Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Search for the Island Scrub-Jay

Yesterday was a great birding day... I observed and photographed the endemic Island Scrub-Jay!  A new life bird and a very rewarding success.  Then as a bonus, I got another new lifer, the Scripp's Murrelet on the boat ride back to Ventura harbor, just north of Los Angeles, California.

Everyone who makes the journey to the Channel Islands National Park takes the Island Packers 90-minute one way boat tour, and this trip left from Ventura harbor to go to Santa Cruz Island.  Most hikers and campers got off the boat at the Scorpion Anchorage, but a few of us birders stayed on for another 15-minute further trip to Prisoners harbor.

Approaching Santa Cruz Island

Once on the island, I had a little over 3 hours to 'find' the target bird... before the trip back departs.  There was lots of birds observed... BARN SWALLOWS, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS, DARK-EYED JUNCOS, RAVENS, even a small pond which had a pair of MALLARD DUCKS.

The nature guide suggested watching along a row of willow trees, right to the left of where the main trail begins.  Instead of taking the 5-mile round trip strenuous hike, I stayed at the beginning where it was flat and birded the willows and surrounding marshy area and hillsides.

I was all alone.  Lucky for me, about 40 minutes into the search, I spotted the ISLAND SCRUB-JAY flying down from the hills and sure enough... landed right into the willows.  Yea!!  I moved closer and captured a few photos... and the bird cooperated and stayed there for several minutes before flying off back up the hill.  Incredibly, over the next 3 hours... I never saw another Scrub-Jay!   Notice the triple-color banding on this bird as well. Whew... thank goodness I saw this one.  The only place in the world to see it is here. 

Island Scrub-Jay



On the way back to Ventura harbor, the seas were much calmer since we were going with the wind and currents, so I was able to watch for the Scripp's Murrelet, which should be seen shortly after leaving Santa Cruz Island within the first few miles.

Sure enough, there were many of them sitting on the water... usually in groups of two... and as the boat approached, they would take off and escape away from the boat path.  I was fortunate to stand steady enough and capture this sequence of another new life bird, the SCRIPP'S MURRELET!

Scripp's Murrelet

A great birding day with successful results!  And I didn't get sea sick!  That's a bonus for me.  Enjoy!

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