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Audubon Annual Bird Count
updated: Jan 09, 2016, 7:00 AM

By Lisa Osborn

Great blue heron are a fairly common sight around Santa Barbara
(Photo: Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

A group of Santa Barbara bird enthusiasts had their eyes to the skies (and seas) over New Year's weekend.  Beginning at 12:01 AM on January 2nd, they spent 24 hours tallying up the many varieties of birds spotted in the area as part of the Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count. In recent years, Santa Barbara has ranked high in both diversity of species as well as the total number of birds. And, numbers from this year's CBC indicate that the "American Riviera" is still a popular stop for feathered fliers.

Final numbers will continue to be crunched in the 116th Audubon Society Santa Barbara Christmas Bird Count for the next few weeks. But, preliminary numbers show counters spotted 210 different species in the Santa Barbara CBC circle, which is 15 miles in diameter, centered at the intersection of Highway 154 and Cathedral Oaks Road.Organizers are confident this number should be enough to put Santa Barbara in second place, behind San Diego (where 220 species were counted).

Scads of snowy plover are scampering across Santa Barbara area beaches, including Coal Oil Point (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

"Our total of 210 will most likely go to 211, but that will not be confirmed until after this weekend," said Rebecca Coulter, with the Santa Barbara CBC circle (there were separate counting circles in Carpinteria, Cachuma, Lompoc and other parts of the county). "Either way, that puts us in second place statewide, behind San Diego's amazing total of 220."

"But remember, we are counting more than species. We are counting all the individual birds observed by the counters during that 24 hour period," added Coulter. "The big picture is that it's a census that gives us information about relative abundance or scarcity, in addition to species diversity. And because it's the longest running citizen science project out there, there's a lot of data to compare it to."

This year’s highlights include the Tufted Duck, returning for a third winter, on a private reservoir in north Goleta. And, a bald eagle was spotted soaring over South La Cumbre Peak. Organizers say notable misses include the Ross’s Goose, Snow Goose and Yellow-Billed Magpie.

It's easy to spot a variety of bird species while walking in Santa Barbara. To find out about some prime bird-watching spots, and see more photos of  birds in Santa Barbara go to www.Traffic411.com

Lisa Osborn is an entrepreneur and radio host. She blogs & podcasts at Traffic411.com and www.Lisa.FM.


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