This website was created as a resource for everything birding in Santa Barbara County. The goal is
simply to promote the activity of field birding in the county and to provide information to interested
birders. If you have comments about this website or would like more information about local birding,
please contact me.
On Jan 1st 2008, I had a remarkable day of 130 birds in the county. Then, it seemed
like the winter birds were coming in easy. I thought “Wow, I should do a Big Year”.
Knowing that Dave Compton & Joan Hardy had set the bar high, I knew that this
would be a daunting experience to try to come close to the previous County Big
Year record. I had always wondered if I could get one new bird per day in the course
of a year. After living in the county for 9 yrs and birding almost every day, I felt
comfortable using the habitats and time windows to focus on my target birds. By
February, I was committed to this task. I looked over the Big Year 2000
Spreadsheet. I divided the county checklist into 3 columns: for-sures, maybes and
forget-its. I divided that list into timing sections of winter, spring, summer, breeders,
dispersals, and fall birds. I methodically started searching for the birds on the lists, according to the habitat that I chose to
search that day. After pursuing every possible bird, my final bird was a Mountain Plover, added on 12-9-08 for a total of 358
for Santa Barbara County.
My favorite finds of 2008: Cook’s Petrel, Red-billed Tropicbird, Least Storm-petrel, Sprague’s Pipit, Scarlet Tanager, Red-eyed
Vireo (as a yard-bird), Eastern Kingbird, Red-throated Pipits and Chestnut-collared Longspurs. I saw many other birds thanks
to all the SB Co. birders who reported birds and also to those who invited me into their yards. Actually, any new bird during a
Big Year is your favorite bird!
I feel like the biggest “misses”, in my search for birds, were Laysan Albatross,
Swainson’s Hawk, Ancient Murrelet, Bell’s Vireo and Baltimore Oriole. These were
all on my “for-sure” list, but no one had reported seeing these birds in county.
California’s normal migrant trend was well below average in 2008. Also, I missed the
Pine Warbler in January because I had not committed to the Big Year at that point.
A huge miss was Nick Lethaby’s Eastern Yellow Wagtail. But that was during one of
my 5-day pelagic trips, and I had picked up 9 birds on that trip. It seems like a good
The best thing about this 2008 Big Year was that it was done on public property. I did not use VAFB for any birding days. I
have a strong interest in pelagic birding. I do not miss many boat rides. I did two 5-day pelagics and 13 day trips. I spent a total
of 14 days camping on Santa Barbara Island. I probably birded the Cuyama Valley no less than 30 times, searching for
Mountain Plover, Swainson’s Hawk and Rough-legged Hawk. A positive note on Cuyama was the number of Burrowing Owls,
the colonies of breeding Tricolored Blackbirds and the first confirmed Cuyama Valley breeding record of Great-tailed
Grackles. I had a seed feeder hidden on Figueroa Mountain that held 40 lbs of grain. I kept that stocked, and visited other
mountain sites regularly.
I still believe that a new bird could be found each day in the course of a year. Timing is everything, along with a good spring
and fall migration, and a couple great deep-water pelagic trips. Of course, we all depend on birders promptly posting their
birds, with great directions. Again, I want to thank everyone who helped me during this once-in-a-lifetime dream of doing a
County Big Year.