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We hop into the back of the farmer’s pick-up, scopes and all, and hitch a ride to our car.  Then, we follow the rancher a couple of miles to his property.  Opening the gate, he proudly ushers us onto the dirt track running through his green pasture.

“See…there are the curlews!” the rancher gestures expansively at the flock of Whimbrels.

Hurriedly, we set up the scope and scan the flock.  Suddenly a bird flushes.  It is half the size of the other Whimbrels and its delicate bill has a slight curvature.


Karen and Robbie are beginning to say “That’s it!  That’s the bird!” but I refuse to be talked into it that soon, while secretly admitting to myself that this DOES look like the bird Jon has just shown us pictures of in a British field guide.

Yes.  It must be.  A dainty little whimbrel with a slightly curved bill, nice barring and splotches down the side, a white eyebrow over a big dark eye.

Not twenty yards away this long-necked little shorebird from Siberia is marching around in the grass, and we three are the only birders who know its whereabouts! Read more »

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Nature Journal, January 23, 2014


A Visit with Jon Dunn Brings Back Memories of A Super Rare Bird


A few days ago our Santa Barbara Audubon Society hosted Jon Dunn, who gave a lecture on shorebirds to an enthusiastic audience of local birders.

Jon has been the chief consultant for the National Geographic Society’s renowned field guide “The Birds of North America” since it’s first edition way back in 1983, and he is a world class birder.

Jon is also a close friend and mentor — largely because he lived in Santa Barbara in the 1980s, rooming with Paul Lehman, another top birder.

I was lucky enough to be around during those exciting times.  Imagine being able to go birding with these two experts, who were finding birds all over our region and who let me tag along.

Seeing Jon’s slide show on shorebirds triggered memories of those “good old days” of birding: no cell phones, no internet postings, no e-bird.  How did we manage? Read more »

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Last Saturday, January 4, was the 3rd CBC that I have celebrated my retirement as compiler.  I love retirement.  I get all of the fun and none of the worry!

Because I’ve been helping with the CBC from the early 1980s, and was compiler from 1994-2010, this time of year has always been special for me.  It’s a chance to get away from the craziness of Christmas shopping and focus on the natural world of birds!

Conditions were tough going into the Count.

We are in the midst of a serious drought.  For the second year in a row, and even worse than last winter, the stubborn Pacific High has blocked any storms and the jet stream remains far to the north.

The foothills lie brown and pockmarked with gopher holes.  The annual grasses are dormant, waiting for that first winter rain.  I don’t ever recall a year when there were no blooming Eucalyptus trees to attract orioles, tanagers or warblers.  But this is what happened.

For awhile it seemed as though it would be the worst winter bird census we’d ever had. Read more »

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In this space, I plan to record some of my thoughts, observations, and explorations in the natural world of the Santa Barbara region.

These entries may reflect current activities or they may have been written in the past.  In over thirty years of keeping a nature journal, I have many wonderful adventures to share with you.

From time to time, I may include a photograph from A NATURALIST’S GUIDE TO THE SANTA BARBARA REGION.  Or, I may simply include a bird list or directions to a newly discovered site.

I think the point of this space is to share with you my personal landscape.  In 1908, John Burroughs wrote, “One’s own landscape comes in time to be a sort of outlying part of himself; he has sowed himself broadcast upon it, and it reflects his own moods and feelings.”

Each of us has a place in the natural world that speaks to us.  More than a collection of mountains and trees, wind and sky, birds and beasts.  It is a personal landscape, imbued with memories and experiences.  Beyond the science, outside the data, lies a sense of belonging that ties one forever to the natural world of a particular place.

Mine is the Santa Barbara region. I’d like to share it with you.