Cuyama Valley

Linus Blomqvist

Hi all,

Conor McMahon, Olivia D'Arezzo, Sophie Cameron and I from Goleta Coast Audubon Society birded Cuyama Valley this weekend, and we also met up with Mark Holmgren on Sunday morning. As always, birding in Cuyama is very enjoyable and we had some good birds along with some obvious misses. Aliso Canyon Road had a Canyon Wren in the usual spot on one of the creek crossings, along with some Horned Larks, Western Kingbirds, Bullock's Orioles, a Yellow-billed Magpie, and a Peregrine Falcon. Aliso Park Campground offered a couple of Common Poorwills, Western Screech-Owl, and Great Horned Owl. This site can have up to three other owl species but the two were all we could get.

We went to Bates Canyon early on Sunday morning, and again had some Poorwills, but the only owl was a Great Horned. This species has only been reported from Bates Canyon once before on eBird, and that was a December record, so this is unusual for the breeding season. Normally both Northern Pygmy-Owl and Northern Saw-whet Owl are regular there, but we couldn't hear any. Perhaps not a coincidence that the other owls were quiet or gone when the Great Horned had moved in? At dawn, the canyon was filled with birdsong, and while we didn't linger for long, we had some Black-headed Grosbeaks, Lazuli Bunting, a couple of Western Wood-Pewees, and other expected species.

Our next stop was the canyons on the east end of the Cuyama Valley. We had 8 Bell's Sparrows here but no Black-throated Sparrows, which are expected at this site. Last year around the same time I had 7 Black-throated Sparrows here, so I wonder if we just missed them this time or if they're not breeding there this year. Other birds here included three Costa's Hummingbirds, one Rock Wren, Hooded and Bullock's Oriole, and other expected species in this desert landscape. We arrived too late in the morning to hear the Nighthawks that are usually around this area. No Scott's Oriole even though they're almost certainly present.

Along highway 33 and especially at the grove in Quatal Canyon we got a Prairie Falcon, as well as a Golden Eagle, some Vaux's Swifts, plenty of Lawrence's Goldfinches, a handful of Tricolored Blackbirds, and four Swainson's Thrushes. The New Cuyama WTP had two Semi-palmated Plovers, which are pretty unusual in Cuyama Valley.

Linus Blomqvist

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