Birdy Boat Trip: A Channel Island Adventure

Island Packers of Ventura heads out to find feathers (and not blowholes).

FLUKES TO FEATHERS: We'll go out on a bow and confidently state that any person joining an excursion out onto the Pacific to enjoy wildlife is not going to limit their animal-sighting enjoyment to any one single animal. Yes, there are boat trips themed around particular beasties, particularly gray whales come wintertime. But a whole line-up of lovely aquatic creatures may be spotted, from pods of dolphins to gulls to sea lions, and no passenger of such a trip would wave away such phenomenal, spirit-boosting encounters. In this frame we do tip our hat, the warm hat we wear to ward of chilly ocean breezes, to those superstar behemoths of the Pacific, the migratory whales. Whales, be they gray or blue or orca or beyond, are most often what half-day, beastie-seeking boat trips are built around, but, on occasion, an excursion company will go in search of something far smaller and not bound to the water. We are referring to the birds of the Pacific here, and not so cagily, either. There's a multitude of feathery wonders to admire just off our shores, but Island Packers, the official get-you-there outfit of Channel Islands National Park, pauses now and again to go in search of winged beauties. Like...

THE SANTA CRUZ ISLAND SCRUB JAY... and Brown-Footed Boobies and Blue-Footed Boobies and Brown Pelicans and Double-Crested Cormorants and a whole host of nesting, chirping, flying island denizens. Loads of gorgeous flyers may, in fact, show themselves during the nine-hour trip out. The next Birding Excursion for the company is on Saturday, Feb. 27, and given the fact that they don't happen all that often, slots do fill up, both with photographers and those who just want to soak in the beaky sights of the national park. Speaking of which, the island views will be spectacular, too, in addition to the birds you'll see; a toodle by the postcard-perfect Anacapa Arch is in the plans, and if you've ever wanted to chug over Hueneme Canyon, well, this is your moment. What birds will actually be seen? That is up to chance, the day, and where you're looking (Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons are two other icons of the islands who might show their handsome visages during your trip). The cost? It's eighty dollars. Will you disembark at all? Yes, "briefly" at Santa Cruz Island. Will you also spy a whale or two? Well, they are the celebrities of Santa Barbara Channel during the winter, so your captain might point out a whale or two, if the timing is right. But the timing is always right when there are dolphins and scrub jays and arches and islands to experience, even if the whales or eagles are feeling on the shy side on a particular day.

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