Cristal's Blog


February 6, 2023

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Observing wildlife can nourish the soul. The beauty in seeing Santa Barbara wildlife thrive in nature not only evokes a sense of wonder, but it can also be a source of inspiration. So much of our history and culture, especially here in Santa Barbara, is tied closely to wildlife. It’s an intrinsic part of who we are—and in a way, observing them in the wild helps to preserve our own identity and heritage. Besides marine wildlife, the Santa Barbara region is home to many creatures. Known as one of the most biodiverse regions in California, the area between the Santa Ynez Mountains to the south and the San Rafael Mountains to the north is home to all kinds of four-legged and feathered residents. As such, there are multiple locations where locals can witness things on the wild side.

The Best Places to See Local Wildlife in Santa Barbara

Snowy Plovers flying in the sky above the ocean in Santa Barbara
Photo credit: Yeti-legs, Flickr

Coal Oil Point Reserve
The rare and endangered snowy plover pictured above can be seen at Coal Oil Point near UCSB. North and south of the wetland's mouth, Coal Oil Point is roped off along the rack line of driftwood and gnarled kelp. To get a good view of these threatened birds, you'll have to closely watch the natural depressions in the sand. Plovers don't make nests. Instead, they rely on depressions next to kelp, cobblestones, and driftwood. These tough little shorebirds depend on their camouflage to blend into their coastal environment.

The sparkling shoreline at Carpinteria Bluffs with a gentle wave crashing on the sane
Photo credit: Ken Lund, Flickr

Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve
This 230-acre wetland has more than 200 birds recorded in its maze of channels and dense pickleweed. Easy, maintained trails lead to vantage points for expansive views, and interpretive signs explain the inner workings of the marsh. You can almost pull up a chair at one of the channels that serpentines through the estuary and watch for cinnamon, green, blue-winged teal, lesser scaups, common mergansers, double-crested cormorants, and marbled godwits.

Sneaking around the pickleweed are marsh wrens, Say's phoebes, snowy egrets, a slew of songbirds, and the highly secretive light-footed clapper rail. In addition, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, white-tailed kites, and seafaring ospreys patrol the skies.

Keeping all the waterfowl and waders on their toes is a resident gray fox frequently seen foraging through the pickleweed and crossing the muddy channels at the lowest of tides. Docent-led trips in the Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park are available.

Dozens of seals on the shore in front of a large translucent blue-green swell with two seals visible through the water inside the wave
Photo credit: Michael Field, Flickr

San Miguel Island, Channel Islands National Park
The most westerly islet in the Channel Islands National Park archipelago is home to North America's largest seal and sea lion rookery. As a result, more species are seen here than anywhere else on the planet. Plan on seeing northern elephant seals, harbor seals, California sea lions, and northern fur seals. More than 100,000 animals surround the windswept isle.

The best place to see this massive congregation is Point Bennett, located on the western tip of San Miguel. A cold current from Alaska and a warm current from Mexico collide around the chain, bringing a rich assortment of food items, making Point Bennett a popular spot for the pinnipeds.

The hike out to Point Bennett is 15 miles round-trip and ranger led. The hike itself is long but easy, and anticipation mounts by the distant bellows of seals and sea lions carrying across the island. Along the hike, keep an eye out for the endangered island fox, making a comeback on San Miguel and other animals.

A rare horned antelope standing in a field of dry grass
Photo credit: Karen Hall, Flickr

Carrizo Plain National Monument
The last of California's historic grasslands can be found here, offering shelter for various critters including the pronghorn antelope pictured above, believed to be the fastest land animal in North America. After coming close to extinction in the 1800’s, efforts to help restore the population are working, although only to a fraction of this animal’s historic range. The area, known as California's Serengeti, includes Soda Lake's 50-mile dirt road, the main drag through the monument, with many old cattle roads leading to points unknown.

Those brave enough to watch for rattlesnakes should visit the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Along Soda Lake Road, it's common to see desert cottontails, San Joaquin kit foxes, antelope ground squirrels, roadrunners, Tule elk, burrowing owls and the majestic pronghorn antelope are also frequently seen here. The Caliente Mountains, just west of the grasslands, are a foraging habitat for black-tailed mule deer. Watch for Coyotes, golden eagles, and great horned owls in the woodlands.

Our wild neighbors make life in Santa Barbara even more enriching. If you’re considering making a move within or to Santa Barbara, I invite you to give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or email me at for a free consultation regarding selling and buying. Check out my portfolio of impressive estates for sale, and let me know what speaks to you. We can celebrate with a hike on the wild side!

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Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch