Boats_in_Ventura_HarborBoats sit docked in the Ventura Harbor on a sunny morning near Ventura, California
This group of five islands sits just a few miles west of Ventura, Calif. in the Pacific Ocean. The only way to access the islands is by boat or plane. Once on the islands, the only accommodations are campgrounds. No pets are allowed on the islands. Since this limited my ability to bring my dogs, I decided to just do a day trip to Santa Cruz Island.Island_fox_CINP_2015_17An island fox (Urocyon littoralis) hunts for small mammals and bugs for a little bit of protein on Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park, California
My purpose for visiting this small archipelago is to find and photograph a fox that only lives on these islands called the island fox.
Because of the limited access to food, these fox have evolved into a fox much smaller than the more common red fox. The island fox only has birds and insects for protein so it survives mostly on plant-based foods.
I had heard these were smaller fox - about the size of a house cat - but it wasn't until I saw my first one did I really understand just how much smaller this fox is than its larger red fox cousin.
The hour-long boat ride from Ventura went past a rookery of brown pelicans and a few buoys covered in sea lions. I arrived at the dock on Santa Cruz Island about 9 a.m. The sun was already bright and rising high in the sky so I knew lighting conditions would not be ideal and that the day would get hot quickly, even in October.
After speaking with the volunteer host about the best trails to look for the fox, I headed out to hike around.Island_fox_Channel_Islands_2015_2An island fox (Urocyon littoralis) starts to come out from her hiding place in a bush in the campground on Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park, California
Several people told me some of the best places to look for the fox was near the old homestead and at the two campgrounds. So off I went on the trail for these areas.
It took me three hours and several trips back and forth on the trail to find my first fox. It was a female who scavenged around the campground for handouts and leftovers.
I was quite surprised by the small size but she was comfortable around people. I spent three hours watching and photographing her before she wandered up a hillside to presumably rest for the afternoon after she snacked on crumbs found in the campground and insects in the foliage.
I also found two other fox. One had a hurt paw so I decided it was best to leave it to its own needs and not stress it by taking photos. The third fox was in the campground as well but seemed to be submissive to my model and didn't stay in the area for long.Island_fox_CINP_2015_11An island fox (Urocyon littoralis) jumps off the top of a table in a campground where they look for food left behind by campers on Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park, California
In addition to the island fox, Channel Islands National Park is also home to a few other animals found no where else in the world, including an island scrub jay. I spotted these beautiful blue birds at the beginning of the trail when I first arrived. Since I was on the first boat of the day to drop off day trippers and campers for a long weekend, there weren't many other people around. Once other boats started to arrive the birds disappeared deeper into the trees.Island_Scrub_Jay_2015_1An island scrub jay (Aphelocoma insularis) hides in a thick bunch of trees on Santa Cruz Islands in Channel Islands National Park west of Ventura, California
I look forward to going back to Channel Islands National Park for some camping time there. This will provide an opportunity to maybe visit during denning season to see the cute little kits and to be on the island during the better times for light. The day trip is a great option to get to know an island but only offers the possibility to be there during the peak hours of sun - or if you are lucky you could have an overcast or cloudy day.