Santa Rosa Island, Tour 2 Update: Part 1, February 24-26

Anna FasoliField Work, General News and InfoLeave a Comment

After arriving on Santa Rosa Island Tuesday afternoon for our second tour with Institute for Wildlife Studies monitoring Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon populations, Sarah and I checked on the Lopez Bald Eagles, who are now incubating; this means both of our known pairs on Santa Rosa now have eggs. We are still following up on other eagle sightings on the island in hopes to find more pairs that may be establishing new territories.

On Wednesday, we headed to the west side of the island, and got skunked at two different peregrine territories with no birds present. At Bee Rock though, a pair of curious Peregrines watched as we scoped out eagles, and then did some impressive aerial courtship displays.

Peregrine Falcon aerial courtship - female on right, male on left

Peregrine Falcon aerial courtship – female on right, male on left

Peregrine Falcon - female

Peregrine Falcon – female

The view towards the Pacific at Bee Rock is impressive.

View from near Bee Rock canyon; Bald Eagle A17 has frequented this area

View from near Bee Rock canyon; Bald Eagle A17 has frequented this area

Common Ravens on the island are also fairly curious and always fly in low to check you out.

Common Raven coming in for a close look

Common Raven coming in for a close look

Common Raven in a barrel roll

Common Raven in a barrel roll

Common Ravens passing by

Common Ravens passing by

Island Fox are very common on the island. Most tourists visit Santa Cruz, so the foxes here are not quite as tame, which is a good thing. This one popped out as we walked back to our ATVs at Bee Rock, but wasn’t interested in having his photo taken.

Island Fox

Island Fox – Santa Rosa Island

On Thursday, we got an early start at the Trancion territory. Peregrines were in courtship here as well, and the female was perched on the eyrie, but not incubating.

Distant view of the Trancion territory

Distant view of the Trancion territory

View from Trancion territory towards the Pacific

View from Trancion territory towards the Pacific

Our late start was in vain, though, as my ATV decided it no longer could go up hills. After a couple failed attempts to get back up a steep hill, we decided to call in Tim, one of the NPS maintenance staff on the island. We are always in radio contact with the other 5-10 people on the island for this exact reason. Tim was out in a jiffy, and within minutes Tim’s years of ATV experience paid off and he miraculously made it up the hill with a long running start. Tim drove it home and it is now down for the count, so we borrowed another ATV for the rest of the tour.

While I was walking from Trancion back into radio coverage, a peregrine appeared and began hunting some of the fields nearby. This was likely the male from Trancion. Peregrines here seem to take advantage of the coast in addition to inland grasslands to find prey, and this territory is the farthest one we have from the coast; it may be possible that more of their hunting is done inland.

Peregrine hunting over fields

Peregrine hunting over fields

Area where peregine was hunting; another fantastic view on Santa Rosa

Area where peregine was hunting; another fantastic view on Santa Rosa

While I was dealing with a broken ATV, Sarah continued on to Krumholz, where peregrines were doing aerial courtship displays. She also visited Chickasaw and saw those peregrines copulate. It seems as though most of our pairs are now in courtship and it will only be a matter of time before they are incubating!