Fall Birding | Cachuma Lake Recreation Area, Santa Barbara, CA

Cachuma Lake Park Hotspot on eBird


Distance: various | Duration: various | Habitats: grassland, woodland, riparian, marsh, lake.


Friday Afternoon

We set up our tent while the wind was blowing. Turkey Vultures and an Osprey closely supervised our installation while a few American Coots surfed the lake waves.

The wind stopped around 6 PM and we admired the sunset from our camp while an Acorn Woodpecker scolded us before going into its hole to roost.

Saturday morning

There was no wind and our camp was bustling with birds at 7 AM starting with a Spotted Towhee and White-crowned Sparrows foraging in the shrubs near our tent. House finches and Yellow-rumped Warblers were hopping around. American Coots were already active on the lake while a Black Phoebe was catching insects near the shore.

This snag tree overlooking the lake might provide a good vantage point for birds.

Thirty Canada Geese and Four Ross's Geese flew over the lake in the distance. The latter specie is a life bird for me but I did not know it then, as often time I am only able to identify bird species when I review photos at home on a large computer screen.

More avian visitors showed up such as a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a White-breasted nuthatch. I was intrigued by a Western Bluebird showing up in our neighbor's camp.

The sun was already bright and I was trying to focus my lens on a dark bird with a crest, thinking that it could be a Phainopepla and hoping that it would stay long enough on its perch.

It was indeed a Phainopepla and I was already thinking our campsite was so far the best camping birding hotspot! My better half was watching the lake while sipping a warm beverage and asked that I bring my camera to take photos of a bird of prey attempting to catch something on the lake.

We identified it as a Golden Eagle but after I posted the photo on eBird, the SBA County eBird Reviewer let me know it was an Immature Bald Eagle because "the amount of mottling on the wings and the head/bill shape would make Bald Eagle a better fit. Bald Eagles probably outnumber Golden Eagles at Cachuma much of the time".

This is the first time I was able to observe a female Hairy Woodpecker up close. It was efficiently drilling through the tree bark to get to the food it was looking for.

A handsome male house finch landed on the snag and was enjoying the sun.

Three White-breasted Nuthatches came by together with a bird I was not able to identify. I categorized it under "Wren" specie as it had some barring on the tail. The eBird Reviewer mentioned bird was "showing signs of leucism with an obvious white head and large white patches in the wings".

While Bushtits lingered in the camp, a California Scrub-Jay was perched in one of the tall oak trees growing in the small canyon to the left of our camp.

Two American Crows perched on the snag and seemed to be checking if our breakfast was ready.

Then an Acorn Woodpecker admired the breathtaking view from the snag.

An Hermit Thrush quietly observed us from the tree canopy.

Song Sparrow on the snag.

White-breasted Nuthatch hard at work.

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