University of California, Santa Cruz Campus
So far U.C. Santa Cruz (UCSC) has kept much of its 2000-acre campus in a natural state. Situated at the south end of Ben Lomond Mountain, the campus has an impressive variety of mountain habitats, as well as a 50-acre arboretum (www2.ucsc.edu/arboretum/). A few mountain lions (and many more mountain bikers) roam the campus, so bird with appropriate alertness.
Directions. From Hwy 1 (Mission St) in Santa Cruz go north one mile on Bay St to reach the main campus entrance at the intersection of Bay St and High St. The campus’s west entrance is on Empire Grade 1.1 mile northwest of the main entrance. In between, the UCSC Arboretum is on Empire Grade 0.5 mile from the main entrance. Maps and other information are usually available at a kiosk at the main entrance. Weekday parking on campus is by permit (day permits available) or meter and is very limited; weekend parking is free except as signed otherwise. The arboretum parking lots often have space, especially in the morning, either just off Empire Grade or farther in at “events parking.” The arboretum is officially open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but its gate usually stands open earlier – though not much later!
Birds. Grassland birds frequent the “Great Meadow,” the large grassland on the lower campus. Burrowing Owls (best found near dusk) winter here from October to March, especially east of Hagar Dr to the south of the East Remote Parking Lot. Several raptors, various swallows, and White-throated and Vaux’s swifts fly over the grassland. Look for Peregrine Falcon and Golden Eagle year round, and Merlin, Ferruginous Hawk, and Short-eared Owl in fall and winter (although the hawk and owl are rare). Scattered oaks along the edge of the grasslands support oak savannah birds such as Oak Titmouse and Ash-throated Flycatcher. A particularly good area to find these species is across Empire Grade from the campus’s west entrance. Western Meadowlark, and Grasshopper, Savannah, and Chipping sparrows also nest in this area. Until recently, Lark Sparrow and Western Bluebird also nested along the grassland edges.
The UCSC Arboretum is a hummingbird paradise, with abundant blooms particularly available in the Australian, Mediterranean, and California native gardens. Allen’s Hummingbirds occur by the dozens among the flowering shrubs in late winter and spring. Peak estimates in March have been of over 70 individuals. Look for Rufous Hummingbird among these in spring, and Rufous may predominate in late summer, when most are females and young males that defy easy identification. Anna's Hummingbird is dominant from mid-summer to December, and Costa’s and Black-chinned are possible in spring and late summer. Many landbirds, sometimes including rarities, occur in the wooded drainage at the west part of the arboretum. The various trails through the gardens offer nice views of Northern Flicker, California Thrasher, Wrentit, Golden-crowned Sparrow and Purple Finch. The arboretum gift shop provides a free bird checklist, which is also on the SCBC website. An annual “Hummingbird Celebration” in March has been a popular event.
The northern third of the campus (“Upper Campus”) has extensive redwood and mixed evergreen forest, meadows, knobcone pine forest, and chaparral. A network of fire roads and trails traverses this area. Good entry points include the campus fire station near Crown College, and the upper end of the North Remote parking lot near Kresge College, at the end of Heller Dr. Hermit Thrush, Hermit Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and White-tailed Kite are among the diverse species nesting here, and Varied Thrush and Fox Sparrow may be common in winter. Pileated Woodpecker may also be found.
The campus boasts many owls, especially around the deep canyons on the west side and in the undeveloped northern part of campus. Northern Saw-whet Owl and Western Screech-Owl are numerous, along with Great Horned Owl and Northern Pygmy-Owl. Barn Owls hunt in the grasslands of the lower campus. Long-eared Owl has been found occasionally.