Catalina Island Conservancy News A monthly recap of the latest happenings with the Catalina Island Conservancy, the Channel Islands, and island conservation from across the globe

April 2017

in bloom

Catalina Island Conservancy's Amy Catalano takes us on a virtual tour of this year's "super-bloom" on Catalina Island

All photos by Amy Catalano

Catalina Island Conservancy conservation operations coordinator, Amy Catalano, can't help but share her enthusiasm for Catalina Island's native plants. Her social media pages are filled with stunning images of the various wildflowers found across Catalina. Her interest is not simply recreational however... In 2014, the Conservancy partnered with the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden to complete A Flora of Santa Catalina Island. Catalano, along with fellow Catalina Island Conservancy employee, Peter Dixon, were charged completing the project, and has since become an expert at identifying the Island's diverse plant life.

With their bright red flowers, Indian paintbrush (Castilleja affinis) are one of the most readily identifiable wildflowers on Catalina Island.

How would you rate this year's wildflower season?

Amy Catalano: The wildflower season this year is much better than average. Over the past 4 years, Catalina Island has been experiencing an extreme drought. The wildflowers really responded to the 15 inches of rain we received this year and are growing in abundance.

Baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) is only known to exist in one population on Catalina Island.
Ground pink (Linanthus diathiflorus)

Were there any new or surprising sightings of specific wildflower species on the island this year?

I am confident in saying that I have seen nearly every species of flower on the island with the exception of some of the very rare plants. Because of the amazing wildflower year we've had, I have been able to check four more rare species off of my list including fiesta flower (Pholistoma auritum), large-flowered phacelia (Phacelia grandiflora), California wood-sorrel (Oxalis californica), and climbing snapdragon (Antirrhinum kellogii). Not only was I able to see one of each of these flowers, but I have seen multiple plants in multiple locations across the island!

Wild Sweet Pea (Lathyrus vestitus) are a local favorite.
Blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus texanus)

How long might this year's wildflower bloom last?

I don't know for sure how long the wildflower season will last. It all depends on whether or not we get more rains. If we don't get anymore rain, it will probably end around early May. However, if we get another big rainstorm we could expect to see the flowers continue into June.

Deerweed (Acmispon dendroideus) are endemic to the Channel Islands.
This fire poppy (Papaver californicum) is a California endemic, and usually occurs only after fires or during very wet years. This is an incredibly rare plant that has only been collected two other times on Catalina Island.
Blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum) are one of Catalina Island's most ubiquitous and popular wildflower.
These tidy tips (Layia platyglossa) can be seen on the hillsides between Little Harbor and Howland's Landing.

Where are some of the best locations for people to view wildflowers on the Island?

The wildflowers are coming up everywhere! Anywhere you go, you're guaranteed to see a great showing of wildflowers. Airport Road is the best place to see the arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus). It is covering the hillsides. Along Airport Road, you can also see giant coreopsis (Leptosyne gigantea), indian paintbrush (Castilleja affinis), black sage (Salvia mellifera), bush sunflower (Encelia californica), and the Channel Islands endemic, island poppy (Eschscholzia ramosa). The wildflowers are also popping up in our grasslands. Examples of flowers you may see in the grasslands along the Trans Catalina Trail include Johnny jump-ups (Viola pedunculata), sanicle (Sanicula arguta), blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum), and Catalina mariposa lily (Calochortus catalinae).

Coastal lotus (Acmispon maritimus)
Fiesta flower (Pholistoma auritum); this is a scarce plant on Catalina Island - so much so that Amy had never actually seen one until this season.
A suncup (Camissoniopsis sp.). All of the Camissiniopsis on Catalina Island are rare, so no matter which one this is, it's an exciting find!
Catalina Island only has one species of Primulaceae; the Island shooting star (Primula clevelandii insulare).
The Two-seeded milkvetch (Astragalus didymocarpus) is another seldom-seen annual on Catalina Island that is blooming this year.

How important is rainfall on wildflower blooms? What role do other weather conditions (e.g. sunlight, temperature) play?

Most wildflowers need ample amounts of moisture in order for the seeds to germinate. They also need continued moisture or moisture that is stored in the soil in order to continue growing to full-flowering plants. While sunlight is necessary, it's the rain that the plants really need. A short, limited rain year only germinates a handful of plants, and even some of those don't make it to full-flowering because they dry out from lack of moisture.

This is a close-up view of the stinging lupine (Lupinus hirsutissimmus) - one of several species of lupine that grows on Catalina Island. The stem and herbage are coated in long, stiff hairs that sting when touched.
Giant coreopsis (Leptosyne gigantea). This species doesn't grow much in the wild due to browsing by non-native deer and bison. Most of the remaining plants are found on steep cliff sides or inside exclosures set-up by Conservancy staff and volunteers.
Purple owl's clover (Castillja exserta) is closely related to Indian paintbrush, but much more rare.
California Wood Sorrel (Oxalis californica) is a fairly rare plant on Catalina - it's only known to exist in four locations on the Island.
FUN FACT: The red “flowers” of the Indian paintbrush are actually modified leaves called bracts. The actual flowers, found at the base of each bract, are small with yellowish-pink petals

conservancy tv

Episode 4: Catalina Island's superbloom with Peter Dixon

FUN FACT: THIS YEAR's WILDFLOWER SEASON ON CATALINA ISLAND IS EXPECTED TO STRETCH INTO MAY. One of the best ways to see Catalina's Wildflowers is by taking one of our Jeep Eco Tours. Our trained-Naturalist drivers are experts when it comes to helping guests locate wildflowers on the island.

Fighting The Good Fight

Staffed with a new team of volunteers, the Catalina Habitat Improvement and Restoration Program (CHIRP) continues their campaign of invasive plant removal

While this winter's rains brought welcome relief to a drought stricken island, the rain also fed a host of non-native plant species. Armed with a truckbed full of shovels and gardening tools, battalions of students led by a small cadre of Conservancy staff and interns from the American Conservation Experience (ACE), have been combing the canyons and hillsides of Catalina Island to do battle with these invasive plants.

"We've been targeting everything from Flax leaf broom, to giant reed, to pampas grass," says Julia Parish, plant conservation manager for the Catalina Island Conservancy. "If left unmanaged, these plants would eventually overtake the Island's native habitats, potentially dooming some to extinction. Moreover, these non-native plants dramatically increase the danger of wildfire on the Island."

Already this Spring, CHIRP teams have taken on a massive project in Falls Canyon and Bakers Dam. Led by ACE interns, a group of student volunteers from the University of Colorado at Boulder, cut down nearly 4,000 pounds of Giant reed from the base of the dam, which were then removed by volunteers from AmeriCorps.

This group of students from the University of Colorado at Boulder helped remove over 4,000 lbs of giant reed and pampas grass from Falls Canyon and Bakers Dam.

The art of conservation

Catalina Island Conservancy teams with renowned artist John Cosby to deepen Catalina youths' connection to nature.

With support from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the Catalina Island Conservancy is working to help students on Catalina Island gain a deeper appreciation of our natural world by participating in the artistic process.

As part of the Catalina Youth Plein Air Project, the Conservancy enlisted the assistance of John Cosby, one of the most sought after plein air artists in the country, to lead a four-part workshop.

Artist John Cosby instructs students on the fundamentals of landscape painting.

The first two sessions were held indoors and focused on teaching students the basics of painting. Students watched as John Cosby walked through the initial steps of the painting process, including instruction on shape, shade, and form. John also shared simple techniques on how to lay down color and details onto the canvas. Students then worked on their own works of art, first in black and white and then in color, using photographs of Catalina Island landscape.

Students worked from photographs of Catalina's stunning landscape - areas that some students, despite having grown up on the Island, had never visited.

The last two workshops were held out in the field. On the first day students were taken to Little Harbor, where they dove right into the assignment - sketching and then painting the area's dramatic coastline and serene estuary.

Abundant winter rainfall ensured that the students had lush green hillsides to paint.

The final day was spent under a gorgeous, sunny sky on a small bluff overlooking Haypress Reservoir. The reservoir was a wonderful subject matter and students enthusiastically worked to capture the bucolic scene on their canvasses. Snacks, lunch and water were provided for all participants.

A selection of student works from the Catalina Youth Plein Air Project will be on display at US Bank in Avalon later in the year.

The Catalina Island Conservancy wishes to thank the Los Angeles County Arts Commission for funding the workshops, and John Cosby for his excellent teaching.

Fun fact: Plein Air, which focuses on capturing the natural light while painting outdoor scenes, is sometimes called "california impressionism"

"Going to bat" for bats

The Catalina Island Conservancy takes steps to protect bat roosting sites on the Island.

Catalina Island is home to eight different bat species, including the Townsend long-eared bat, the Palid bat, and several species of myotis bats. According to Julie King, Director of Conservation & Wildlife Management, bats play an important role in the island's ecological landscape. "All of Catalina's bats are prodigious insectivores," says King. "Bats are one of nature's most effective mechanisms for controlling insect pests, such as mosquitoes, moths and crickets."

In order to thrive, bats need a safe, sheltered area to roost. Some species, such as the myotis, prefer to roost in the tight crevices found on trees or man-made structures. Others, such as the Townsend's big-eared bat and Pallid bat, prefer to roost in larger, more expansive areas such as caves or mines.

Last month, the Catalina Island Conservancy and their contractor Frontier Environmental Solutions, Inc., installed four new "gates" at bat roost sites on the Island's West End: two near the USC marine reseach center at Fisherman's Cove, one near 4th of July Cove, and one at the West End Ridge mine. These gates are designed to keep humans out, whiles still allowing bats unfettered access in and out of the cave or mine.

The entrance to one of the mines at Fisherman's Cove.

While the installations for three of the projects were fairly straightforward, the West End Ridge Mine proved a bit more challenging.

"The soil at that location was unstable," said King. "There was a risk that the entrance to the mine adit might collapse."

In order to place the gate, the Conservancy placed a piece of culvert, which needed to be flown in by helicopter, to shore up the opening. Workers then sealed the structure in-place with a special two-component foam, which expanded to hold the culvert in place.

With the new bat gates in place, the Conservancy will continue its ongoing work to identify bat species on the Island through acoustic monitoring and genetic analysis of fecal samples.

The Catalina Island Conservancy wishes to thank the Donald Slavik Family Foundation and the Harold McAlister Charitable Foundation, whose support made this project possible.

Fun Fact: Some bats consume as many as 1,200 insects per hour. The Townsend's big-eared bat (pictured here) is adapted to prey on flying insects, such as moths, beetles, flies and Wasps.

Taking Flight

"Taking Flight" at the 22nd Annual Catalina Island Conservancy Ball

The Catalina Island Conservancy was joined by more than 500 guests for the 22nd Annual Conservancy Ball on Saturday, April 1, in the historic Avalon Casino Ballroom.

The Conservancy Ball is one of the most anticipated events on the Island each year.

Many guests donned feathered fashions in honor of the Ball’s theme, Taking Flight, and danced into the evening to the big band sounds of Society Beat. Guests bid on over 150 auction items, including the always-popular balthazar of Rusack Santa Catalina Vineyards Pinot Noir. In all, this year's Ball netted over $450,000, which will go to support the Conservancy’s conservation efforts, and provide educational and nature-based recreational opportunities on the 42,000 acres of land it stewards.

Conservancy President and CEO Tony Budrovich kicked off the evening by welcoming guests and inviting attendees, to join him in celebrating the Conservancy’s 45th Anniversary. Budrovich then introduced elected officials – including Avalon Mayor Anni Marshall, Los Angeles County Fourth District Supervisor Janice Hahn and U.S. House of Representatives 47th District Congressman Alan Lowenthal – to speak. Each recognized this important milestone for the organization and presented official proclamations recognizing the momentous occasion.

Congressman Alan Lowenthal and Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn

In keeping with the theme of this year’s ball, Taking Flight, guests were treated to a short video documenting the Conservancy’s work to monitor the Island’s seabirds.

The Catalina Island Conservancy also celebrated nearing the completion of the first phase of its Imagine Catalina campaign. The evening’s theme represented the vision for the Conservancy's future, as it continues construction of its new visitor center, The Trailhead, and prepares for this summer’s opening of the expanded Trekking Catalina trail network.

“We wish to thank all our guests for their generous support of the Catalina Island Conservancy and their commitment to restoring and protecting Catalina Island for future generations,” said Budrovich. “We are also extremely grateful to our many sponsors who gave so generously to this event, including our Presenting Sponsor, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc.; our Sponsor Reception Partner, US Bank; our Cocktail Hour Partner, Capital Group, and our various community partners.”

(left to right) Board Chair Stephen Chazen, Vice Chair Kellie Johnson, Gary Johnson, Noelle Budrovich and CEO Tony Budrovich

For those of you who missed the Ball, you can still bid on a host of amazing auction items, including works by renowned plein air artist Jesse Powell, a full-day rental of Overlook Hall, an epic Wrigley Field Rooftop Experience for two, and more!


One of the most cited reasons for membership renewal is the satisfaction of supporting a worthy organization dedicated to restoring and protecting Catalina Island's wildlands. Your membership helps save animal species on the verge of extinction and ensures maintenance of unique habitats for all to enjoy. As a member, you'll receive free entry into Catalina Island Conservancy attractions like the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden, as well as a complimentary bike permit, that provides you access to over 200 miles of paved and unpaved roads. You will also receive discounts on other Conservancy attractions and services such as our popular Jeep® Eco Tours and Wildlands Express shuttle, as well as a host of local restaurants and business.

Cover Photo: Jes Stockhausen

Photo Credits: Amy Catalano, Matt McClain, Julia Parish, Elizabeth Whitted-Dawson, Willie Richerson, Julie King

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Jes Stockhausen, Amy Catalano, Matt McClain, Julia Parish, Elizabeth Whitted-Dawson, Willie Richerson, Julie King

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