From Islapedia


In the News~

August 2, 1886 [SBMP]: “Clark Streator read the following account of a visit to San Miguel Island: The Water Birds of San Miguel Island, Situated about sixty miles from west of Santa Barbara is the island of San Miguel which lies farthest west of the Santa Barbara group. The island is owned by Mr. W. H. Mills of San Francisco, and through the kindness of the gentleman I was permitted to go there to make a collection of birds that frequent the locality. We left Santa Barbara on the Ocean King and after a fair wind we reached the island in about twenty-four hours. On approaching the island the view is not very inviting, the cliffs rising two or three hundred feet, between which descend ever shifting banks of sand. By following a steep trail to the mesa we observe a fine pasture almost as far as the eye extends, but on reaching other parts of the Island I found it barren and half of the area drifting sand. It altogether contains 13,000 acres and is stocked with the choicest horses, cattle and sheep. At one time the Island was densely populated with Indians which is well proven by the shell heaps that cover hundreds of acres and in some places to the depth of ten feet or more. One day as I was climbing around a point of rocks I discovered a cave and upon entering I found the bottom covered with human bones but as it was very dark and hot having matches I then abandoned the search, but two or three days after, in company with Mr. Crawford, who has charge of the Island. I again visited it and with the aid of a candle found the roof to be covered with beautiful crystals of sulphate of lime but the cave was not to extensive as we had at first supposed. On coming out to the edge of a cliff we saw a great number of the Uria Columba, Pigeon Guillemots, flying in and out of a still larger cave in a position near by but very difficult of access. Fortunately the tide was low and no waves beating against the sides of the cliffs, and there being many crevices in the rocks that assisted us in climbing, we soon found our way into the cave. The birds were yet breeding and scores of them were flying in and out when we entered, but we were lucky enough to secure half a dozen specimens of the birds and a dozen and a half of their eggs. They seemed to prefer the darkest parts of the cave for their nests where we could not see without the aid of a candle. The examination was hurried we fearing that the tide would rise and shut us in. There are very few birds that breed on the main Island, as a little fox, about the size of a house cat, abounds and destroys their eggs. When the breeding season arrives they repair to two small islands of about ten acres each in extent and situated about a mile from the main Island, one of which is called Gull Island and the other Flea Island. We visited both and found that by far the greater number breed upon Gull Island. Upon approaching, the birds began flying over out boat before we landed and no sooner had I fired my gun than thousands upon thousands flew into the air and the noise they made was almost deafening. It was one of the most wonderful sights I have ever seen, the sun being obscured from view, and the thousands of young ones that were scrambling to get out of the way only helped to make the sight more interesting. We did not loose much time, however, in getting on the highest point of the Island where we found plenty of fresh eggs of the cormorants, of which we collected quite a quantity. The following is a list of birds as I observed them upon this Island:

  • Halmatopus Niger, Black Oystercatcher; not very common;
  • Larus occidentalis, Western Gull; very common;
  • Larus heermanni, Heerman's Gull; common;
  • Phalacrocorax penicillatus, Brandt's cormorant; breeds almost in countless numbers;
  • Phalacrocorax dilophus, double-breasted cormorants; breeds common but not so abundantly as the last species;
  • Phalacrocorax violaecus, violet-green cormorant; not very common;
  • Lunda cirrhata, tufted puffin, breeds in large numbers and is one of the most interesting birds found on the island;
  • Uria Columba, Pigeon Guillemot, breeds quite common in the caves just above the tides.

I also found two other species of birds which I am unable to class. They will be forwarded to Dr. Elliott Cowes for identification. I also saw on the south side of the main Island, young of the Pelionetta perspicillata, the surf duck, which satisfies me that they breed here. My stay on the Island was of about twenty-five days, so I feel quite confident that few birds, if any, escaped my notice that breed here. I hope to again visit the Island next year, before the birds are so far advanced in breeding, as I am confident that I could make many notes of interest. Clark P. Streator”