wish for…. Carving up and covering the count circle is a complex puzzle. Finding the right fit for eager birders and adequate coverage for each type of habitat are the keys to our success. Not all birders sign up for a multi-mile mountain hike on Count Day, but how will we cover the vast amount of dense chaparral and steep mountain slopes? Just how many birders are too many in one group? Where do we assign eager beginners, and with which leaders? Do we have all the necessary permissions for private property: the Zoo, the water treatment plants, the reservoirs, the boat donors? How can we best use current technology in our reporting/recording/compiling? These considerations and many more consume the hearts and minds of the compilers in November and December, culminating in the arrival of Count Day and the unexpected surprises it always holds. We take pride as a community not only in the very high numbers of species found annually, but also in the quality of our bird science. We are all having a hand in helping to form a vital picture of wintering avian distribution throughout North America and increasingly in Central and South America. Before the count, you can help us by scouting your neighborhood or anywhere else within the Count Circle for interesting or unusual birds, as listed on the page ‘The List’.

We are happy to announce a new caterer for our Christmas Bird Count dinner, to be held as per tradition in Fleischmann Auditorium at 6 pm. Our Mexican dinner will be provided by the popular Del Pueblo Cafe, and the menu includes chicken enchiladas verde, cheese enchiladas rojas, salad, rice, beans, chips, and salsa. It’s a BYOB event, so bring your beverage of choice. Water will be provided. You may also bring your own dinner setting, or paper and plastic ware will be provided. Enjoy this relaxing meal with friends and fellow Christmas Bird Count birders, and enjoy hearing reports from the field as our count is compiled.

Also as usual, you are free to bring your own food if that’s your preference. The price for the catered meal is $15, and you will need to sign up for it by December 22, 2015.

Santa Barbara CBC – Latest Results


Hello birders,

January 5, 2019’s 119th Audubon Christmas Bird Count is now going into the books. Our final official tally is 197 species.

This tally can be found at this link: 119th Santa Barbara CBC Results

Each year, compilers are required by National Audubon to conduct their annual CBC between December 14 and January 5. The Santa Barbara CBC is held on the last Saturday of that period, and this time the last Saturday fell on the last day of that window. No postponing if we had to cancel, no second chance. After last year’s cat- astrophic fires and floods, we couldn’t help but wonder if we’d have to adjust at the last minute, as other nearby CBCs had to do last year. But for busy compilers, this late date is actually a benefit: the bulk of the holiday bustle is behind us and those who travel during that season have returned home to participate.

While the CBC is about data—trends and the historical context of bird populations around the country—Count Day itself is also about the birding experience. January 5 came storming in with the first of the winter weather. The mountain teams birded in dense fog, rain, and clouds forcing birders to rely on hearing alone to find the elusive Mountain Quail, listening for its “Quark!” call to travel up the slopes of West Camino Cielo through the clouds. On La Cumbre Peak, high winds made hearing impossible, bringing birding to a standstill. Down below, by noon it became clear that the boat crew was in difficulty, with a dead engine off Arroyo Burro in rough seas. We breathed a sigh of relief to hear the crew had returned to safety, towed in by the Harbor Patrol. And yet, over 200 birders spread out around the count circle, taking a careful census of everything they observed. Along the way, they made discoveries that brought many bright spots to the gloomy day.

For the third year in a row, we found a new species to add to our CBC, this time a surprise Dusky Flycatcher at Laguna Blanca. Two Long-eared Owls turned up in a pepper tree at Lake Los Carneros, only the second time this species has been recorded on our count (the first was in 1982). As the day and its stories unfolded, there were other highlights: the return of the Tufted Duck at Lauro Reservoir, here for its sixth winter; Surfbirds at East Beach; an Ancient Murrelet seen from Butterfly Beach; Lewis’s Woodpeckerson both sides of the Santa Ynez range; and a Lucy’s Warbler in Santa Barbara. Another surprise was a female Black-headed Gros- beak gorging on pomegranates at Fairview Gardens, giving its breast a pink bib that made it look like a Rose-breasted. We had eight species of owl: Barn, Long-eared, Great Horned, Spotted, Northern Saw-whet, Burrowing, Western Screech, and Northern Pygmy. Wintering orioles were somewhat scarce in the lead-up to Count Day, but we ended up with Bullock’s and Orchard. (The Baltimore seen the day before was hunkered down and missed on Count Day.)

Other notable misses this year were Common Murre (if only we could have counted the deceased one at Goleta Beach!); Rhi- noceros Auklet and Bonaparte’s Gull were among the seabirds missed due to poor boat conditions. A Williamson’s Sapsucker, found just before Count Day, was undetectable in the high winds at La Cumbre Peak—hard to hear gentle tapping on tree trunks when the wind is howling around you! Palm Warbler, present in good numbers through fall and winter, was not found anywhere on Count Day.

A week later, when we got down to compiling totals across the circle, it became clear that waterfowl counts continued to be low, as did White-crowned Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Townsend’s Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler, some mirroring a Southern California trend of low counts for these species. Noticeable declines such as these—over relatively short periods—ask us to take a hard look at the causes, and our long-term drought is undoubtedly at the top of that list. Foul weather on Count Day also affects species numbers. When entering data at the national level, we give a detailed description of weather conditions so that the species counts for that year can be studied alongside all the factors that might have affected them. For this reason, we also collect effort data—how much time and mileage are spent by how many people. These factors are all part of the calculations used by regional and national compilers to determine population trends on a larger scale.

As always, we are grateful to the teams of birders of all ages who give their time and energy to plan, scout, and participate in our CBC. Your dedication makes it all possible. Our thanks also go to Santa Barbara Audubon, Bill Pollock, Glenn Kincaid, Dave Compton, and the Museum of Natural History for supporting this effort.

Rebecca Coulter, Liz Muraoka, Joan Murdoch and Libby Patten
SB CBC Coordinators