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Photos by Hugh Ranson (left to right) — Broad-billed Hummingbird, LeConte’s Sparrow, and Northern Shoveler. Birds observed just before 118th CBC

Hello birders,

January 2, 2021’s 121st Audubon Christmas Bird Count is now going into the books. Our final official tally is 206 species.

State and national ranking for the total number of species is shown below. The full list of species and numbers of birds recorded for each will be available soon at Audubon’s CBC web page.

 Species    Count Circle
        223     Matagorda/Mad Island Marsh, TX
        220     San Diego, CA
        213     Guadalupe River Delta, TX
        210     Freeport, TX
        206     Santa Barbara, CA
        202     Morro Bay, CA

We’ve heard it said in every possible way: 2020 was a year to remember. To that end, in October the CBC team began discussing how and whether to hold the count during a pandemic. We debated the pros and cons, and in mid-December decided to go ahead, with the thanks of many birders who were eloquent in their pleas to continue: It was no small gift to have something to look forward to in this year of canceled plans.

Our results were a wonderful surprise, considering the reduced number of participants (155 instead of the usual 225+). The final species total of 206 reflected a huge effort by dedicated birders who covered our count circle. There were many highlights: The male Tufted Duck returned for its eighth year, turning up at Rancho Goleta Lake; Mountain Quail were found at several places along Camino Cielo; two sea watch finds—Blacklegged Kittiwake and a Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater—were a great surprise (identified only to genus level but countable!).

For the second year in a row, Yellow-crowned Night-heron was present at Goleta Beach, and American White Pelican surprised everyone at Lake Los Carneros, as did a Least Bittern discovered there at dusk. We counted seven owl species, including the more uncommon Northern Pygmy, Burrowing, Spotted, and Northern Saw-whet. (The Short-eared was not seen on the day, but at this writing it still continues at More Mesa.) The Warbling Vireo returned for its eighth winter at Bohnett Park. (This species is so rare in winter that we presume it is the same individual favoring the same small park year after year.) Hammond’s Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher and Eastern Phoebe made a great flycatcher show; mountain species were represented by Pygmy Nuthatch and Townsend’s Solitaire at La Cumbre Peak. A Lawrence’s Goldfinch was heard calling repeatedly overhead at the Santa Barbara Harbor as a keen-eared birder made his way to the boat for pelagic duty. An unexpected late addition of Pacific Wren in a Goleta backyard came from a savvy birder watching the local listserv for reports. Grasshopper Sparrow was found at San Marcos Foothills preserve, and orioles turned up after scarce reports leading to count day: two Hooded at private residences, and Bullock’s, and Baltimore were also found. Black-and-White Warbler was found at UCSB although very few had been seen around the circle lately. Tennessee, Nashville, MacGillivray’s, Yellow, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Black-throated Gray, and Wilson’s Warblers were all found around the circle after great scouting prior to count day.

Except for the pelagic rarities above, despite calm conditions on the channel, seabirds were few: Clark’s Grebe, Bonaparte’s Gull, Forster’s Tern and Caspian Tern were all missed on count day, though Clark’s Grebe and Forster’s Tern were seen during count week. Other birds recorded during count week were Short-eared Owl, Lucy’s Warbler (actually seen count day, too, but just outside the boundary!), and Hermit Warbler.

Thank you for your steadfast support of the CBC: Santa Barbara Audubon, the compiling team, mapping and data crunching experts, Zoom gurus, and all the birders who scout, mobilize, and inspire us to do it every year. 

Thank you.

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

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