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Channel Islands & Pelagic Birding
Seasons: Sp | Su | Fa | Wi
Directions: Whale watching and pelagic birding trips are available through the following
charter companies: Condor Cruises: (805) 882-
Visit Joel Barrett’s website for more information on Pelagic and Island birding:
CONDOR CRUISES (link >>) offers whale watching and trips to the Channel Islands aboard their modern, fast 75' Condor Express catamaran. This vessel departs from Santa Barbara Harbor at SEALanding (map >>). Check their current schedule of upcoming whale watching trips, adventure cruises to the Islands, and pelagic birding in the Channel, including deep water trips beyond the Islands.
ISLAND PACKERS (link >>) an official concessionaire to the Channel Islands National Park, offers trips for whale watching, pelagic birding, and guided hiking excursions with an Island Packers Naturalist or National Park Service Ranger. Day trips can be scheduled for hiking on Santa Cruz, San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Barbara Islands, as well as overnight camping. Island Packers boats depart from Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, and Ventura Harbor in Ventura.
TRUTH AQUATICS (link >>) has a fleet of three dive-
CHANNEL ISLANDS AVIATION (link >>) is also an official concessionaire to the Channel Islands National Park. Channel Islands Aviation offers half day excursions and flights for camping to Santa Rosa Island in the Channel Islands National Park. Flights are scheduled year round. A flight to Santa Rosa Island is only 25 minutes away.
Rewards: Pelagic birding in the Santa Barbara Channel is best during the spring,
Birds regularly found in the Santa Barbara Channel include: Black-
Land bird rarities recorded on the islands (and thus far missing on the mainland
list) include Emperor Goose, Pyrrhuloxia and Gray Vireo. There are a number of other
It goes without saying that if you wish to see the Island Scrub-
Santa Barbara County Line -
It has long been determined by the California Bird Records Committee that for the purposes of reviewing rare bird records in the state, the review area offshore shall extend to the 200 nautical mile limit. The CBRC has also adopted "the nearest point of land" rule for determining where to assign records to a specific county in California around the Channel Islands. In short, it has been generally agreed that pelagic species are assigned to the county with jurisdiction over the nearest point of land. Determining the political boundary of Santa Barbara County offshore is a bit tricky when projecting a county line into the ocean around the Channel Islands. It is somewhat subjective since county jurisdictions only extend three miles out to sea.
Using this "nearest point of land" rule, the midway point between neighboring counties around the southern Channel Islands can be theorized and mapped. Since Santa Barbara Island is under the jurisdiction of Santa Barbara County but in reality is closer to Los Angeles County, this creates a circular area in the ocean surrounding the island when mapped to the nearest point of land at the mainland and adjacent islands. This area is known as "the donut hole" and many extralimital bird records attributed to Santa Barbara County are from this island and surrounding waters as determined by this rule. eBird uses a “nearest point of land” algorithm to calculate county values for offshore locations and does a very good job assigning checklists to the correct county which are accurately plotted on maps. Detailed information on offshore boundaries is available at the CBRC website as discussed by Don Roberson who wrote on this subject some years ago:
Maps of the approximate offshore area can be seen here: