a little seawatch history

Paul Lehman

Spring seawatching from Goleta (Campus) Point started in the late 1970s when I was an undergraduate at UCSB, and for three years I tried to get out there many/most afternoons for approximately a couple hours sometime between around 2-6 PM between late March and late May. The afternoon/early evening flights were VERY GOOD and contained a nice variety of species. I did NOT do early/mid- morning counts then, as I was either landbirding then or in class! My seawatching during that period became a senior project for a zoology class, so I was able to combine birding pleasure with academics. (During the late 1970s, there was also dedicated seawatching going on at Pigeon Point in San Mateo County.) The first hint that the AM was excellent for Pacific Loons was made when I was able to visit Point Conception one morning and counted something like 12,000 Pacific Loons in two hours. And then a couple decades later, there was the organized seawatch at Goleta Point mentioned in the post by Joan Lentz and which included lots of morning counts, which showed that good Pacific Loon numbers were the norm off Goleta as well. Wes Fritz's good site near Gaviota will probably produce higher totals than Goleta of (almost) all these migrant seabirds, because northbound birds off the Southern California coast are moving over a fairly broad front, and as they come in contact with the EAST-WEST coastline between Los Angeles and Point Conception, their numbers likely just grow and grow as one heads farther and farther west. It is easy to see good-sized flocks of Pacific Loons and Surf Scoters in spring in the Santa Rosa Passage--the gap between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands--for example, and all those birds will be MISSED at Goleta but might be seen farther west at Wes's Gaviota site, and even more likely would be counted from Point Conception/Point Arguello.

--Paul Lehman, San Diego

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