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Friday, May 30, 2014

It’s “Gull Season” on Anacapa!

The month of May finds Western gulls busy incubating eggs in their nests dotted all over Anacapa—nests that the parents fiercely defend in the presence of island visitors.  Because working around nesting gulls in their native habitat is extremely disruptive to the birds, CIR volunteers are taking a pause from the Anacapa restoration project so that this seasonal rite of passage can play out.  Work will resume in late summer after the new generation of chicks go from egg, to hatchling, to fledgling!  Before gulls began sitting on nests, CIR accomplished a succession of self-funded volunteer group trips this spring.  Utilizing Island Packers for transportation, volunteers helped cover their trip costs for the opportunity to be of service.
These volunteer groups included students from the UCSB Community Affairs Board (CAB) and a group of corporate employees from Teradyne, Inc. of Agoura Hills.  We also worked with a student group from California Lutheran University.  Their trip was preceded by classroom presentations given by CIR Executive Director, Ken Owen, who visited two ethics classes at their Thousand Oaks campus.  Ken offered his beautifully illustrated PowerPoint slideshow and a talk featuring the ethics of removing invasive species—a sensitive topic.  Both classes were fully engaged and inspired to volunteer.  Following each volunteer group this spring, the CIR Administrative office thoroughly enjoyed receiving volunteer trip reports filled with positive feedback about island experiences, and the personal satisfaction achieved in restoring Anacapa!

Despite this year’s drought, seedlings did pop up all across Anacapa, with iceplant sprouting amongst natives, and plant identification became a job for skilled volunteers.  With much of the mature iceplant already removed, some aspects of the restoration project are now requiring more detail-oriented work and are best suited to volunteers with more experience.  A select few were enlisted to help NPS Restoration Ecologist, Sarah Chaney, as members of the newly designated “Anacapa Field Team.”  This is a group of experienced, specially-trained volunteers to tackle sensitive restoration tasks and oversee the volunteer groups that visited the island this spring.

CIR continues to partner with NPS, and to help accomplish restoration goals, we’ve written and have been awarded grant funding from the UCSB CAB Foundation and REI, the outdoor company.  With this backing, we will coordinate a series of volunteer group trips after gull season for these organizations.  CIR will also begin planning trips that will extend opportunities to experienced volunteers as well as new volunteers who wish to participate on the Anacapa Island restoration project.  Weekend trip dates will be available, and with a reasonable fee to help offset trip costs, these self-funded outings will offer individuals the chance to volunteer on Anacapa—now a rare opportunity! The Park’s intention to declare Anacapa “iceplant free by 2016,” is clearly manifesting, with so much of it already gone, and the revegetation of native plants so fruitful.  Under the guidance of Sarah Chaney, the project has progressed and relies on her continual assessments to ensure that no harm is done in the recovery process of native plants. The evolution of this project is indicative of its success, as the alien red-flowered iceplant from South Africa is no longer the clear and obvious threat it once was to the island’s native plant communities.  Overall, the Anacapa project has triumphed, due to the diligence of NPS staff, the contributions of CIR, and the many years of service provided by thousands of volunteer hands.