Friday, April 3, 2009


House Sparrow shadows on giant bird of paradise leaf.

House Sparrows looking for crumbs at an outdoor cafe where I had lunch.

Entrance to the Bird Hall at the museum.

Great diorama of a Goshawk going after some quail.

The cryptic plumage of the Common Poorwill is well illustrated here. It shows why it is often difficult to spot these birds in the wild.

Close-up of Brown Pelican, in breeding plumage.

Close-up of Western Grebe

American Kestrel.

Barn Owl

Great-horned Owl
Recently I went to the Santa Barbara natural History Museum to see their new renovated bird hall. I had fond memories of this exhibit from when I was a kid, as it allowed me to see birds up close and birds that up until now I hadn’t seen before. Although I am not a big fan of capturing and/or killing birds for any reason, I am coming to realize that doing so is important to ornithological studies. And I also know that from the late 19th century to the present, most museum specimens come from people bringing in dead birds. There is a constant controversy raging among birders as to whether collecting specimens should be allowed again, as the value of studying them in the face of climate change, pollution, etc. is invaluable, because they need modern specimens to compare with older specimens.

The new bird hall is stunningly beautiful and they have cleaned and restored the birds to amazing beauty. The few habitat dioramas have also been cleaned up and they create a nice picture of some bird environments. Also included is two large display cases filled with bird nests and eggs; it is a neat way to illustrate how carefully (and beautifully) birds construct their nests.
I've been drawing more birds lately and have been having difficulty finding close-up photos of bird's eyes, so the museum was great for that. I was able to take a lot of photos for reference. It is also neat to be able to see the pattern and coloring of the feathers and how they lay on the bird--something not so easy to do when looking at them through binoculars while their hopping around!

I highly recommend a visit to this hidden treasure of a museum, tucked behind the Santa Barbara Mission and on the edge of a lovely old residential neighborhood. The grounds are nestled in an old oak forest and landscaped with many native plants. Down behind the museum you can cross a bridge over Mission Creek (filled with trout and frogs) sit in a lovely native garden or walk the short nature trail.

On my visit the trees were filled with migrating warblers (Townsend’s, Audubon’s, and Orange-crowned), Oak Titmouse, Dark-eyed Junco, Scrub Jay, and Pacific-slope Flycatcher. It was late afternoon when I was leaving and the trout were rising in the creek, leaving rings on the still pools, rippling through the reflection of the oaks towering overhead.

A delightful way to spend an afternoon!

[composed while listening to Tangerine Dream “Force Majeure”—an electronic treasure from the 70s]