On May 19, volunteers from Baja California up to Washington state participated in the biannual survey of the Brown Pelican. For Santa Barbara County, there were count teams at Santa Barbara Harbor and Santa Maria River Estuary. The Santa Barbara Harbor team of Tom Beland, Joan Kent, Laurel Luby, Libby Patten, and Cathy Peterson counted 272 pelicans while the Santa Maria effort led by Alex Abela counted 11. The total for Santa Barbara Harbor was the highest seen at this location since these surveys started in 2016 with about 15% of these being immature birds (< 3 years old based on head coloring). The gale force winds at the Santa Maria River were likely the cause for the very low count at this location (typically in the hundreds in the past). There were unofficial reports of a large number of pelicans (> 1000) seen that week near the Carpinteria Salt Marsh, so a team may be added at that location for the fall survey on September 8.
The results for our county have been entered into an online database and are being combined with those from other teams up and down the West Coast. Many thanks to all of the participants! More information on this survey can be found at: http://ca.audubon.org/brownpelicansurvey.
Libby Patten is the Santa Barbara County Coordinator for the Brown Pelican Survey.