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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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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Mt. Rainier

November 18, 2020 at 5:00 am (National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Seattle) (, )

Mt. Rainier and Reflection Lake

I came to Tacoma to get married when I was 20 years old. I left 18 years later when the marriage ended. But while I lived there, Mt. Rainier (Tahoma, to the Native peoples, which meant The Mountain That Was God) was a common hangout. We hiked and backpacked there, and when I was 35 I backpacked the Wonderland Trail solo. (Read about those adventures starting here.)

It’s almost 30 years to the day and I’m back at this iconic Cascade volcano, and it feels so different. I’ve seen so much, done so much, felt the roller coaster highs and lows of six-plus decades, and now I seem to be looking at this place with an emotional distance. It’s almost as if I’m watching it on a screen or looking in a book at the photographs I took decades ago.

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Mt. St. Helens

November 17, 2020 at 5:00 am (National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , )

Mt. St. Helens, August 2020

As with many shocking events in our lives, those of us who were affected by the atavistic eruption of Mt. St. Helens on May 18, 1980 remember what we were doing when we heard the news.

I lived in Tacoma, Washington at the time, and when the mountain rumbled to life a couple months earlier, I visited the former Mt. Fuji of the Northwest to get a close-up view of the mudflows dribbling down its snow-white slopes like chocolate topping on a vanilla cone.

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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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Pinnacles National Park – Wildflowers Second Wave

June 2, 2019 at 11:00 am (California, California Central Coast, California wildflowers, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Wildflowers) ()

Elegant clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata)

The first wave of wildflowers at Pinnacles National Park has gone by, and the second wave is going strong even though the grass has now turned brown and gone to seed.

California buckwheat

The California buckwheat was beginning to bloom, and this head was the nicest of the bunch.

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Joshua Tree Wildflowers

May 5, 2019 at 11:24 am (California, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildflowers) (, )

Cottonwood entrance, Joshua Tree National Park

First of all, apologies for not posting this sooner. I visited this area in mid-March this year. I understand Joshua Tree National Park still has plenty of nice flowers blooming at the north entrance and other areas – albeit different ones.

Lupine and bladderpod
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Pinnacles National Park

May 5, 2019 at 10:42 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Wildflowers) (, )

Owls clover, west entrance

Flowers have been blooming all over California for a couple of months, and despite the end of the rainy season, they are still going strong. Early blooms go to seed and mid- to late-season blooms replace them.

Fremont’s Star Lily

These are among the early bloomers at Pinnacles National Park. The Fremont’s star lily is in the same toxic family as the death camas, which is what I thought it was at first. The park has a nice wildflower guide on its website which set me straight. This visit was on April 15, so the landscape will look different now.

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