At Cachuma Lake, fall is in the air and so are the bald eagles.
Fall is a season of migration for wildlife, and many species of raptors, ducks and diving birds are arriving at the lake via the Pacific Flyway. The migration route extends from Canada and Alaska to as far south as Baja California. Additionally, American white pelicans and common loons migrate to the lake from the north and east.
Cachuma Lake is home to one pair of adult bald eagles and hosts many migratory bald eagles each winter. During “eagle season” from November through February, eagles are frequently seen flying overhead, on the shore and perched on branches overlooking the lake.
The bays and mud flats are already filling with mallards, eared grebes, ruddy ducks, northern shovelers, gadwall and wood ducks. Great blue herons, great egrets and snowy egrets stalk the shoreline. Red-tailed hawks scour the hills for prey, and ospreys soar over the lake with trout in their talons as bald eagles spy on them from their oak perches.
All of this and more can be seen from aboard the Osprey, Cachuma Lake’s 46-foot Pontoon tour boat. The boat is equipped with padded swivel seats, a partially covered deck, viewing platforms and wheelchair access.
Santa Barbara County park naturalists guide two-hour eagle cruises November through February, Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to noon, and Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 805.686.5050 on weekdays and 805.686.5055 on weekends.
Cruise fees are $15 for adults and $7 for kids ages 4 to 12 (children younger than 4 not allowed). Park entry is $8 per vehicle. Take Highway 101 to Highway 154 to reach Cachuma Lake, just 20 minutes inland from Santa Barbara or Solvang, in the Santa Ynez Valley.
William Boyer is Santa Barbara County‘s communications director.