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sbcoBIRDING Santa Barbara County Birding

Comments on Record Big Day Effort

Santa Barbara County Big Day

By: Peter Gaede


Yesterday, Mark Billings, Wes Fritz and I went on a birding adventure around the county to record as many species as possible in a 24-hour period, beginning at midnight on 25 April. We followed standard ABA rules- see:

ABA big day rules  >> (pdf)


This year, we decided to begin the route in the Cuyama Valley. In order to have a run at beating the current record (190 species, 4/27/07, Ranson/Storrer/Gaede) we had to do some creative thinking as far as locations go, and starting here at night was the first part of the plan. I think it payed off in the long run, and we were able to add some quality birds such as Burrowing Owl, Long-eared Owl and Lesser Nighthawk. We unexpectedly found the nighthawks by call -- a series of long rapid trills -- in Ballinger Canyon. Not getting the easier to find owls and rails meant of course that we were committed to going out that night again, so at this point, it was just a trade-off.


We experienced very strong winds early morning on top of Figueroa Mountain, and were forced to bird the sheltered areas at slightly lower elevations. As it turns out, the birds favored these conditions as well, and we found most of our target species. We missed several of Hugh's birds (Cassin's Finch, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet), but we did find the Clark's Nutcracker near the entrance to Fig Mtn. Campground, as well as 5 Red Crossbills, 10 Pine Siskins, ~10 Hermit Warblers, a MacGillivray's Warbler and a different Hammond's Flycatcher on the south side of the mountain.


The remainder of the day was a race to visit stops between Santa Barbara and Lompoc before dark, and we wound up with an odd assortment of additions and misses. A few highlights included an adult Bald Eagle flying over Santa Ynez, 45 Caspian Terns at the Santa Ynez River Estuary (a rather high count), a Mew Gull and 2 cont. WF Ibis at the Goleta Sanitation Plant, 2 Lewis's Woodpecker's on Farren Rd., a Say's Phoebe in Isla Vista that has successfully fledged young, all eleven of the expected western warbler species, and a group of 5 lingering Golden-crowned Sparrows off of Paradise Road.  Misses included Heermann's Gull, Royal Tern, Forster's Tern, Vaux's Swift, Swainson's Thrush, Tricolored Blackbird and Lawrence's Goldfinch.


We ended our day at the S.B. Harbor, where we picked up a nice assortment of rocky shorebirds (Black Turnstone, Surfbird and Wandering Tattler) and Long-billed Curlew to tie last year's record. The final bird before dark turned out to be the go-ahead bird (191) - the Long-tailed Duck, still present since being seen off and on this past winter!


Our big day ended after 23 hours and 48 minutes of birding, and our final tally after finding Spotted and Saw-whet Owl last night put us at 193.


Peter Gaede

Santa Barbara

“The Lehman Cup”

Current Total: 193

April 25, 2008

Winning Team:


Mark Billings

Wes Fritz

Peter Gaede

Big Day Attempts:

Links to sbcobirding reports


April 27, 2008 (link >>)

April 27, 2007 (link >>)

September 25, 2006 (link >>)

October 9, 2005 (link >>)

April 29, 2005 (link >>)

May 1, 2004 (link >>)

October 2, 2002 (link >>)

May 5, 2002 (link >>)

May 5, 2001 (link >>)

October 1, 2000 (link >>)


May 3, 1977 179*

P. Lehman, L. Bevier,

I. McGreggor, B. Schram

*Previous long-standing record