Ventura County, situated between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara Counties, is located in California's Central Coast. Birding is one of the Central Coast's finest recreational activities. The Central Coast is strategically located on the Pacific Flyway and provides habitat to many resident and migratory birds. A description of the complete Central Coast Birding Trail is available online. Another informative site for Ventura County birding is provided by the Ventura Audubon Society.
Some of the recommended Ventura County birding sites are listed below. Note: All directions start from the city of Ventura.
SANTA CLARA RIVER ESTUARY and MCGRATH STATE BEACH
Coastal estuary, salt marsh, riparian
Location: From Seaward Ave., turn south onto Harbor Blvd. Park on the street just before the Santa Clara Bridge. Follow trail to river bottom. If flooded, cross bridge to McGrath and park in the campground or access estuary from Spinnaker Dr. and walk across sand.
Highlights: terns, plovers (Least Tern, Snowy Plover nest), Peregrine Falcon (winter).
Best Season: All year
Lake area, freshwater marsh, oak woodland, open meadows
Location: From Ventura off 101, take Hwy 33 inland towards Ojai. Exit Casitas Vista Rd. Turn right . Go under fwy, past Foster Park to 1st turn right (Santa Ana Rd.). Follow that to the lake. Past the entrance (there is a $6.50 admission fee), turn right and follow the road around to the other side of the lake.
Highlights: Early summer: sparrows, grosbeaks, Clark's and Western Grebes, Osprey, Western Bluebird, raptors, woodpeckers, nuthatches.
Best Season: All year; best winter and spring.
Part of Pt. Mugu State Park with coastal sage scrub, eucalyptus and sycamore groves
Location: Follow Hwy 1 (PCH) south past Mugu Rock about 4 miles. Park on highway or pay day use fee.
Highlights: thrashers, towhees, migrant flycatchers and warblers, grosbeaks, woodpeckers.
Best Season: Early spring, summer, fall
SANTA PAULA CANYON and STECKEL PARK
Varied habitat - live oak, open grassy areas, creekside trails
Location: From Ventura, take Santa Paula Fwy (Hwy 126) east to 10th St. (Hwy 150 to Ojai). Exit. Turn left, follow 150 north to Steckel Park. Santa Paula Canyon is about 2 miles further on 150. Park outside on 150. The Canyon is accessed from the grounds of the St. Thomas Acquinas School. Expect a guard just inside the grounds of the school. Register and follow trail signs.
Highlights: woodpeckers, raptors, warblers, kingleys, vireos in park. Canyon yields spring warblers, vireos, flycatchers, Dippers, tanagers, orioles, grosbeaks, wrens (Canyon), swifts, Costa's Hummingbird, Golden Eagle, Zone-tailed Hawk (especially in winter).
Best Season: All year, especially spring.
ORMOND BEACH/PT. HUENEME BEACH
Coastal strand, dunes, marsh between ocean edge and water treatment plant
Location: From Ventura, take Harbor Blvd. (becomes Channel Islands as it curves to the left). Stay on that to Ventura Rd. and turn right. Follow to end. Pay fee, park, bird. Or, turn left on Hueneme Rd., continue to Perkins Rd. (just past"J" St.), turn right, go to end. Free parking at end of road on right.
Highlights: Endangered Least Tern/Snowy Plover nesting site. Sea and shorebirds, terns, Brown Pelican, bitterns. Rare migrants often found.
Best Season: All year, especially summer for shorebirds; late spring and summer for nesting species.
CAMARILLO GROVE COUNTY PARK
Varied city park habitat: cactus, oak, grassy areas, chaparral
Location: Take Hwy 101 south through Camarillo to Camarillo Springs Rd. Exit freeway and turn left under Hwy 101 to stop sign. Turn right and continue to park.
Cactus Wren, Hermit Thrush, Ground Dove, Cedar Waxwings, raptors, bluebirds, woodpeckers, kinglets.
Best Season: All year, especially fall, winter, spring.
VENTURA WATER TREATMENT PLANTS-WILDLIFE PONDS
Open Mon.-Fri. 7am -4:30pm. Coastal dunes, ponds, willows, reeds, habitat varied
Location: From Hwy 101 in Ventura, take Seaward Ave. towards the beach. Turn left onto Harbor Blvd. Continue on Harbor to Spinnaker Dr. Turn right. Then turn left at 1400 Spinnaker Dr. Follow signs to administration building for sign in. Park near ponds.
Highlights: Bonaparte's Gull, ducks, Sora, Common Moorhen, Marsh wren, phalaropes, warblers, grebes, Peregrine Falcon, spring swallows.
Best Season: All year, especially spring, fall, winter.