Only 20 minutes from downtown Santa Barbara and nestled in the Los Padres National Forrest, Cachuma Lake Recreation Area is a backcountry birding bonanza. It offers the opportunity to bird along sage-covered shores, aboard a naturalist-led boat excursion, or from the seat of a kayak or canoe. All three activities can be accomplished in a single day, thus maximizing the birding potential.
Cachuma Lake was created in 1955 when the Santa Ynez River was dammed. It took three years for the seven-mile-long lake to fill in and reach its present size. The San Rafael Wilderness borders to the east and the Santa Ynez Mountains range to the west.
From winter into spring along the east and northeast shores, Bald Eagles nest in secluded coves lined in thick cattails, and Cliff Swallow nests cling to smooth sandstone cliffs. Look for huge flocks of Western Grebes performing their mating dance in the spring. Listen for Red-winged Blackbirds frolicking in the cattails. Watch for Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks and Osprey perched in the oak trees on the southwest shore of the lake. — Chuck Graham
Chuck Graham is a writer and photographer who writes often about birds in California. He also wrote about Carpinteria Salt Marsh, Carpinteria, Hotspot Near You No. 116, Soda Lake, Bakersfield, No. 123, Oso Flaco Lake Natural Area, Guadalupe, No. 138, Elkhorn Slough, Moss Landing, No. 154, and Hearst San Simeon State Park, Cambria, No. 185.