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Fresh young birds...

The July 10th Island Packers Pelagic was canceled due to high winds south of the Channel Islands. By 7am it was already blowing 30 knots in the west channel and south of Santa Rosa Island. I was very disappointed, but bad weather has dashed many a pelagic birders off shore excursion. Sad as I was that the 12 hour pelagic was scrubbed, I took the opportunity to visit Anacapa Island, my favorite birding locale in the Channel Islands National Park. These cruises are classified as island wildlife tours and they typically last between 3 and 3 1/2 hrs long. The regular tour runs out to Anacapa Island and sweeps east or west along the coast, sometimes dropping off or picking up island bound passengers. There are ample opportunities to find wildlife on these tours, as the name implies, but also to find bird life in all that wildlife. Anacapa Island is a sea bird colony, the fact that you can walk on it during nesting season is amazing, but comes with responsibility. The Western Gulls nest right on the trails sometimes and you need to tread carefully. The eggs are speckled and can blend in quite well, but the aggressive and very vocal parents often let you know you are encroaching on their territory.

The island is wild, there are some old Coast Guard era buildings, a lighthouse that dates back to 1932, and 360 of views that really let you know you are on and island. Inspiration Point is one of the best views in the entire Channel Islands National Park. From here you can see the middle and west ends of the island bending away, with Santa Cruz Island in the distance.

The rock arch off the east end of the island is another soul soothing scene to absorb,

but if you take the time to look closely the often maligned Western Gull is the true gem of the Isle.

How often can you get this close to any wild bird...

They will poop on you, steal your sandwich, make horrible noises, and vomit up pellets of strange man made objects. They can drink sea water, and fly across the channel on a whim. These are truly adaptable birds and apparently they like fast food as much as the rest of America. I do always smile quietly to myself when I see a Western Gull nab a fish, or peck a dead Sea Lion, or catch a crab all on their own. It reminds me of a time before they knew humans.

As it stands now this is the 2nd largest breeding colony off the California Coast and is vital to their success as a species, as a nuisance to the general public, and as an inspiration for preservation and joy to birders all over the world. This "sea gull" is limited to the west coast of the U.S.A. and is only abundant in California.

Anacapa is most notorious as of late for the startling numbers of Brown Boobies that have come to roost on the steep walls of the eastern portion of the island. This trip though... ZERO! How disappointing. I am one of the eager folk who are just waiting to find the first nest with chicks on the Island. Not this year. Follow up... a week later still no chicks, nests, or even a single Brown Booby to be found. This news comes after record high numbers well of over 100 birds on the cliffs this year. No Boobies, no picture :(

The other cool birds that nest on this island and are done popping out of their eggs and are are taking to the skies are Brown Pelicans. They are still a very vulnerable species but have been lifted off the Endangered Species List only as recently as 2006. These youngsters often congregate on the beach at Frenchy's Cove to stretch their wings, practice dipping their bills in the water and generally just learning what it means to be a Pelican.

They soon coordinate themselves enough to leave the island behind and set out to find a life of their own. They grow up so quickly...

Until next year...

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