Santa Cruz Island: Whales and Dolphins and Sea Lions, Oh My! By Sara Putman
(05/19/10 19:59:08)Related animals: Anemone, Ant, Bald Eagle, Bee, Butterfly, Crab, Crow, Dolphin, Fish, Fox, Frog, Garibaldi, Hawk, Hermit Crab, Hummingbird, Humpback Whale, Island Skunk, Ladybug, Lizard, Mice, Mosquito, Mosquito Eater, Moth, Quail, Raven, Sea Lion, Seagull, Skunk, Spider, Star Fish, Swallow, Tadpole, Turkey Santa Cruz Island had exceeded my expectations for wildlife viewing. I am still astonished at how many different species we saw in only three short days. The island itself was beautiful and I was amazed by how many different colors were present throughout the island. There was so much to look at and even more to tell about the island. I was constantly overwhelmed by the visual beauty as well as the abundance of different sounds, smells, textures and even flavors. In other words, just being on the island made me more in tune with and aware of my five senses.
Sight- I took over 300 photos on this trip, and even though the pictures captured what I wanted, they still don't fully do the island visual justice. I've never seen as much marine life in one weekend, or in one day, as on and around the island. We encountered lots of humpback whales, common dolphins and sea lions, as well as, island foxes, mice, quail, wild turkey, Garibaldi(our state fish), swallows, tad poles, frogs, dragon flies, butterflies, sea stars, sea urchins, sea anemones, crabs, Scrub Jays, hawks, and one Bald Eagle, just to name a few... Just looking at the scenic landscape (rocks, plants, flowers, was intensely colorful and full of life I've never experienced before. Since a lot of the species on the island only exist on the island and no where else in the world, I could tell just by looking at the wildlife (plants, animals, rocks, etc.) that I had not seen them in my life before.
Hearing- The humpback whales' blow holes definitely made noise and we were able to hear them from a good distance away (while hiking on the island). There were many sounds that came from animals that we never saw, like the spotted skunks. The scrub jays (blue colored birds), crows, and ravens made tons of noise, especially the loud cawing of the huge ravens.
Taste- I did some research on one of the plants on the island, called Rhus integrifolia or more commonly known as the Lemonade Berry plant. This plant's berries can be used to make lemonade, yet this plant is related to poison oak so it can be irritating to some people. "Many plants within this genus are considered toxic, although some reports indicate the berries of this species can be used to make lemonade flavored drinks (hence its common name)." Before I knew that this plant may be potentially toxic, I sucked on one of its berries, only to find that its lemon flavor was intense yet quite good, and luckily, I never developed an allergic reaction to the plant. However, I felt some tingling in my mouth for a while after sucking on the berries, yet I'm sure it was mostly psychological.
Smell- Wild fennel was abundant on the island, and the smell resembles anise or black licorice. Just about everywhere we went, the fennel was present, hence it was one of the smells that I remember most.
Skunk smell was also prevalent on the island, yet we never saw any spotted skunks.
I also intensely remember the smell of the humpback whale's breath as it surfaced for food. At first, I hadn't realized that marine animals would have bad breath and thought it was one of the persons around me, yet this trip definitely proves me wrong.
Touch- The terrain was mostly rough and had jagged rocks that were definitely rough on our feet and hands. The water was extremely cold, yet some of us ended up swimming in a watering hole a couple miles from where we were staying. I remember that a lot of the leaves and flowers felt like velvet, and almost seemed to call out to me to touch them.