Channel Islands National Park

March 22, 2021 at 5:00 am (Birds - California, California, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography) (, , )

Island Fox

I had two critters in mind when I visited Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands National Park in early March, 2021. The Island Fox was one.

Santa Cruz Island Scrub Jay on manzanita

The Santa Cruz Island Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma insularis) was the second. It is found ONLY on Santa Cruz Island.

It was a bright overcast day, perfect for wildlife photography. I didn’t have to go very far to find these guys. I only went a short distance on the Cavern Point trail above the picnic area and a pair of Island Scrub Jays seemed to be bringing nesting material to a Monterey cypress. I sat and watched.

This variety of scrub jay is a bit different than the California scrub jays that visit my yard. They are more intensely colored, especially the blue. They are supposed to be larger, but I couldn’t tell the difference.

They became curious about me, too, and both came closer on a manzanita to study me.

I walked a short distance up the hill and the Island Fox was in plain view, nose to the ground, sniffing the rodent tunnels through the lush green grass.

Occasionally he raised his head just enough for a decent photograph, but never once looked at me while I watched, though he knew I was there. He came with in about 20 feet of me at one point, and I’m just standing on the trail. Everyone else had gone ahead awhile earlier, and I had the spectacle all to myself.

I sat on the bank overlooking the ocean and along came a pair of peregrine falcons.

Hawks are sometimes confusing for me – this one seems more like a Swainson’s but the red-tailed juvenile is possible, too.

Sparrows made great subjects, too since they posed so sweetly for me. Although the Park Service website says the Channel Islands Song Sparrow sub-species is not found on Santa Cruz Island, either it is now, or it is the more common form.

The spotted towhee was trickier, as they tend to want to hide.

Spotted towhee

A pair of loggerhead shrikes may also have been scoping out a nesting site near the picnic area. They were the least shy shrikes I’ve encountered anywhere and allowed the best images I’ve ever made of this species. Matter of fact, apparently they are also an endemic sub-species.

As I said, I didn’t make it very far up the trail since I spent so much time with these critters. But I was more than happy with the trip.

Both on the way over, and on the way back, we saw migrating gray whales!

Gray whale diving

There are quite a few oil platforms offshore, as you can tell by the photos.

Brown pelicans in breeding plumage
Brown pelicans Ventura

The Common Dolphins that met the boat going out were playful, some swimming right alongside the boat. To visit Channel Islands go with Island Packers. They stop for whales and slow down for dolphins. You can also hire guides to go kayaking or exploring as well. With COVID-19, many services are minimized, and wearing masks is a requirement on the boat, especially since it is impossible to social distance. I sat in the open in the stern for best access to photos, best ventilation, and for reduced chance of seasickness. (Two Bonine tablets were indispensable for that.) This is definitely a trip I’d like to take again.

Leaving Santa Cruz Island

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre
Feel free to reblog or share
Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com
Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America
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1 Comment

  1. Rob Olson said,

    Cindy:

    AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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