One of the best parts of my mini-adventure to Anacapa Island was having the opportunity to see tons of nesting western gulls. Towards the end of April, thousands of western gulls flock to the island to mate and lay eggs. Incubating the eggs takes about one month and our trip was scheduled to coincide with hatching time! But of course, when it comes to wildlife and nature, there are no guarantees so we could only keep our fingers crossed that we might see chicks.
Western gulls nesting on Anacapa Island is truly a sight to behold. The nests are literally everywhere. There are nests right next to the trail, nests tucked away in bushes, nests next to cliffs and one nest was even on the trail! It was pretty obvious that some gulls had much better real estate tastes than others. For example, the gull in the photo above definitely had the best view, a nest overlooking Inspiration Point.
Everywhere you looked there were little white heads indicating a gull sitting on a nest. Females and males look exactly alike and take turns incubating the eggs while the other forges. As a result, we couldn’t tell if it was the mom or the dad and had to settle for calling the birds we saw “nesting parents.”
As we approached nests along the trail, the nesting parents seemed to have two main defense tactics. The first was to remain sitting on the nest at all costs and squawk really loud as we walked by. The second was to walk about two to five feet from the nest and squawk really loud and prepare to strike if necessary. The third and much less common defense tactic was dive bombing. This only happened on one section of the trail where the gulls seemed to be in an extra aggressive mood. My friend was walking ahead of me and a gull swooped down and almost nailed her in the head. Thankfully, we had been prepared for such an interaction and she raised her arms above her head in an X formation to protect herself. I did the same thing as one of the gulls took aim at me. I have to say, it was pretty exciting.
The parents who walked two to five feet away from their nests gave us a great opportunity to see their eggs. Most nests had two or three eggs, but on a few occasions there would only one one. They were really beautiful, a pale olive green with grayish brown splotches and speckles and almost three inches long and about two inches wide.
And thankfully we did get lucky and had the chance to see several cute and fluffy just-hatched chicks. Their coloring almost matched the eggs exactly, except the chicks were lighter and had less of an olive tone. They were so cute!
Visiting Anacapa Island was awesome! If you ever have the chance to visit the island at the end of May, do it, you won’t regret it. You will be surrounded by rugged beauty, squawking gulls and the magic of nature.