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
Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America
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Santa Barbara

March 21, 2021 at 7:49 pm (California) (, , )

Mission Santa Barbara

I went to Santa Barbara enroute to the Channel Islands National Park (next blog post.) At the top of my list were Old Mission Santa Barbara, and the Botanic Gardens. I just happened to be standing front and center at the mission when the Franciscan friar appeared in the doorway. Soon he brought out a folding table and lectern and other items to celebrate Mass outdoors, due to COVID-19.

The inside was closed to visitors, but the exterior was, for me, the most beautiful part.

In the adjacent olive garden was a beautiful mosaic Stations of the Cross. A Spanish-speaking family was devoutly praying their way along all of the stations, in the way I used to do as a Catholic schoolgirl during Lent.

Stations of the Cross mosaic

I actually started at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden before I went to the mission. My GPS insisted that the San Marcos Pass Road (St. Route 154) was the fastest route, even though I could have stayed on U.S. Rt. 101 the entire way from my home in Paso Robles. It was a two-lane, winding, heavily-traveled road and I vowed I would never take that road again. (On the way home I stayed on the 101 and it was a breeze.)

There is limited parking at the Botanic Garden but there were folks there to guide us into a newly vacated spot. I didn’t realize that the garden featured ONLY California native plants, which was a real bonus.

California poppies and verbena

Meeting this gopher snake (at least that’s what I think it is) was a highlight. It was an extremely lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng snake covering the entire trail even though it was doubled up. When I moved to go around it, it slowly moved off.

Some other early blooming flowers made my day, too.

Path through redwood forest

Tomorrow: My visit to Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands National Park

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre
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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com
Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America
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Double Rainbow

January 30, 2021 at 1:16 pm (California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, San Luis Obispo County) (, , )

Double rainbow, Paso Robles, California

You might have heard, but we had a really intense winter storm this week. It rained for at least 48 hours straight from early morning Wednesday through early morning Friday, and then off-and-on showers. Very un-California-like weather. They called it an “atmospheric river.” We needed the rain, but it’s better spaced out from October to April. Even with nearly five inches in Paso Robles, and a foot in Cambria right on the coast, we are still behind our normal rain totals for this point of the rainy season.

So just as I had quit telework, I was going to pick up my Talley Farms produce box down the street when I saw a sliver of this rainbow from my yard. Of course, I chased it, looking for just the best spot to see both ends. Fortunately, it lasted for at least an hour, giving me a chance to find this place, just down from where I live.

I love how it seems to emanate from this oak tree. I took quite a few photos with my iPhone and the rainbow was just as intense – no editing necessary.

I cropped and intensified the glow for this one.

Dozens of people stopped to take photographs of this amazing display of nature. The storm did some damage to homes and streets, and took out a huge chunk of the Big Sur highway (again.) Last time two parts of the highway were covered with a mudslide. This time a part of it in the Dolan Fire burn scar is just gone, slid into the ocean. Not sure how they can fix this one without building a bridge.

By CalTrans

So a double, intense, long-lasting rainbow seems to be nature’s way of apologizing for the havoc. I was even able to post a couple of photos to the KSBY weather guy’s Facebook page and it made the TV weather report!

One of the first spots I found – power lines, ugh!
Double rainbow after intense winter storm, Paso Robles, California.

Even with a wide angle it takes two photos to complete the panorama, stitched in Photoshop.

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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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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Even the surfers wouldn’t ride the waves

January 8, 2021 at 8:29 am (California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, San Luis Obispo County) (, , )

Morro Bay, California

A huge storm far offshore generated HUGE waves that we don’t often see here in Central Coast California. I went out to Morro Rock on Sunday and then to Estero Bluffs just to the north and marveled at the beauty and power of the ocean. Enjoy these images!

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Redwoods and Other Treasures

November 20, 2020 at 5:00 am (California, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, )

Sunset in Oregon through a smoky haze

On my late summer trip to join my son and his family in a camping trip in Eastern Washington, I made several stops at volcanic parks. I had to miss one near Bend, Oregon because it was late and I just can’t fit in everything.

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Lava Beds National Monument

November 16, 2020 at 5:00 am (California, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , )

Modoc National Forest

Lava Beds National Monument, California, the second volcanic site on my summer trip north, had just re-opened following a fierce wildfire. The journey through the Modoc National Forest to the park entrance was jaw-dropping in its devastation.

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Lassen Volcanic National Park

November 15, 2020 at 10:15 am (California, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography)

Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park

I left on a road trip to visit my son’s family in Seattle four days before my 65th birthday. California had had a week of smoky skies since the August 18 barrage of dry lightning, and the drive north from Paso Robles was through a dreary, smoke-drenched landscape.

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A Saunter at Pinnacles

November 13, 2020 at 8:51 am (California, California Central Coast, Monterey County, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) ()

“I don’t like either the word [hike] or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not ‘hike!’ Do you know the origin of that word saunter? It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the middle ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre’, ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”

― John Muir


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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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