A Laguna Blanca Project Ends With Snow

While the rest of Montecito suffered through an afternoon of incessant sunshine, Laguna Blanca Lower School was treated to a mountain of snow. Last week, first grade teacher Linda Muzinich marshaled 20 hooded and gloved students in the school’s playground to “experience” the redeeming aspects of winter. A three-foot high mound of snow was dumped on the ground and the kids dove in to build snowmen and make snow angels as their parents and teacher looked on.

The activity was the culmination of a month-long study, where students learned all aspects of snow, from how snowflakes are made to what weather conditions produce snow. Their studies combined science, math, social studies and literature.

“For some of the students, it is their first experience with snow,” Muzinich says, “and it provides them with a taste of winter and a celebration of all they learned in January.”

The Bird Count

Between its position on the Pacific coast, its verdant, unspoiled landscapes and rangy foothills, Santa Barbara makes for an auspicious setting for birds, and by implication, people who like to count bird species. Few areas of the country (Corpus Christi, Texas is one of them) can rival the Central Coast in number of species, and Santa Barbara has its own coalition of volunteers who assure that reputation is preserved.

The field season for the 107th annual Christmas Bird Count season ended earlier this month, as tens of thousands of volunteer birders participated in this annual event sponsored by the Audubon Society. The organization’s local chapters run the counts within their respective radius. (Compilers have until mid-February to finish their data entry online; check www.audubon.org/bird/cbc for final results.)

The Audubon Society’s Santa Barbara chapter, led by renown Montecito birder and author Joan Lentz, and her crew of Joan Murdoch, Karen Bridgers and Dave Compton, organized 171 volunteers to wade through the county’s massive terrain. And they set a local record: 224 species. The previous record of 219 had been set in 1983.

“I was pretty much flying high,” Lentz said of the record.

In spite of the record, Santa Barbara still trailed its Texas counterpart, Corpus Christi, whose sizable army of volunteers counted 238 species. But the Santa Barbara count did tie a California record set by San Diego in 1969.

Montecito, never a slouch in its contributions to the count, provided the following rare birds: two Orchard Orioles, a Tennessee Warbler, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a Costa's Hummingbird (in Lentz’s yard!) and a Scott's Oriole. Compton spotted a rare black-throated green warbler on a stakeout for the bird that was first spotted last December by member Mar Holmgren. Lentz says she saw an Allen’s hummingbird building a new nest at Casa Dorinda. There were nine groups of counters in Montecito alone.

In one day of counting, volunteers worked from 1 am (remember, owls are nocturnal) to 6 pm. Winkie Roberts, a Montecito resident, participated with Lorna Hedges, and they did the census at Westmont College. Geoff Stearns surveyed Pepper Hill.

For more information on the Christmas Bird Count and birding in general, contact Lentz at 969-4397 or e-mail at joanlentz@cox.net.