Thursday, April 7, 2011

Venture, Santa Barbara and the Quest for Island Scrub-Jay

We spent our last couple of days in California just north of Los Angeles in Ventura. We started our first day in Venture Harbor searching for shorebirds. We were able to quickly find a couple of Black Turnstones but they were pretty far away. As we moved around the park towards the breakwall, we found a large group of Western Grebes and we were able to pick out one Clark's Grebe in with them.
Western Grebe
As we scanned from the base of the breakwall, we found a large group of shorebirds on the other side of the harbor. We figured out where we could park to get closer and decided to head that way. Once over there, we realized there was a much bigger group of shorebirds on the rocky shore than we had realized from a distance. The group included Whimbrel, Black Turnstone, Surfbird, and Wandering Tattler.

Black Turnstone (left) and Wandering Tattler (right)
For the rest of the day, we headed up in the mountains outside of Santa Barbara. After a great lunch in Santa Ynez, we started our search for Yellow-billed Magpie. It took us quite a while to find our first magpies but after our first sighting, they became quite common.
Yellow-billed Magpie

Yellow-billed Magpie

The next day, we board a boat to the Channel Islands out of Ventura Harbor. We were going in search of one bird, the Island Scrub-Jay. The Channel Islands are the only place in the world that you can see this species that is closely related to the much more wide spread Western Scrub-Jay.

We attempted to watch for seabirds on the way out to the islands but the seas were so rough that it made it very difficult to stand up. We watched from our seats and did pick up a few good birds including Xantus's Murrelet and Pigeon Gillemot. We finally arrived on the island, much to the delight of the many sea sick passengers, and started looking for the jay. It took Eric less than ten minutes to find the bird and point it out to me and a couple of other birders. We started to take the hike lead by the naturalist but it was conducted at such a fast pace that it was not conducive to birding and we turned around about ten minutes into the hike. We got many great looks at the Island Scrub-Jays while we waited to head back to the main land.

Island Scrub-Jay

The seas were much calmer on the way back to the harbor which allowed us to get better looks at a lot of the seabirds. Once back in port, we started our drive back to San Diego for our flight home the next day.


1 comment:

birdermurdermama said...

Cool photos! Scrub Jays make a brief appearance in my newest Birder Murder mystery due out in September. I did a little research about the name changes of birds in official listings. Genetic research is having an impact on classification in some cases.