sbcobirding receives the generous support of the Santa Barbara Audubon Society. For more than 50 years SBAS has helped to preserve the biological diversity of the Santa Barbara area.
sbcobirding 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.
Santa Barbara Audubon
Highway 166 to Cuyama Valley
Cottonwood Canyon & Bates CampgroundSeasons: sp | su | wi Map: +eBird:Description: Raptors inhabit the lower elevations of Cottonwood Canyon and include Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel and Golden Eagle. Magpies are often present around the wash and rangeland in the bottom of the canyon. Continue driving into the oak forest and look for nuthatches, bluebirds, titmice and wrens in spring and summer. At the fork in the road, as the sign reads, head left to White Oaks Station and into Bates Canyon and campground. Look for Phainopepla, Bullock’s Oriole and Purple Finch among other oak forest birds. The cool, shaded, northern edge of the Sierra Madre Mountains is home to nesting Cassin's Vireo, and occasionally Northern Pygmy-Owl and Spotted Owl. Despite a devastating fire burned much of the area down to Bates Camp, the habitat is rebounding. Spring migrants often move along this transverse ridge so the birding can be prolific in April and May. The road to the ridge is not recommended for low clearance vehicles.Birds you might see or hear: Mountain Quail, Common Poorwill, Costa’s Hummingbird, Prairie Falcon, Western Wood-Pewee, Yellow-billed Magpie, Oak Titmouse, Lawrence’s Goldfinch, Black-chinned Sparrow, Bullock's Oriole, Lazuli BuntingAliso Park CampgroundSeasons: sp | su | wi Map: +eBird:Description: Aliso Park Campground is located seven miles south of Highway 166 just west of New Cuyama on Aliso Canyon Road. The lower portion of the road for several miles passes through short-grass covered hills and is good habitat for Horned Larks, Savannah Sparrows, and the occasional Yellow-billed Magpie as you approach the scattered oaks. Continue south on the road until you reach the Aliso Park campground where the habitat changes abruptly to a shaded oak canyon. There is a trail into Aliso Canyon at the south end of the campground that is worth hiking. Birds you might see or hear: Mountain Quail, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Cooper’s Hawk, Western Screech-Owl, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Magpie, California Thrasher, Phainopepla, Lark Sparrow, Western TanagerNew Cuyama Wastewater Treatment PlantSeasons: sp | fa | wi Map: +eBird:Description: The New Cuyama Wastewater Treatment Plant pond is located right next to Highway 166 just west of the town of New Cuyama. Park off the highway and bird through the fence. Depending on water levels, there can be waterfowl or shorebirds at different times of the year. This is a relatively new site and is already producing a nice variety of birds in the generally under birded New Cuyama area. Birds of note include Hooded Merganser, Lesser Nighthawk, Dunlin, Baird’s Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Swainson’s Hawk, Yellow-headed Blackbird. An amazing find was a most unexpected Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in July 2018.Birds you might see or hear: Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, Eared Grebe, Black-necked Stilt, Least Sandpiper, Ferruginous Hawk, Say’s Phoebe, Common Raven, Barn Swallow, American Pipit, Savannah SparrowCuyama ValleySeasons: sp | su | wi Map: +eBird:Description: The wide expanse of the Cuyama Valley is a scenic wonder- hot and arid in the summer, lush and green in the late winter and spring. Wildflowers often blanket the Sierra Madre foothills and in Ballinger Canyon and Quatal Canyon in spring. Much of the entire area is recognized as an Audubon Society Important Bird Area. Winter might be the best season for birding in the Cuyama Valley, but spring migrants move through as well. Look for hawks and falcons while driving through this open country. Common Raven is always seen in the fields or soaring overhead. Mountain Bluebirds (irregular) may be found perched along fences. Many of the short-grass fields along Foothill Road, Bell Road and open rangeland can contain hundreds of pipits and larks. Occasionally a longspur can be found in these flocks. In the town of New Cuyama right off Highway 166 and Hubbard Avenue is the small Richardson County Park. Migrants such as Varied Thrush and sapsuckers can sometimes be found in the park poplar trees in spring, fall and winter. Trees around a few of the ranch houses in the town of Ventucopa on Highway 33 can also contain migrants. Flocks of Tricolored Blackbirds are frequently spotted in Cuyama Valley. Look for them around pastures, cattle pens and farm ponds. The Foothill Road Dairy Farm is one reliable spot. Birds you might see or hear: Greater Roadrunner, Swainson’s Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Burrowing Owl, Prairie Falcon, Western Kingbird, Common Raven, Horned Lark, Lawrence's Goldfinch, Brewer’s Blackbird, White-crowned SparrowBallinger CanyonSeasons: sp | su | wi Map: eBird:Fee: Description: This arid, high-desert habitat features pinyon-juniper woodland and sage scrub. It is home to a unique variety of birds found only in this corner of Santa Barbara County. Spring and early summer is best, and early mornings are more productive before the heat of day reduces bird activity. Walk the road and accessible canyon washes to find singing sparrows. Do not trespass into private property areas. Spring migrants will often trickle through this canyon. Nearer the end of the road at Ballinger Campground search through the junipers for Phainopepla and Scott's Oriole. At dusk and occasionally during the day you will see Lesser Nighthawks hunting over the sagebrush and washes. Plan your visit during the week and avoid the weekend motorcycle and ORV activities. There is a day use fee at Ballinger Campground but many of the same species can be found in the pinyon-juniper habitat before you enter the campground and fee area.Birds you might see or hear: Greater Roadrunner, Lesser Nighthawk, Costa’s Hummingbird, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Western Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, California Thrasher, Phainopepla, Bell’s Sparrow, Scott’s OrioleSanta Barbara CanyonSeasons: sp | su | wi Map: eBird:Description: At the lower elevations the habitat is primarily grassland with scattered pinyon-juniper trees and is a good spot for wintering Mountain Bluebirds. Lower Santa Barbara Canyon’s desert-like sagebrush scrub and pinyon-juniper woodland is home to a variety of interesting birds. Spring and early summer is best when birds are singing and migrants move through. Listen for Scott’s Oriole in the junipers in the hills, and sparrows in the scrub along the road. If your vehicle is so equipped and the gate is open, you can continue to the higher elevations along the jeep trail to Dry Canyon and Tinta Creek. The habitat eventually changes to pine and fir forest where the elevation reaches 5000’. In “invasion” years, Pinyon Jays have been seen.Birds you might see or hear: Costa’s Hummingbird, Prairie Falcon, Western Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Canyon Wren, Mountain Bluebird, Sage Thrasher, Lawrence's Goldfinch, Lark Sparrow, Bell’s Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, Scott’s Oriole