Field Trips Log
March 2007

Thursday, 29 March 2007 (Anacapa Island)

Having had a couple of days of high winds just previous to this trip, I was concerned that it might be cancelled or at least cause rough seas, but in the event it was a beautiful and calm day as the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden group led by Steve Junak assembled at the pier in Ventura. The boat was full as we crossed the channel toward Anacapa Island, and although we watched carefully for marine animals, none were in view until we curved around Arch Rock and cruised slowly along the back side of East Anacapa. At Pinniped Point we saw a few harbor seals and a great many sea lions, lounging on the rocky shore and fussing noisily as is their wont. We then sailed back around to the Landing Cove on the northeast corner of the easternmost of three essentially connected islands, East, Middle and West Anacapa. Only East Anacapa is open to the general public, although there is a single landing spot on West Anacapa which may be visited for purposes of tide pooling, and that was where many of the boat's passengers were heading.

Anacapa is home to the largest breeding colony of western gulls in the world, and as we would find later, they were everywhere in evidence starting to pair off and pick their breeding spots. West Anacapa is the location of the largest breeding colony of the endangered brown pelican, which explains its closure to the public, but the pelicans have more recently spread onto Middle Anacapa as well. Even from well offshore we could see large yellow splotches on the hillsides from the giant coreopsis, and as we pulled into the Landing Cove, tall kelp leaves were waving underwater. Given the very dry conditions which we have experienced this year and the limited size of East Anacapa, I did not have high expectations for seeing much new in the way of flora, but nevertheless I was pleased to be making an acquaintance with another of the northern Channel Islands with which I was unfamiliar.

After climbing off the boat, there is a winding concrete staircase of approximately 150 steps which leads up onto the top of the bluff. At the extreme eastern end of the island there is a lighthouse which was built in 1932, and after breaking up into two separate groups, Steve led us up toward it to see what might be blooming along that area. One of the most conspicuous plants right now is the non-native red iceplant (Malephora crocea) which seems to be everywhere, a beautiful plant but one which should not be here. Another beautiful blooming shrub, this time a native, is the island mallow (Lavatera assuregentiflora) with its large purply-pink blossoms. Some sources, although not the Jepson Manual, divide this taxon into two varieties for the northern and southern Channel Islands.

We headed off to the west on a trail that curves around the south side of the island and overlooks Pinniped Point. The cliff edges are notoriously unstable and one must exercise a deal of caution to avoid possibly taking an un-
pleasant tumble. Giant coreopsis (Coreopsis gigantea) was all over the place in a gorgeous state of bloom, and probably would not appear much better even if there had been more rainfall. The trail is a fairly short one and proceeds westward to the lovely cliffside vantage spot called Inspiration Point. There one can look across a short gap to Middle and then West Anacapa, with the bulk of Santa Cruz Island rising in the background. Regrettably, the only species which I had not encountered before was not in bloom, and that was the little island tarweed (Hemizonia clementina). Botany trips nowadays are rife with explantions of the old and new names of taxa as we await the publication of the next edition of the Jepson Manual, in which there will be massive changes in taxonomy, and indeed this taxon will probably be in the new genus Deinandra.

On the way back we detoured to an overlook where you can look down into Cathedral Cove, a most beautiful rocky inlet. More giant coreopsis, red iceplant and western gulls filled the remainder of the hike and we were all too soon back at the small Visitor Center where we ate out lunch. Steve said that despite the low rainfall, the state of the bloom was average to good, and the fact that it was such a beautiful day made up for the limited flora. I made a mental note that it might be worthwhile to make a quick trip out here in June to see the tarweed blooming and the baby gulls. In any case, I now have some mental images to go with the unformed impressions which I previously had about Anacapa Island.

November 2006