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11-31 October 2002

Part 2:  Santa Cruz Island

Next day was the big excursion to Santa Cruz Island!  After checking in and boarding the boat (which rapidly filled up with young campers) I camped out myself on the back bench and added Surf Scoter, Pelagic Cormorant, and Glaucous-winged Gull to the list (he might have had a little Western blood in him, seeing as a couple of primaries were a little browner than I'd like for pure GW, but what the hey...).  More of those odd juvenile terns flew by, and I was discussing this with who turned out to be a local biologist tracking radio-tagged Bald Eagles on the island, when my Imperial Valley friend Bob Miller and his friend Henry showed up!  On the way out we saw plenty of real Elegants and a few Forster's, plus both turnstones on the rocks (I missed the Whimbrel the guys saw).


Pelicans and gulls hog the rocks while Sea Lions prefer the buoys...  

The boat we took was actually a giant catamaran/hydrofoil whatever, but it went at a good clip!  Pelagic birding was pretty dead on the way out, but the Blue Whale made up for it!  Most of the campers got off at Scorpion Anchorage (with tons of people already there), but we went on to Prisoner's Cove, enjoying several flocks of Brandt's Cormorants coming in (I missed the Black Oystercatcher Bob saw).  We all met at the picnic tables where the ranger lady briefed us, and as promised, their "official greeter", the Island Scrub Jay, came right up to us and gave us a show!  (And I didn't hafta hike a million miles up into the canyon this time!)  Thankfully the sun came out about then, and I got some terrific shots!  Now that's the way to get a life bird!


The boat that brought us over to Prisoner’s Cove



Island Scrub Jay, found nowhere else in the world! (And if it looks no different than your backyard Scrub Jays, that’s because, until recent DNA studies showed         otherwise, they were the same as your backyard Scrub Jays! But these guys are slightly bigger, bluer, larger-billed, and have a deeper, more raucous voice.)   


A teeny piece of Earth’s largest creature (the Blue Whale)!

 Everyone kinda went their separate ways after that; the ranch is very well-endowed with big, lush trees, so a lot of people hung around that area or else went with the ranger into the Nature Conservancy property.  I opted to hike the National Park trail, picking up the resident Allen's Hummers in the trees by the ranch, and as I slowly (and I mean really slowly) made my way up the grade, added stuff that was hanging around in the thick fennel, the most surprising of which were Yellowthroat and Song Sparrow, two birds usually associated with moist areas at the very least!  Sparrows in general were well-represented: I literally scared up a Rufous-crowned Sparrow at one resting spot (he was hiding under the pipe vent I decided to sit on) and got a dandy look at a Golden-crowned where a pair of Bewick's Wrens were also going nuts.  California Quail called (one gentleman commented on how different they sounded, and he was right--another split??) and saw several Orange-crowned Warblers, which made me wonder which were the migrants and which were the resident subspecies. 


Ranch area around the Cove


L-R:  Orange-crowned Warbler; Bewick's Wren; Bushtit

It took me two hours to go one mile, but the views were worth it!  Also had another jay say hello in more appropriate habitat, and on the way down ran into Henry's wife Suzanne (whom I didn't know was Henry's wife at the time; I didn't realize till later he had come not only with Bob but with his wife and four girls!), where we found a nice Lincoln's Sparrow in with the Songs.  Also had a Myrtle Warbler come in as well as a friendly Hutton's Vireo.  Spotted Towhees were all over (also sounding different), and although I didn't see the Bald Eagles I did get an Osprey sailing past.  Back at the bottom (my toes didn't like coming down that hill at all) I pointed out a Lawrence's Goldfinch bouncing overhead to the friendly southern gentleman and his daughter, which prompted a debate about which county we were actually in!  He found out later it was Santa Barbara, which was great news for me cuz I added a whole slough of county birds, but bad news in that anything I counted on my previous trip out here was miscounted for Ventura!  Oh, well...


View of Prisoner’s Cove from the top and from the killer trail


                                             Female Anna's Hummingbird


Island Scrubbie in more typical habitat...

I crashed for awhile before it was time to head back, which was in a dinky little passenger boat (with no snacks or Coke, so I had to endure...).  Had an adult Royal Tern batting around here, so even if I blew it on those juveniles, I know I've got it for the trip for sure!  On the way back Henry and I chatted quite a bit; found out he's from Yuma and has his own bird-guiding business!  Birding on the way back picked up a little: we got several Black-vented Shearwaters, a jaeger I'm calling Parasitic only because it looked too slender for a Pom, and a phalarope of some kind.  Had steamed clams and ribs at a nice restaurant in "The Village" (reminded me of Quivira Basin), then came home to crash. 






Mob of campers waiting to be picked up at Scorpion Anchorage





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