MONTROSE SETTLEMENTS RESTORATION PROGRAM

Since 2007, CIES has been working with the National Park Service (NPS) and funded by Montrose Settlements Restoration Program (MSRP) to implement the Alcid habitat restoration project on Santa Barbara Island, Revegetation and habitat restoration project on Scorpion Rock, Santa Cruz Island, Tri-Species Assessment on Anacapa Island, and Ashy Storm Petrel monitoring and restoration on Santa Cruz Island.

In order to facilitate recovery of the murrelet and auklet populations on SBI, an extensive alcid habitat restoration program was initiated in 2007. With primary funding from MSRP this comprehensive effort piloted by a dedicated ‘seabird crew’ and with the help of hundreds of volunteers aims to increase the amount of suitable nesting habitat for alcids by removing invasive plant species (e.g., iceplant/non-native annual grasses) and restoring sites with native plant species grown on-island as well as monitoring seabird nesting success during weekly nest checks.

SEABIRD MONITORING ON SANTA BARBARA ISLAND The seabird program on SBI is focused primarily on monitoring the status of the island’s breeding population of Scripps’s Murrelets. Monitoring of murrelet activity involves regular checks of historically active nesting sites over the course of the breeding season, as well as habitat searches to discover new or potential sites.  In addition, live video is being recorded of nest activity at a set of designated sites.  This has given insight into the fate of failed nests (depredation, accidental breakage, neglect) as well as fledging events and breeding behavior.

  • Murrelet populations are currently monitored at six sites throughout the island.
  • Spotlight captures are conducted for banding purposes
  • Spotlight surveys are conducted to gain a sense of population size and growth over time

Colonies of three species of cormorant (Brandt’s, Pelagic and Double Crested) are also regularly monitored, as are colonies of Brown Pelicans. In addition, artificial burrows and natural sites are monitored for presence of Cassin’s Auklets. Mistnetting of Ashy Storm-Petrel’s is conducted for banding and population estimate data. Other species of interest that have been observed during the above monitoring efforts include Pigeon Guillemot and Black Oystercatcher. HABITAT RESTORATION ON SANTA BARBARA ISLAND Native plant propagation is being conducted in an on-island facility from seeds collected on island.Some of the species being grown on island for outplanting are:

  • California and Island Sage (Artemesia californica; Artemesia nesiotica)
  • Giant Coreopsis (Coreopsis gigantea)
  • Silver Lace (Constancea nevinii)
  • Santa Barbara Island Buckwheat (Eriogonum giganteum var. compactum)
  • Boxthorn (Lycium californicum)
  • Sueda (Sueda taxifolia)
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
  •  Salt Bush (Atriplex californica)
  • Island Morning Glory (Calystegia macrostegia)

There are currently five plots being actively maintained on the island, with the goal of restoring functional native plant communities to the island (for the purpose of improving seabird nesting habitat), including sea cliff scrub, coastal sage scrub, boxthorn scrub and maritime cactus scrub. Plot maintenance involves hand weeding to remove non-native invasive species, Outplanting propogated plants, and watering plots one year post outplanting. Nonnative species that are removed primarily include:

  • Annual and crystalline ice plant (Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum; Mesembryanthemum crystallinum)
  • Annual grasses, cheese weed (Malva parviflora)
  • Australian saltbush (Atriplex semibaccata)
  • Nettle leaf goosefoot(Chenopodium murale).
In 2011 and 2012, the status of Cassin’s Auklet, Ashy Storm Petrel and Scripps’s Murrelet populations on Anacapa Island were assessed through a variety of survey methods, namely:

  • Monitoring of historically active sea cave nest sites.
  • Habitat searches on all three islets.
  • Deployment of song meters to record seabird vocalizations.
  • Mist-netting surveys.
  • Night-time spotlight and dip-net captures on the open water.

As a result of this work, the first known Ashy Storm Petrel nest on Anacapa was observed and documented.

Vegetation Monitoring

  • Between 2007 and 2009, approximately 9,000 plants of 19 different species have been installed on Scorpion Rock, a small islet offshore of Santa Cruz Island.
  • In addition, there have been intensive hand-weeding efforts to eradicate non-native plant species from Scorpion Rock, primarily crystalline ice plant (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum), cheeseweed (Malva parviflora) and nettle leaf goosefoot (Chenopodium murale).

Seabird Monitoring

  • There are currently ongoing efforts to monitor the breeding population of Cassin’s Auklet on Scorpion Rock, in conjunction with vegetation restoration efforts.  Artificial burrows have been installed on Scorpion Rock, and both these and natural burrows are being checked regularly to determine nest fate.
Ashy Storm Petrel Monitoring occurs in 4 sea caves of Santa Cruz Island. Restoration occurs on Orizaba Rock, an offshore rock of Santa Cruz Island.