2018 – Is It Spring Yet?

What’s Happening on More Mesa …

In spite of the continuing drought, there are a myriad of birds on More Mesa!

flock of birdsOver the past two months, bird enthusiasts have reported dozens of different bird species on More Mesa in a single, relatively short, visit! Further, of the dozen or more raptor species that MMPC follows on More Mesa, most have been seen in recent months and often with two or more of the species seen at the same time. (Photo courtesy of John McKinney.)

kitesKites: We are still getting reports of kite roosting behavior with 13-14, and up to 22 birds! Although the 22 were not seen routinely, this number is exciting news for the Goleta Valley, as we have had only one or two kite pairs for many years of the drought.

burrowing owlBurrowing Owls: There have been several sightings of two Burrowing Owls … very unusual for this to occur and definitely good news for More Mesa. Burrowing Owls were formerly common in Santa Barbara County, but have been virtually eliminated with only one or two over-wintering birds along the entire South coast. To learn more about these tiny owls (with a definite attitude) see page 35 of the More Mesa Handbook. (Photo courtesy of John Storrer.)

peregrine falconPeregrine Falcons: In addition to so many other birds, we have also seen another raptor not usually seen on More Mesa, the Peregrine Falcon. Like the Coopers Hawk, the principal prey of the Peregrine is birds. Perhaps there is a link here? (Photo courtesy of Larry Friesen.)

Ask the President

Q: What’s the best way to see all the birds on More Mesa?

A: Hike!! You can see birds anywhere on More Mesa.

viewpointAs you visit this special place more often, you will find the spots where your favorite birds can be found. A popular short hike is on the east side (adjacent to Hope Ranch) and starts at the gate on the end of Mockingbird Lane. A straight walk directly south brings you to the bluffs and a spectacular view of the Santa Barbara Channel and the Channel Islands. If you feel adventuresome you can continue down the rough wooden steps to the beach. However, More Mesa is a great walk without going down to the beach … as the area is honeycombed with trails.

If you have more time and are so inclined, John McKinney of The Trailmaster suggests hiking the following 2.5 mile counterclockwise loop around More Mesa:

  • Head for the stairs to the beach (as above)
  • At the coast, turn west along the ocean … using the narrow path at the edge (only when it is dry) or a wider path that is slightly inland
  • Walk the full length of the bluffs to the western edge of More Mesa (line of homes and a commercial nursery) and turn north towards the mountains
  • Turn back east along the inland edge of More Mesa and past a profusion of trails
  • Close the loop and rejoin the main trail near the trailhead

trailsAlternately there are several options for turning north before the extreme western edge of More Mesa that will take you into oak and willow ravines that are both charming, and have entirely different habitats.

We are indebted to John McKinney and his web site, for much of the information above. John has been visiting, and writing about, More Mesa for 30 years. And we are happy to report that More Mesa will be included in the pocket guide “Hike Santa Barbara” … available this Spring. For additional information and hikes visit The Trailmaster. THANK YOU JOHN!

You Can Help … Become a “Citizen Scientist”! Since 2003 MMPC has maintained a data base of bird and animal sightings reported on More Mesa. Some of these sightings come from other data bases, and some are from supporters who report what they see on More Mesa.

Our website has an easy and convenient way to report More Mesa sightings. Simply go to the “Sightings” page and fill in the required information. You can obtain an approximate location for your sighting by consulting the map at the bottom of the page, gridded with alphanumeric coordinates. For example a Peregrine Falcon seen at the coast was reported in grid I 6. We are especially interested in reports of raptors like White-tailed Kites, Coopers Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Owls of all species, Kestrels, Loggerhead Shrikes and Peregrines.

Thanks so much!

Valerie Olson

President, MMPC

November 2017

Big Day for More Mesa – County Approves Coastal Commision Recommendations

As reported in our last update, the California Coastal Commission (CCC) was extremely supportive of MMPC’s positions on preservation of More Mesa, and supplemented them with even stronger language than currently existed in the new Eastern Goleta Valley Community Plan. At a meeting on November 7th, the County Board of Supervisors approved these California Coastal Commission modifications. Our very special thanks to everyone who spoke in favor of the recommendations at the meeting, attended the meeting or sent e-mails. We never could have achieved this wonderful result without your help.

Ask the President

Q:  What role does the California Coastal Commission play with regard to any development on More Mesa?
A:  The California Coastal Commission is a state agency whose role is to make sure that California’s coastlines and public beaches are protected for public use. It came into being in 1972 when California voters, concerned about coastal development and its impact on public access, passed a proposition creating the Coastal Commission. Four years later, the State Legislature enacted the California Coastal Act, which is the primary law governing decisions of the Coastal Commission. The act outlines, among other things, standards for development within the Coastal Zone.
In order to implement coastal protection, a Coastal Zone was established throughout the entire length of California, extending from the Oregon border to the international border with Mexico. While generally 1,000 yards from the mean high tide line, this zone has some variation in width depending on several factors, including the density of development and environmental and recreational values of the particular coastal area.
The purple line in the map below shows the extent of the Coastal Zone in our area; that is … all of More Mesa is in the Coastal Zone. Therefore any request for development on More Mesa must be reviewed and approved by the Coastal Commission. Further, any local planning that involves areas in the Coastal Zone must also be approved by the CCC and, as you can see from the news above, has been accomplished for the updated Eastern Goleta Valley Community Plan.
overview map
To learn more about the Coastal Zone and California’s beaches, visit beachapedia.

This Month on More Mesa

MORE GOOD NEWS … Kites are roosting on More Mesa again!

This month we have some excellent news about our famous “signature” bird … the White-tailed Kite.
White-tailed kites are semi-social animals that gather in communal overnight roosts in the fall and winter. Kites can begin to gather in late August or September, with roosts typically breaking up not later than February. The dynamics of roost occurrence are not well understood and roost occurrence can be difficult to document without continuous observations at dawn and dusk over an extended time period.
One of the largest known communal roosts for White-tailed Kites in California was found on More Mesa in 1965, with the greatest numbers recorded in the mid 1970s. Moreover, during the winter of 1978, a record 110 birds were observed roosting on More Mesa! However, for a variety of reasons, roost population exhibited a precipitous decline to a low of 40 in 1998. After that, roosting was sporadic for nearly a decade with the last known roost of 16 birds recorded in 2003. UNTIL NOW!
In late August, after nearly two decades, the White-tailed Kites appear to be, once again, using their traditional communal roost on More Mesa. This is especially good news because the recent drought (driest period on record in California history) had precipitously reduced the number of kites in the entire Goleta Valley. For example, there were 15 nesting pairs of kites in 2012, at the beginning of the drought, and only a single pair in 2016 … and that pair was at More Mesa.
Now, this fall, as many as twelve birds have been observed at the traditional More Mesa communal roost. This is yet another indication of the recovery of these important bird species in our area. Unhappily, and for two separate reasons, the roost is not as safe as it once was. First, the historical roost area has become part of a heavily used trail, and second, the recent plague of hundreds of aggressive crows on More Mesa poses yet another problem for our lovely and light weight kites.
To learn more about White-tailed Kite roosting check out pages 31-32 of the More Mesa Handbook.

You can Help… Tread Softly

Because roosting birds are easily disturbed, walk and talk softly when you are out on More Mesa, especially in the late afternoon and the early morning. Now that our favorite birds have “come home to roost”, we don’t want them to be frightened away.

November 2016

White-tailed Kites!

Although sightings of White-tailed Kites have been rare in this fifth year of the drought, we are happy to report that a pair of these special birds have been seen, very recently, on the eastern side of More Mesa, and on the western portion as well. While these two sightings may be of the same two birds, it is glorious news that even one pair is still here. And as we explored sources of information about our iconic bird, it appears that a pair actually fledged two chicks this past spring. The fledging, on western More Mesa, was one of only two reported nests in the entire Goleta Valley for this year. This information reminds us, once again, how important More Mesa is to the survival of this “California Bird of Special Concern”.

To learn more about this beautiful and important bird, visit two different articles hosted on our web site.

  • The first is a life history of White-tailed Kites and illustrated with many images of the kites at various stages of life: chicks, fledglings, courtship and breeding.
  • The second, titled “Vieja Kites”  is the fascinating story of a year when a pair of White-tailed Kites nested on Vieja Drive but hunted, and taught their young to hunt on More Mesa.

White-tailed kites are found almost year-round on More Mesa where they have well-established, historic nesting sites. In 2004, two of these sites were made unusable because of human activity. A homeless person camped under one of the nesting trees, and BMX bicyclists rode noisily under another.

Because of this, the first nesting attempt by the affected kite pair failed, and in a second attempt, the pair chose a stand of oaks at the end of Vieja Drive very close to More Mesa.

On More Mesa, adult kite on left, juvenile kite on right.

August 2013

The Good Work Continues
Last month we called on Citizen Scientists to help us document any evidence of kite nesting on More Mesa. That call has been answered … and with some very good news!  We now have documented evidence that there are almost certainly two nesting pairs of kites on More Mesa this year. First, not one, as previously reported, but two fledglings have been seen on the west side of More Mesa.  These two were recently observed hunting with their parents.  And now, we have photographs of two fledglings on east More Mesa.  And, in this case the two adults were also observed hunting nearby.

Although these numbers are smaller than average, they are very gratifying, especially in light of the drought conditions we have been experiencing.  Indeed, most of the historical kite nests in the Goleta Valley have been abandoned this year, making chicks produced on More Mesa all the more important. We thank Wayne Kimbell for the eastern fledgling photographs below.

kite fledgling kite fledglings

July 2013

Citizen Scientists Created a Record:
In MMPC’s April Monthly News report we encouraged our supporters to become “Citizen Stewards” of More Mesa by reporting any inappropriate activities observed on More Mesa. This month we would like to reprise a similar theme … that of the “Citizen Scientist”. For more than thirteen years, MMPC has played an active role in the collection of important scientific data about More Mesa. We have done this by archiving reported observations of rare birds, plants and animals. Much of this anecdotal, but extremely valuable information, was collated and documented in our More Mesa Handbook, hosted on this site.

Citizen Scientists Still At Work:
More Mesa provides excellent habitat for probably the most important White-tailed Kite population on the South Coast. Two or three pairs of this beautiful raptor, the signature bird of MMPC, and a fully protected species in the state of California, routinely make More Mesa their home.

And, this year, true to form, there has been a report of a chick located in the area of the historical kite nest on west More Mesa. This sighting, with two others recently reported, document the fact that we have at least two pairs of kites in residence on More Mesa this year; with at least one of these a nesting pair. Another recent submittal by a Citizen Scientist was a fox sighting, also on west More Mesa.

Thanks for all of your good work:
Once again … we call on all Citizen Scientists to keep an eye out for evidence of kite nesting, chicks or fledglings on east More Mesa as well other areas of More Mesa. Perhaps you can also spot the fox, and even the bobcat pair that have often raised a family on the west side of More Mesa.

baby kites
Archived photo of baby kites on More Mesa, by Morgan Ball