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
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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com
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2021 Begins with Birds

January 9, 2021 at 5:04 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, San Luis Obispo County, Wildlife) (, )

Winsome blue-gray gnatcatcher

I didn’t realize the above photo of the gnatcatcher at Morro Bay would be so popular on the Birding California Facebook page. Last count it had 1200 reactions and 83 comments. It’s reminiscent of the Angry Bluebird that was popular several years ago. This little fluffball was uncharacteristically cooperative, as they are generally in constant motion catching, well, gnats.

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Autumn Coastal Birds & Scenery

November 8, 2020 at 7:16 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, San Luis Obispo County) ()

I’ve stayed close to home since my big trip north (which I have still yet to post, my bad!). Here are some autumn birds and scenery in Central Coast California.

Fogbow, Montana de Oro State Park
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Acorn Woodpeckers and Their Granary Tree

October 25, 2020 at 6:36 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, San Luis Obispo County, Video, Wildlife) ()

Male acorn woodpecker at granary tree

Acorn woodpeckers abound in this part of California, which is known for its oak savannahs. Blue and valley oak are the most common, with valley oak tending to be larger and the blue oaks more likely to grow on hillsides.

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Montana de Oro Oct. 2020

October 24, 2020 at 5:45 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, San Luis Obispo County)

View from Sandspit Trail

After a month of smoky skies from numerous wildfires, it was nice to encounter just plain old fog on a trip to the ocean last week.

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Montana de Oro

June 30, 2020 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, California wildflowers, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, San Luis Obispo County, Wildflowers) (, )

Mountain of Gold

When I first came to California in 2015, I fell in love with Montana de Oro State Park. I was living in Apple Valley at the time and had a job that gave me a 3-day weekend twice a month, which I took full advantage of.

Now that I live much closer, I feel fortunate to live so near to the most beautiful part of the California coast.

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Eastern Sierras-Alabama Hills

June 26, 2020 at 7:35 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , )

Arch Trail, Alabama Hills, Lone Pine

After more than six months of being “cooped up” due to a deteriorated hip joint, surgery to fix it, and COVID-19, my desire for a road trip was strong. I tried to convince my friend Marilyn, who had been with me since my surgery, to tag along enroute to her former job in Colorado (former because of the pandemic, sadly), but she opted to see the sequoias on the west side of the Sierras instead. So I was solo, and enjoying it immensely.

Alabama Hills
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Lagniappe

May 28, 2020 at 7:03 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, California wildflowers, Nature, Nature photography, San Luis Obispo County, Wildflowers) (, , )

Western bluebird male

Lagniappe often means “a little of this, a little of that.” Since I have many hangers-on images that didn’t quite fit into a themed blog, I’m tossing them all in here like a stew.

Mrs. Western Bluebird

This sapsucker-drilled tree has a cavity just perfect for this pair of western bluebirds.

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Big Sur

May 27, 2020 at 7:16 pm (Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, California wildflowers, Monterey County, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildflowers) ()

Nacimiento-Fergusson Road overlooking Big Sur

I’ve driven the challenging Nacimiento-Fergusson Road from Fort Hunter Liggett to Big Sur two or three times before, but last weekend was the first time I’d started in Big Sur going home.

The N-F road had been closed by the Los Padres National Forest because there were complaints of too much traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway (State Hwy 1, aka Big Sur Highway) during the COVID-19 lockdown. The campgrounds had already been closed and folks were availing themselves of road pullouts or wherever they could to camp.

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Southern Monterey County

May 21, 2020 at 8:33 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, Butterflies, California, California Central Coast, California wildflowers, Monterey County, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildflowers) (, , , )

Nacimiento-Fergusson Road at Fort Hunter Liggett
Same view same time last year

The Los Padres National Forest re-opened the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road and I had a hankering to explore one of my favorite areas in Central Coast California.

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