Ventura County


Brown Pelican
Symbol of the Central Coast Birding Trail
Copyrighted Photo courtesy of: Don Des Jardin

 

Welcome to California's Central Coast!

Like all four counties of the Central Coast, Ventura County provides many recreational opportunities in a beautiful natural setting of coastal plain that includes the Santa Clara River estuary, forest-canopied mountains and interior valleys. Elevation varies from sea level to 8831 feet at the summit of Mt. Pinos. Mugu Lagoon and the Los Padres National Forest are Globally Important Bird Areas. Good birding opportunities extend beyond the 21 official trail sites. Field trips are regularly offered by two Audubon chapters that sponsor two Christmas counts. Channel Island trips originate in the city of Ventura. 457 bird species have been recorded in the county including a Xantus's Hummingbird. 

Please visit the Conejo Valley Audubon Society and the Ventura Audubon Society for more information about birding in Ventura County.

In addition to the trail site descriptions, please visit: 
Specialty birds of the Central Coast Birding Trail: Trail Specialty Birds 
Pelagic Birding on the Central Coast Birding Trail: Pelagic Birding 
Birding Event Calendars:
  Central Coast Events
Local attractions after birding is done: AfterHours
Resources for birding the Central Coast Trail Areas: Resources

 

Click on the White Numbers for Individual Site Descriptions and Directions
   
Lake Piru Park and Campground Wheeler Gorge Campground Pine Mountain, pine Springs Campground, Lockwood and Cuyama Valleys Mt. Pinos Area
Lake Casitas Rocky Peak Park, Simi Valley Happy Camp, Moorpark Camarillo Grove County Park Rancho Sierra Vista-Satwiwa Sycamore Canyon La Jolla Canyon Mugu Rock Overlook & Mugu Lagoon Ormond Beach/Pt. Hueneme Beach Ventura River Estuary, River & Ocean Shore Trails Santa Clara River Estuary & McGrath State Park Ventura Water Treatment Plant, Wildlife Ponds Camino Real Park Aroyyo Verde City Park Canada Larga Rd. Wheeler Canyon Road and Aliso Canyon Road Santa Paula Canyon and Steckel Park
   
Go North to Santa Barbara County

 


For Further Information Contact:

Conejo Valley Audubon
PO Box 4782
Thousand Oaks, CA 91359
805-482-0411; 805-499-2165

Ventura Audubon Society
PO Box 24198
Ventura, CA 93002
805-642-1585; 805-648-2495

Camarillo Chamber of Commerce
632 N. Los Posas
Camarillo, CA 93010
805-484-4383

Oxnard Convention and Visitor's Bureau
200 West Seventh Street 
Oxnard, CA 93030 
(805) 385-7545 or (800) 2-OXNARD 

Ventura Visitors and Convention Bureau
89 South California Street, Suite C 
Ventura, California USA 93001
Phone: 1-800-333-2989, 805-648-2075 

Audubon~California (National Audubon Society)
711 University Ave
Sacramento, CA 95825
916-649-7600

The mission of Audubon~California is to conserve and restore California's ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity.

 


Ventura County Sites

1. SANTA CLARA RIVER ESTUARY and MCGRATH STATE BEACH
[Restrooms, Interpretive Center, Parking, Fee -- McGrath St. Beach].

Habitat: Coastal estuary, salt marsh, riparian.
Location: From Hwy 101, exit at Seaward Ave. Turn left (south) onto Harbor Blvd. Continue south to Spinnaker Drive. Turn right onto Spinnaker and continue past entrance to Ventura Water Treatment Plant (Site #9). Park at Surfer's Knoll (parking lot on left, to reach it you take a U-turn once you've passed the lot). From parking lot walk down to estuary (approx. 400 yards). During May-August avoid fenced-off Least Tern colony on your way down there. Also check the breakwaters at the end of Spinnaker drive for turnstones, tattler and surfbird. Channel Islands National Park Headquarters are at end of Spinnaker Drive, while Island Packers boats for Santa Cruz Island leave from dock off Spinnaker Drive. For a shorter walk and better lighting during mid-day, continue south on Harbor Blvd. Over bridge and turn into McGrath State Beach (fee). Park at head of nature trail and follow out to the estuary.
Highlights: shorebirds, gulls, and terns. Least Tern and Snowy Plover nest on north side of estuary. Peregrine Falcon often present in estuary during winter. Black Turnstone, Surfbird, Wandering Tattler often visible on breakwaters during winter.
Best season: All year. Shorebirds July-September, gulls October-March. Least Terns (May-August).

2. MUGU ROCK OVERLOOK and MUGU LAGOON See Photo Album
[No Services.]
Part of Mugu State Park. 
Habitat: Ocean backed by cliffs, salt marsh.
Location: From Hwy 101, exit Las Posas Road. Drive south to Hwy 1 (PCH). Turn left onto PCH and drive past Navy Base. Lagoon overlook is on right side of road approx. 1 mile. Additional stops between overlook and firing range to scan wetlands recommended. Mugu Rock overlook on right side of PCH immediately after road cut through cliff - 1/2 mile south of lagoon. Park along cliff edge between Mugu Rock and smaller rock to the left. Best lighting conditions during early morning before sun is in south and wind and waves pick up. Peak migration in mid-April when 1,000s of Pacific Loons and Surf Scoter may pass by every hour.
Highlights: Lagoon: Herons, Egrets, Ducks, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, Belding‚s Savannah Sparrow. Rock: loons, grebes, shearwaters, scoters, jaegers, gulls, terns and alcids. White-throated Swifts and Rock Wrens resident on Mugu Rock. Mammals: Harbor Seal, Bottle-nosed Dolphin, Common Dolphin, Gray Whale in season. 
Best Season: Winter, spring.

3. VENTURA RIVER ESTUARY, RIVER TRAIL and OCEAN SHORE TRAIL
[Restrooms, Interpretive Center, Parking, Fee.]

Habitat: Coastal strand, dunes, estuary, riparian.
Location: Emma Woods Group Campground at north end of Main St. in Ventura. Park either outside in dirt area or in park and pay fee.
Highlights: Whimbrels, tattlers, shorebirds, ducks, shearwaters and more during migration.
Best Season: Winter, early spring.

4. LAKE CASITAS
[Restrooms, Parking, Fee or park outside main gate. Camping.]

Habitat: Open Lake, freshwater marsh, oak woodland, open meadows.
Location: From Hwy 101 in Ventura, take Hwy 33 North. Exit Casitas Vista Rd (approx. 5 miles). Turn right. Go under freeway, cross Ventura River and continue ~1mile to 1st right turn across another bridge (Santa Ana Rd.). Follow Santa Ana Rd. to lake (4 miles). Entrance to lake will be on left. Pay fee to enter, or park outside and walk in. Once in park, stay left and walk/drive to marina area, making sure to check inlet on the right side of road.
Highlights: Clark's and Western Grebes year-round. During high water they nest in protected bay inland from marina, ducks, Osprey and Bald Eagle in winter, Cassin's Kingbird in eucalyptus along Santa Ana Rd. White-breasted Nuthatch in pines, Western Bluebird in open meadows. Hooded and Bullock's Oriole in spring and summer. Good variety of sparrows in winter.
Best season: winter for grebes, ducks, raptors and sparrows. Spring and summer for breeding grebes, bluebirds and orioles.

5. CANADA LARGA RD.
[No services or fee.]
5-mile dead-end road. Oak woodland/savanna, private ranch land. Respect private property. Beware fast traffic.
Location: Take Hwy 33 off 101. Exit at Canada Larga Rd. Turn right. Park off road as you bird the canyon road to end.
Highlights: Early a.m. or late eve. for owls. Golden Eagle (regular), hawks, Mountain (rare) and Western Bluebirds; variety of sparrows in winter. Yellow-breasted Chat, Phainopepla, grosbeaks, orioles (spring).
Best Season: All year, esp. in spring, winter.

6. ARROYO VERDE CITY PARK
[Restrooms, Parking, Fee on Sundays.]
Oak woodland, grassy areas, chaparral, long, broad canyon.
Location: From 101, exit at Victoria. Go north to Foothill Rd. Turn left. Continue to park entrance on right. Or, exit 101 at Seaward. Turn right (inland). Follow Seaward until it intersects Foothill Rd. and bear right to park entrance on left.
Highlights: kingbirds, hummingbirds, finches, orioles, raptors.
Best Season: All year.

7. RANCHO SIERRA VISTA - SATWIWA -- See Photo Album
[Part of Mugu State Park Restrooms, Interpretive Center, Parking.]
Low coastal mountain park, open meadows, chaparral and sage scrub, some riparian, small ponds.
Location: From 101 south, exit at Wendy Dr. Turn left (west) at 1st traffic light onto Wendy Dr. Continue to end; turn right onto Potrero Rd. and left at stop sign. Follow signs to park entrance.
Highlights: Lazuli Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Savannah and Grasshopper Sparrows, White-tailed Kite, Costa's Hummingbird, raptors, roadrunner.
Best Season: All year, esp. spring, winter.

8. MT. PINOS AREA - - See Photo Album
[Elevation 8831 feet. Fee-Camping. Services available in several area camps.]
Mountain area in NE county. Good year-round birding, dry in hot months when rest of county is hot and dry. All areas produce good sightings; esp. good in campgrounds.
Location: From Ventura (90 miles), take Hwy 126 east to Castaic Junction. Merge onto Interstate 5 north; exit at Frazier Park. Take Frazier Pk. Rd. west; follow signs to Mt. Pinos. One mile past the campgrounds at the top of the mountain is a large parking lot and several trails.
Highlights: High elevation birds. White-headed Woodpecker, Clark's Nutcracker, Pygmy Nuthatch, Western Wood Peewee, Green-tailed Towhee.
Best Season: All year; best in spring, summer, fall.

9. VENTURA WATER TREATMENT PLANT WILDLIFE PONDS See Photo Album
[Parking. Open: Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.]
Coastal dunes, ponds, willows, reeds, habitat varied.
Location: From Hwy 101 in Ventura, take Seaward toward the beach. Turn left onto Harbor Blvd. Continue on Harbor to Spinnaker Dr. Turn right. Then turn left at 1400 Spinnaker Dr. Park on street near the corner and enter through gate.  If gate is locked call the number on the sign.  Highlights: Bonaparte's Gull, ducks, Sora, Common Moorhen, Marsh Wren, phalaropes, warblers, grebes, Peregrine Falcon; spring swallows.
Best Season: All year, esp. spring, fall, winter.

10. LA JOLLA CANYON- - See Photo Album ( Part of Pt. Mugu State Park)
[Restrooms, Parking, Fee.]
Coastal sage scrub, campground. Trail starts just past main parking lot, crosses the stream several times as it climbs to the end at pond. Lower portion fairly easy; more difficult after 2nd stream crossing.
Location: From Ventura or Oxnard, take Hwy 1 (PCH) south past Naval Air Weapons Station and Pt. Mugu Lagoon and Rock. La Jolla is about 2 1/2 miles south of the rock on the left. Park outside the entrance and walk in or pay fee and drive in.
Highlights: Lazuli Bunting, Rock and Canyon Wren, Costa's Hummingbird, swallows, orioles (spring), quail, thrashers.
Best Season: Spring, early summer.

11. SYCAMORE CANYON- - See Photo Album ( Part of Pt. Mugu State Park)
[Parking, Restrooms, Camping -- Fee.]
Coastal sage scrub, eucalyptus and sycamore groves. Easy walking in camp area; canyon more difficult.
Location: Follow Hwy 1 (PCH) south past Mugu Rock about 4 miles (see directions for #10). Park on highway or pay day use fee.
Highlights: thrashers, towhees, migrant flycatchers and warblers, grosbeaks, woodpeckers.
Best Season: Early spring, summer, fall.

12. CAMINO REAL PARK
[Ventura City Park. Restrooms, Parking.]
Open grassy area ringed by pines. Eucalyptus trees along the barranca and Aurora Dr., forming north border of park, are resting places for migrating Monarch butterflies in late fall and winter.
Location: In Ventura, take Main St. east to Mills Rd. Turn left onto Mills. Turn right at 1st light (Dean Dr.) and follow Dean west to park entrance, opposite Varsity.
Highlights: Hot spot for migrants, vagrants, and rarities.  Allen's Hummingbird resident.
Best Season: All year, esp. early spring and winter. Early a.m. best.

13. PINE MOUNTAIN, [elevation 7,000 feet], LOCKWOOD and CUYAMA VALLEYS [Fee]
Very few services and only in camps or at the few stores along the route. Start with full gas tank. Take water and snacks. Habitat is mix of high desert, montane, valleys, open grassland, and agriculture. Be prepared for snow in winter. Many pockets of habitat for excellent birding. Full day trip.
Location: From Ventura, take Hwy 101, to Hwy 33 north, to Ojai. Turn left at Maricopa Hwy (33). Continue on 33 for about 30-35 miles to Pine Mountain Summit. Continue on past Ozena Station. (Good birding there too.) About 2 miles beyond that is Lockwood Valley Rd. Turn right. Continue for 15 mi. to Grade Valley Rd. (N703). Turn right and follow dirt road to the camp. To bird Cuyama Valley, continue on Hwy 33 past Lockwood Valley Rd.
Highlights: Valley good for many sparrows, several raptor species. Camps yield nuthatches (including Pygmy), creepers. Mountain Bluebird, Whiteheaded Woodpecker in high camps. Pygmy-Owl (rare).  Cuyama Valley has Ferruginous Hawks in Winter Best Season: Winter, spring, late fall.

14. WHEELER GORGE CAMPGROUND
[Elevation 1,500 feet. Restrooms, Parking, Interpretive Center, Fee.]
Mountain park with variety of trees, small gorges, and chaparral. Bird camp area plus river trail that fords creek (fairly difficult) and on up the mountain.
Location: Take Hwy 33 from Ventura. Drive north past Matilija Springs and NE along the Maricopa Hwy (33) through 2 tunnels to the campground. Park on right side of road and walk across to camp.
Highlights: orioles, Olive- sided Flycatcher, Steller's Jay, dipper (rare), thrushes, Solitary Vireo, Golden- crowned Kinglet (rare).
Best Season: Spring, summer.

15. WHEELER CANYON RD. and ALISO CANYON RD.
[No services.]
Dead-end canyon roads lined with private ranches, pastures, orchards, oak woodland and chaparral. Respect private property and bird from road only.
Location: From Ventura, take Seaward Ave. inland until it deadends at Foothill Rd. Turn right and follow that about 12 miles east toward Santa Paula. Both canyons on left.
Highlights: orioles, warblers, sparrows, raptors; wintering Zone-tailed Hawk (fairly regular); bluebirds, kites.
Best Season: All year, esp. early spring; owls nearly morning or evening.

16. SANTA PAULA CANYON and STECKEL PARK
[No services, Camping, Fee.]
Varied habitat-Live Oak, open grassy areas, creekside trails. Canyon is accessed from the grounds of St. Thomas Aquinas School. Expect a guard just inside grounds of school. Register and follow trail signs.
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 mi. farther along 150. Park outside on 150.
Highlights: woodpeckers, raptors, warblers, kinglets, vireos in park. Canyon yields spring warblers, vireos, flycatchers, Dipper, tanagers, orioles, grosbeaks, wrens (Canyon), swifts, Costa's Hummingbird, Golden Eagle, Zone-tailed Hawk (esp. in winter).
Best Season: All year, esp. spring.

17. ORMOND BEACH
[Restrooms, Parking, free at end of Perkins Rd and Arnold Rd.]
Coastal strand, dunes, marsh between ocean edge and water treatment plant.
Location: From Ventura, take Harbor Blvd. (becomes Channel Islands as curves to left). Stay on that to Ventura Rd. and turn right. Turn left on Port Hueneme Rd., continue to Perkins Rd. (just past J St.), turn right, go to end. Free parking at end of road on right.  You may also continue east to Arnold Road.  Turn right and drive to parking lot at the end.

Highlights: Endangered Least Tern/Snowy Plover nesting site. Sea and shorebirds, terns, Brown Pelican, bitterns. Rare migrants often found.
Best Season: All year, esp. summer for shorebirds; late spring and summer for nesting species.

18. LAKE PIRU PARK and CAMPGROUND
[Restrooms, Parking, Camping, Fee.]
Varied habitat, inland lake. Popular for boating, swimming, water skiing, fishing, and camping.
Location: Take Hwy 126 about 25 mi. through Santa Paula and Fillmore to Lake Piru turnoff. Turn north. Follow signs to park entrance.
Highlights: Several varieties of sparrows, warblers, raptors, ducks. Bird entire area, esp. perimeter and perimeter approach road.  Occasionally Condors are seen at the dam end of the lake.  Best season: Fall, winter, spring.

19. CAMARILLO GROVE PARK, CAMARILLO - See Photo Album
[Restrooms, Parking, Fee.]
Varied city park habitat: cactus, oak, grassy areas, chaparral.
Location: Take 101 south through Camarillo to Camarillo Springs Rd. Exit freeway and turn left under 101 to stop sign. Turn right and continue to park.
Highlights: Cactus Wren, Hermit Thrush, Ground Dove, Cedar Waxwings, raptors, bluebirds, woodpeckers, kinglets.
Best Season: All year, esp. fall, winter, spring.

20. HAPPY CAMP, MOORPARK
[Parking, Restrooms.]
Riparian habitat, open fields.
Location: From 101 south, take Rt. 23 north to 188 (old 23 extension). Follow old 23 west 1 mile and turn right at Moor- park Ave. Follow that to Broadway. Turn right and go to parking lot (with kiosk). Take trail to oaks.
Highlights: Vireos, goldfinches, raptors, sparrow species, orioles, grosbeaks, thrushes.
Best Season: Fall, winter, spring.

21. ROCKY PEAK PARK, SIMI VALLEY
[Chumash Park and trail. Parking, limited, at trailhead.] High chaparral and creekside trail.
Location: From 101 south, take Rt. 23 north to 118 east. Follow 118 to Yosemite Ave. in Simi Valley and turn north. Follow that to Flanagan and turn right and go to the end. Park on street at right. Take trail north from map kiosk.
Highlights: sparrows, wren, thrashers roadrunner, grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, finches. Great wild flowers.
Best season: Early spring.

 

 

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Most recently updated: 30 June 2004 .