Friday, June 21, 2013

Foxes, Birds, Buckwheat....and The Green Lady

Photo ops these days are getting few and far between....except when the local pair of Island Foxes stops in for a visit, and the situation rapidly deteriorates into a violent crush-fest. I've really grown fond of the foxes; I think they are officially my favorite terrestrial mammal.

The Christy Ranch pair is affectionate. They are true creatures of recreation, I rarely see them doing anything that looks like it requires much concentration. Ah, the care-free life of being on top of the food chain.

Brown Pelicans are far more abundant around Santa Cruz Island now than they were earlier this spring, when they were surprisingly few and far between. Post-breeding dispersal is in effect.

In an effort to show you something other than the same foxes and bird species over and over again, I'll post some different stuff today. This is a view looking south from our 1973 Land Cruiser from the west end of the island; Santa Rosa Island is visible in the distance.

Peregrine Falcons are finishing up this year's nesting; I've seen a couple recently-fledged birds around in the last week. I've gained a new appreciation for these birds here; I've seen hundreds of Peregrines over the years, but nowhere else have I gotten to bear witness to their aerial mastery (often at eye level) on the regular. The speed these birds attain and some of the maneuvers they pull are just jaw-dropping.

I guess this is Santa Cruz Island Buckwheat, although the leaves are completely different than what online references suggest. It's one of the most common flowering plants at our field sites. Botanists....thoughts?

We've only recorded a handful of shorebird species on the job; Wandering Tattler is one of the few expected species. That said, tattler is the rarest expected rockpiper in Ventura County, so it has been nice having them around this spring. I would also like to point out that this is the one and only bird species that I have seen on all the islands I have worked on; Santa Cruz Island, Buldir Island (AK), and Midway Atoll! Wander they do.

Horned Larks are common in the grasslands and bluffs. They love their dust. I frequently find their dust bathing spots while hiking around...I think I still have the eye for these sorts of things after back to back summers of nest-searching for terns and plovers.

Pacific-slope Flycatcher is the only Empidonax that breeds on the Channel Islands. I've run into a couple pairs on Santa Cruz that have been absurdly approachable; their genus is not known for being fond of people.

Yet another species that probably goes undetected as a vagrant east of its normal range, and I think the same can be said of Cordilleran Flycatcher. I wonder when California will get its first Acadian? Seems inevitable...I should probably just go out and find one myself. 

This Island Scrub-Jay chose a photogenic perch, although some would say it's hideous and awkward. The Christy Ranch family group isn't around quite as much as they used to be; I am guessing they are needing to forage further afield.

One of the unbanded Island Scrub-Jays at Christy Ranch. The building in the background is the oldest structure on the island. The only person allowed in the building is the spirit of a woman who died in the 1800's who now goes by The Green the story goes, she prefers to sit in that window. The Green Lady is a part of island lore, but other than some strange sounds late at night (which I suspect is the intern doing strange things), I haven't gotten to meet her.

This is the bridge that spans the creek though the middle of Christy Ranch. The foxes likely get more use out of it than people do. There is an old ghost story about a Chumash woman losing her mind on this bridge many years ago and deciding to haunt it after she died...but I reckon any inhuman screaming coming from this area can be chalked up to the foxes.

The view looking west from Christy Ranch. I like the jagged break in the clouds.


  1. The foxes are adorable, I can see why they have become your favorite terrestrial mammal. I loved seeing the images other than birds in this post, it gives me a better feel for the island.

    1. Good god, I just counted three grammatical errors in one caption. Note to self: don't write a blog after taking dramamine!

      Thanks, as always. I'll put a few more wide angle shots up before the summer is over.

    2. I make typos too, all the time :-)

  2. Clinton says that he feels the break in the clouds is mirroring the path. "Great pic bro!"