Green Heron on Santa Cruz Island
Updated: Aug 1, 2019
Late Summer is drawing to a close and fall is nearly here. Santa Cruz Island can receive a number of interesting vagrants and migrants during this time of year. As we were off loading camping gear at Scorpion Ranch from the Island Packers boat an unusual bird for the island flew past. I didn't have my binoculars handy but the bird was certainly a Green Heron. While in flight it was easy to track even at a fair distance but then it landed on some rocks at the base of the cliff and all but disappeared.
We finished off loading the cargo and crew member Jackie and I jumped in one of our skiffs and motored over for a closer look.
It was a stunningly beautiful bird that was obliging us with a nice pose, seen here on some volcanic intertidal rocks. Looking at it closely it is a first year bird. The streaky neck and the white tips to the feathers on the wings clue us into its age. I knew I personally had never seen a Green Heron on Santa Cruz Island, not in the nearly 13 years I have been working out there. A quick ebird search tells us that one was sighted on Santa Barbara Island August 22nd, 2015 not far off from this date August 27th, 2016 but all the other islands are lacking any markers.
According to the Checklist of "Birds of the California Channel Islands" by Paul Collins and Lee Jones, there was one June record on Santa Cruz Island back in 1975 and other than that it is a rare transient, meaning there are few records and it is not expected. Since the inception of ebird in 2002 nobody has bothered to make an entry or perhaps no one has seen one on the island.
Just a few days before, another somewhat rare transient was at the same location, a Long-billed Curlew. Let's see what shows up next...