Author: Chuck Graham

SOCIAL DISTANCING FROM THE CHANNEL ISLANDS | Island Packers suspends operations

Story and photo by Chuck Graham If you want transport to the Channel Islands National Park (CINP), you’ll have to get a ride on a private vessel, paddle a kayak or even swim to reach the windswept, volcanic isles, now more remote then ever. The novel coronavirus that continues to grip the world has finally forced Island Packers, the ferry concessionaire of the CINP for the past 51 years, to suspend operations until at least April. “Things have moved so fast,” said co-owner Cherryl Connally of the shutdown. “Just two weeks ago, company president Mark Connally and fleet manager...

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FEATHERED FRIENDS | The evolution and impact of Santa Cruz Island’s endemic scrub jay

PICTURED: While its overall population numbers are just around 2,000, the island scrub jay’s impact on the world around it is enormous. By caching thousands of acorns every year, it has helped to restore Santa Cruz Island’s precious oak woodlands. Photo by Chuck Graham   California’s Channel Islands have proven to be a safe haven for a wide array of flora and fauna ever since the chain became a national park in 1980. Over the years, cooperative efforts by the National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, the Institute for Wildlife Studies and other agencies have managed to bring Channel...

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ALL ALONG THE AERIE | Peregrine falcons make a comeback on the Channel Islands

ALL PHOTOS BY CHUCK GRAHAM It was a good old-fashioned dustup. Throngs of western gulls in a cacophony of keow, keow, keowing carried on over guano-covered Scorpion Rock near the southeast end of Santa Cruz Island, the largest isle at the Channel Islands National Park, but something was amiss while I watched with intrigue from my kayak. There was one bird, not gull-like, that was definitely stirring the pot. It was a peregrine falcon wreaking havoc among the agitated flock of gulls. The fastest-flying bird in the world was in full predatory mode. It was June, nesting season for...

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WOLVES OF THE SEA | Recent orca sighting shed light on long history in the Santa Barbara Channel

Photos and story by Chuck Graham There was no mistaking what was plowing through the whitecaps and the deep, cobalt blue seas mid-morning last Oct. 10. On the immediate western horizon in the East Santa Barbara Channel, about 10 miles off the Ventura coastline, were two transient pods or matrilines (families) of orcas totaling 10 animals. Traveling together, they were swimming fast in hot pursuit of unknown prey. Orca CA50 on leftOrca tail flukeRow of orcasTransient orca CA138 Multiple spouts spewed skyward on the horizon and then a dramatic tail fluke of one orca, its white underside standing out...

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NATURAL BALANCE | Saving rare seabirds on Santa Cruz Island

The midnight pelagic concert took place atop Scorpion Rock under overcast skies with brilliant bioluminescence percolating beneath our kayaks as we made our approach. Shafts of light beamed off the guano-covered rock outcropping located near the southeast tip of Santa Cruz Island. After landing our kayaks on the volcanic crag, Adam Sachs and I scrambled up to the apex of Scorpion Rock where we found three seabird biologists, headlamps burning bright, and delicately banding, measuring and weighing an ashy storm petrel, a nocturnal seabird also lured to Scorpion Rock, its own pelagic serenade of raspy churr, churr, churr attracting...

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