Sunday, June 19, 2011

California/Arizona, Feb 2011 - Day Nine

We again arrived at the Ventura Harbour early after making sure the boat trip was a go and spent a little time wandering around before we had to board. Our wanderings along the beach found us Heermann's Gull, Western and Clark's Grebes, Pacific Loon, Brown Pelican, Black Turnstone, Surfbird, Sanderling, Black Oystercatcher, Osprey, Brandt's Cormorant, American Pipit and Anna's Hummingbird. The shorebirds were especially exciting as Surfbird was a lifer for me!


Surfbird and Black Turnstone

We then climbed onto the boat and cruised out of the harbour into open ocean. In the harbour itself we added Red-necked and Eared Grebe, and on the way out had Willet, Whimbrel and Red-throated Loon.

Crane in the harbour

Western Grebe close to the boat

As we headed across the water on our 30km voyage we kept an eye out for alcids, shearwaters and whatever else we could spot. We had a bit of luck with Rhinoceros and Cassin's Auklets, Common Murre and Xantus' and Ancient Murrelets. On the island itself we decided to walk down the road and see how many of the endemic subspecies we could find while looking for the Island Scrub-Jay, our main reason for visiting the island. Along the way we enjoyed the amazing scenery! We ended up seeing all the endemic subspecies except Horned Lark - these are Loggerhead Shrike, Pacific-Slope Flycatcher, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Allen's Hummingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler and Bewick's Wren. We also saw a good number of Island Scrub-Jays which proved to be much larger than their mainland counterparts and also much more wary of people! Some other birds we found on the island were Spotted Towhee, Anna's Hummingbird, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Hutton's Vireo, Bushtit, California Towhee, Say's Phoebe, Bald Eagle, Black Oystercatcher and Spotted Sandpiper. The best bird (for California anyway) was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, which is apparently quite rare out there (although very common out here!) We then had an hour or two to kill before our boat back so did some tidepooling and looking for herps, finding a few salamanders and lizards under logs along with many interesting things in the tidepools! The most interesting for me was the California Purple Urchin which we were studying in my developmental biology class.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Island Scrub-Jay

The amazing scenery on Santa Cruz Island

The catamaran that took us out to the island

Jerusalem Cricket found while herping

Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, California Purple Urchin

Flower amongst the rocks

Then it was back onto the boat for the ride back to the mainland, which had its own highlights! In addition to the alcids we'd seen on the trip across, we found a breeding-plumaged Pigeon Guillemot, an extremely early migrant. We also came across a huge pod of Common Dolphins that numbered at least 5000 individuals! Quite a few of them came to play in the wake of the boat and we spent a good amount of time in the midst of them. Definitely one of the trip highlights!

Leaving the island

Common Dolphin

Pigeon Guillemot

Cassin's Auklet

Closer to shore we stopped by an oil drum that had some California Sea Lions lounging on it, and a Common Loon was spotted out amongst the Pacifics.

At the harbour we added Snowy Egret, Belted Kingfisher, Pied-billed Grebe, Ruddy Turnstone, Black-bellied Plover and Wandering Tattler to the day list as the sun was setting across the ocean.

Scoping the shorebirds

Then it was back to Los Angeles where we stayed near the airport.

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