Recap of the 2018 Carpinteria Christmas Bird Count

The tenth Carpinteria Christmas Bird Count (CBC) took place on December 15, 2018. There were 92 participants, the most we’ve ever had in our count. The final total of species submitted was 158, tying the previous high from the 2012 and 2014 counts.

Highlights included:

  • Woodpeckers and sapsuckers: We recorded the count’s first-ever Lewis’s Woodpecker (thank you Jason Siemens for finding the bird the day before the count and Jeff Hanson for reporting it on count day). We also had our first-ever Red-naped Sapsucker (thank you Jim Williams for first reporting that bird and keeping track of it so Laurel Luby could get it on count day). It was the third appearance on the count for Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (thank you Peter Gaede and Conor and Julie Scotland, who made the extra effort to bird Rincon Mountain in the afternoon and found this species). We also had our highest totals ever for Acorn Woodpecker (313) and Nuttall’s Woodpecker (34), and ties for our previous high counts for Downy Woodpecker (15) and Hairy Woodpecker (7).
  • Orioles: We finally recorded the returning male Orchard Oriole on Santa Monica Creek, after he avoided being seen last year. There also was a male Hooded Oriole at Denver and Judy Compton’s hummingbird feeder. Those two birds plus a count-record five Bullock’s Orioles gave us our first-ever count with three oriole species.
  • Greater White-fronted Goose: Bob Marshall found nine of these at Birnham Wood Golf Club, a first appearance for the Carpinteria count.
  • Pygmy Nuthatch: Conor and Julia Scotland’s group had the count’s first-ever Pygmy Nuthatches (2) in the Ortega Ridge pines.
  • Western Tanager:¬†Glenn Kincaid’s group found our count’s first-ever Western Tanager along Carpinteria Creek.

High counts: It was a good year for many chaparral and oak woodland birds, and some common feeder species got even more common. Highest totals in the history of the count were recorded for each of the following species:

  • Acorn Woodpecker (313)
  • Nuttall’s Woodpecker (34)
  • Say’s Phoebe (30)
  • Hutton’s Vireo (17)
  • California Scrub-Jay (244)
  • Mountain Chickadee (7)
  • Oak Titmouse (111)
  • White-breasted Nuthatch (47)
  • Brown Creeper (5)
  • House Wren (16)
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (43)
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet (2)
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet (203)
  • Western Bluebird (71)
  • House Finch (718)
  • Purple Finch (20)
  • Lesser Goldfinch (171)
  • Rufous-crowned Sparrow (3)
  • House Sparrow (106)
  • Scaly-breasted Munia (77)


It was a rough year for wintering waterfowl, and for water birds generally. For the first time in the history of the count we had no Blue-winged Teal. Many other waterfowl species that we’ve had regularly in the past were not present on count day. Notable waterfowl misses were:

  • Canada Goose
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • American Wigeon
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Northern Pintail
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Common Merganser
  • Red-breasted Merganser

Other water-related birds that we missed:

  • Horned Grebe
  • Western Sandpiper
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Glaucous-winged Gull

A few other notable misses:

  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Wilson’s Warbler

Final thoughts:

This was my first year as compiler for the count, and I learned a lot. Next year I’ll do a better job organizing the noontime tally; my apologies for the somewhat chaotic nature of it this year.

Overall, though, it was a wonderful experience. I’m grateful to Rob Denholtz for creating and nurturing the count over the years, and to all the people from other nearby counts who took the time to answer my questions and share their perspectives with me.

Finally, I want to thank all the participants. It was thrilling (if occasionally a little overwhelming) to be involved in helping so many people celebrate Carpinteria’s birds.

More details, including species totals for all the Carpinteria counts over the years, are available in the count’s Google Docs spreadsheet.

Next year’s count will be on Saturday, December 14, 2019 (the first day of the count window). I can’t wait! I hope I see some of you there.

John Callender
Carpinteria CBC compiler