Weather can be extremely variable on the Channel Islands, as we found out during the second half of our second tour on Santa Rosa working for Institute for Wildlife Studies. Friday was our most brutal day on the island with very high winds; our legs were being blown out from underneath us on the long trek to Bonn Point. The wind didn’t seem to have any effect on the Bonn Point peregrines, though; we observed the male deliver a prey item to the eyrie for the female (no eggs yet). No peregrines were present at the Gnoma territory in spite of a two hour observation period and call broadcast, and no eagles were present at the Eagle Nest Mountain hangout spot.
On Saturday, the weather broke, and winds all but stopped. Rain was in the forecast for the island, and tiny rain clouds moved across the island throughout the day. We managed to skirt the rain, splitting up to cover more ground.
At Lime Point, I approached our observation point to check on the Trap Bald Eagle pair, only to find out someone else made it there before me…
The female from the Lime Point Territory was right where I wanted to be, so I found a new spot to get a view of the eagle nest. An adult was on the nest, and the other was flying over the coastline.
Back at the Lime Point cliffs, a raven was stealing gull eggs. This ticked off the female peregrine, but she settled back down for about 45 minutes.
Eventually the male made an appearance on the cliff face, and the female “eechupped” in response to his arrival. He didn’t have any prey to give her, and she seemed pretty angry about it, as she followed him back up the coast.
I then met Sarah at Soledad, another possible territory, but we had no luck seeing peregrines there. We did walk about a mile up the coast to Arlington Canyon, though, and saw a single peregrine. Wile it is a scenic spot, and may be a nice hunting area for peregrines, it lacks the steep/vertical cliffs that peregrines prefer for nesting.
We spend a lot of time on the coasts in search of peregrines, which gets us some good photo opps with elephant seals. Never approach elephant seals or other marine mammals on beaches; you may trigger a stampede which may cause adults to trample young seals. The best way to photograph them, like all wildlife, is at a safe distance! All photos in this post were taken overlooking seals from above with telephoto lenses where young seals were not present.
A few rain clouds stuck around to make fantastic lighting for wildflower pics at the end of the day at Soledad. This rainbow was waiting for us at our ATVs after our trek back down the beach.
Sunday was a more challenging day. It rained overnight, so roads were a little soft in areas. I headed back to the Orr’s Camp territory with hopes to see peregrines where we had no observations earlier in the week. Eventually the female showed up, but soon after, rain began, and I tried to wait it out. After about 45 minutes, I realized I was in some kind of stationary mini hurricane, so I decided to head back before roads got worse. Most of the roads on the island are rocky and easy to ride on, but some areas on the west side of the island are made up of that dark California dirt that gets very sticky when it rains (the kind that cakes up on your shoes). I decided to bypass Sandy Point where I had planned on going since the storm covered that area too. The mud flinging off of my tires made me realize I pushed my luck enough for one day and I headed back. In the distance, clouds were building over the mainland and also Santa Cruz, and there was a smaller dark cloud hanging over housing that even produced hail! Meanwhile, my coworker Sarah was on the far east side of the island and only had a brief rain sprinkle.
On Monday with rain scheduled for mid day, we made a trek into Lobos Canyon to look for peregrines. We saw none, but found a handful of Northern Flickers, Orange-crowned Warblers, Hermit Thrush, and California Quail. During a call-broadcast for peregrines, we were answered by a Virginia Rail near a small marsh. On Tuesday, we packed our bags and stashed our ATVs, and like that, another week was gone on Santa Rosa!