Search This Blog

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Birds and Marine Mammals of CA Channel Islands

western gulls follow the boat
California's Channel Islands are a haven for wildlife. Take an Earth Minute (or nearly two) for a few highlights of a 12-hour pelagic wildlife trip.


We went out between Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands. Past Santa Rosa Island and turned south down to San Nicolas Island.

San Nicolas Island
San Nicolas Island is the location of the young adult novel "Island of the Blue Dolphin." (See what San Nicolas Island looks like).

We returned by way of Santa Barbara Island. This small island with its large rocky outcroppings is an important nesting site for sea birds. The last few years, changing climate and water currents have brought unexpected visitors to this rocky outpost.

brown booby below with western gull above it
We were looking for this bird - a brown booby (Sula leucogaster). 

Note: its large size in comparison to the western gull; the brown coloration on the head with a white body; large pointed beak; slim brown wings with a pointed shape. Boobies are plunge divers and their sleek shape helps them catch fish under the water's surface. Usually boobies only travel as far north as the coast of Baja, but the last few years they have become regular visitors, especially to the Channel Islands.

On this July 12th trip we saw:

Bird notables:
  • 3 South Polar skua
  • Sooty, pink-footed, flesh-footed and black vented shearwaters
  • Leach's, black, and ashy storm-petrels
  • brown boobies
  • California sea lions
  • long-beaked common dolphin (~800; including juveniles)
  • short-beaked common dolphin (~1000; including juveniles)
  • Risso's dolphin (~11; including 2 juveniles)
  • bottlenosed dolphin (~15)
  • humpback whales (6)
  • Minke whale (1)
  • Brutus whale (1)
  • fin whales (~3)
  • blue whales (2-3)
the sea was completely flat; the white caps are all common dolphins on the move
At one point the herd of long-beaked common dolphins headed toward was so large that they made a line of white-caps on the water because they were all headed in the same direction: toward the feeding humpback whales. The birds were headed there too.

We even saw a sunfish or mola mola. Protecting our California coastline is important. A diversity of animal species come here because there is food and safety. Our wild neighbors depend on this protected marine environment. Experience our coastal wildlife, it is amazing!

More about CA Channel Islands
Meet a Channel Island Fox
Spring Visit to Santa Cruz Island
Summer Visit to Santa Cruz Island 
Gray Whales and Dolphins off Channel Islands 
Kelp Forest 

Brown booby in Australia 

For more Earth Minutes with Wildlife

No comments:

Post a Comment