September 6 – We ventured out to Denny’s for breakfast this morning before making our way to the harbor in Ventura. After checking in for our boat trip we had a look down by the beach for some shorebirds, this after all being world shorebird day. We were rewarded with some great birds including Black Turnstone, Surfbird, Whimbrel, Willet, Marbled Godwit and best of all a Wandering Tattler. We boarded the boat and began our journey out across Santa Barbara Channel towards our destination, Santa Cruz Island. Before we had even left the harbor we had tallied a few goodies including Pelagic Cormorant and Black Oystercatcher. Once out on the open water we saw a few Elegant and Royal terns, as well as a Parasitic Jaeger. We got a bit farther off shore and began seeing shearwaters including loads of Black-vented Shearwaters and lesser numbers of Pink-footed and Sooty shearwaters. Out in the middle of the channel we saw a couple of Pomarine Jaegers. Like little specks on the sea, a couple of Red-necked Phalaropes fluttered past. One of the big highlights today was seeing large groups of Common Dolphins in the channel. Many of the dolphins came right up alongside our boat to ride the bow and check us out. A few
California Sea Lions were also noted. We docked at Prisoner’s Harbor and as soon as we got on solid ground we saw our first Island Scrub-Jay. By the end of the day we had seen about half a dozen of these birds that are endemic to Santa Cruz Island. In addition to the jay, other species including Orange-crowned and Wilson’s warblers, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Spotted Towhee, Black Phoebe, Bewick’s Wren, Acorn Woodpecker, Song Sparrow and Hutton’s Vireo were found, the
latter of which was a first for our trip. As we ate our lunch on the beach an Island Fox came out to investigate us. Having no predators here on the islands, the fox was basically oblivious to our presence and came right up to our picnic tables to look for scraps. We looked under the pier and found several Leopard Sharks swimming below. About 4 PM we began our journey back to Ventura, stopping along the way to admire another group of Common Dolphins along the way. What a fantastic day, we all agreed.
September 7 – We were back out on a boat in Santa Barbara Channel today, this time for a 5 hour whale watching excursion. It was a nice day on the water aboard the Condor Express
and we saw quite a few interesting birds and marine mammals today. In the bird department, we had many Black-vented Shearwaters along with a good number of Pink-footed Shearwaters as well. Both Pomarine and Parasitic jaegers were again noted, as were many Red-necked Phalaropes. I saw a single Red Phalarope, but couldn’t get anyone else on the bird in time. Mammals were plentiful and we saw a huge congregation of California Sea-Lions not far from the north end of Santa Cruz Island. We encountered many Common Dolphins as well, but the real highlight was the sighting of two Humpback Whales.
Back on the mainland we visited Devereux Slough in Goleta where our day list grew significantly. A few shorebirds were about including Western and Least sandpipers, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Black-bellied Plover, Spotted Sandpiper and some distant Sanderlings. We saw some terns, including Elegant and Forster’s, and some waterfowl with Northern Shoveler, Mallard and new for our list, some Northern Pintails. Birds in the trees and bushes were abundant and included Bushtits, California Thrasher, California Towhee, many Acorn Woodpeckers, our first Downy Woodpecker, Allen’s Hummingbird and more. Not a bad stop to finish off what had already been an exciting day.
September 8 – Our final morning in California, we left our hotel early and made our way to Denny’s for breakfast. After breakfast we drove north along Hwy 101 to Alisal Canyon
Road, where at a ranch we located several Yellow-billed Magpies. The lovely oak habitat here also produced California Scrub-Jays, California Quail, many Acorn Woodpeckers, Western Bluebirds, Band-tailed Pigeon and more. We took a stroll up to Nojoqui Falls, where there were no falls running at this time of year. There was a little bit of water however, and this perhaps had attracted a nice array of birds including Townsend’s, Wilson’s, Black-throated Gray, and Orange-crowned warblers, Hutton’s Vireos, Bewick’s Wren, California Towhee and Dark-eyed Juncos.
We began our journey south back towards L.A. in the mid-morning, making one final stop at Refugio State Beach. On the beach was a group of gulls including Heermann’s, Western and California gulls. Bushes along the edge of a small wetland here attracted some migrants including Bullock’s and Hooded orioles, Western Tanager, Yellow and Orange-crowned warblers, Common Yellowthroat and a Black Phoebe. We returned to L.A. by early afternoon and after a quick lunch we did up our bird list and bid farewell to our fellow travelers. The trip list tentatively stands at 197 species of birds, a very respectable total.