Several avid bird-watchers recently spied a species rarely found in this region of California — a yellow-bellied black-feathered Magnolia Warbler — and they spotted it on the UCSB campus.
The Magnolia Warbler, which typically resides in southern Canada during the summer and migrates through the Rocky Mountains to Mexico during the winter, made UCSB its home for about three months before departing several weeks ago. Florence Sanchez, a bird-watcher and analyst in the Political Science Dept., said she first spotted the Magnolia Warbler last November in the Alder trees between Kerr and North halls.
“We thought this bird would be gone in a couple of weeks because most of the strays don’t stay around too long, but this one has persisted through the winter,” she said. “The last date it was seen was Jan. 28, and I don’t think anybody has seen it since then. It doesn’t mean it’s not still around, but we haven’t been able to locate it.”
Roger Millikan, Chemistry & Biochemistry Dept. professor emeritus, said bird-watchers from Thousand Oaks to San Francisco came to UCSB to catch a glimpse of the Magnolia Warbler. Santa Barbara “birders” were excited about the bird’s sighting because of an annual national competition, he said.
“Once a year just after Christmas, we have a Christmas bird count – a nationwide thing where each Audubon group stakes out a 15-mile diameter circle, and in a 24-hour period they send out all the birders they have to see how many different species they can find,” he said.
Millikan said the competition was held Jan. 3, and although heavy rain on that day made it difficult for Santa Barbara Audubon Society birders to see, they still competed successfully.
“We found 201 species, which was the highest of any group in California,” he said.
Millikan said he first became interested in birding and bird photography about four years ago. Since then he has taken roughly 160 photos of various birds.
“It’s grown on me in the past four years,” he said. “It gets me outdoors and I keep learning new stuff. I enjoy it very much.”
Sanchez said she has been birding since 1968. She and her husband were vacationing in Morro Bay, just north of Santa Barbara, where she saw a Great Blue Herring.
“We got a few books, we bought some binoculars and we started looking and reading and going on field trips,” she said. “The next thing you know we’re planning our vacations around going to find more rare birds. It’s like any other hobby — it sort of takes over you.”