The trip to Santa Cruz Island from Ventura CA aboard the Adventure I was a great trip. It took over an hour and a half to reach the first disembarkation point and another twenty minutes to reach Prisoners Harbor where only a few remaining passengers got off. We were escorted along a specified path within the land held by The Nature Conservancy which borders the Channel Islands National Park. The bird we were interested in was of course the Island Scrub-Jay which was supposed to be a piece of cake from the Prisoners Harbor landing. But I got a bad feeling after there were no jay calls as we passed the eucalyptus grove, one of the places the jays are found. After another hour of hiking up the steep hillsides and neither hearing or seeing anything sounding or looking like a jay only helped to increase my anxiety. John and I lagged behind at one point, and when we caught up to the group, they were waiting for us because they had just heard a jay, very close and it was apparently still there. My heart was pounding when John and one of the others in the group spotted it in the thick of a bush. I got good enough views to add it as a lifer, but I wanted better views (bvd, better view desired!). But the tension that had been building was relieved. John and I took that opportunity to have our picnic lunch and start slowly back toward the dock, birding as we went, leaving the rest of the group to continue their hike. And we did have further observations of the jays, a couple of pictures of which are posted (photos). Since the perched bird doesn't show off his color, I included the flight shot which I didn't expect to turn out at all.
At the appointed hour we headed back to Ventura, stopping on the way to pick up the larger group. It was a whole different ballgame than the morning dropoff. Now the tide was lower by six feet. A six to ten foot swell was running smack at the side of the boat as the participants tried to climb down a ladder onto the front of the boat. About four people would get onboard and then a bigger swell would force the captain to back away from the pier and start the process all over again. It took over an hour to reboard all the people. However, the consolation prize for having the patience to endure the wait was that we encountered a school of Common Dolphin numbering well over a hundred animals. And to top it off we spotted a whale, probably a Grey Whale, a little further along. As I said at the beginning: it wasa great trip.
The jay wasn't the only new bird of the day. The other new birds for us were all water birds and included four gulls (Western, Heerman's, Mew, and Glaucous-winged), Pomarine Jaeger, Black-vented Shearwater, three alcids (Pigeon Guillemot, Xantus's Murrelet, and Rhinoceros Auklet), two cormorants (Brandt's and Pelagic), and two Black shorebirds (Oystercatcher and Turnstone) for a total of 14 year birds for the day. That brings the total seen for the year to 367.