Los Farallones

Dispatches from Point Blue’s field station on the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Birds And Sharks (And More Birds)

By | October 25, 2010

SEFI Aerial_East Side_JohnWarzybok

As fall rolls toward winter, we’re socked in fog and sideways rain. Bleak weather on this isolated rock! Check out the Cal Academy webcam (link at upper left) – maybe later; right now it just shows a wall of gray.

We can’t complain, since the last week brought good vagrant weather and a nice wave of birds. While fall biologist Jim Tietz took a couple weeks off-island (replaced temporarily by Pete Warzybok, the spring/summer biologist), our crew worked hard to keep up with a steady flow of transient landbirds. October 18th was a particularly awesome day: 107 new arrivals were banded between breakfast and dinner. (A matter of expression; we didn’t even have time to eat.)

And we’ve seen some bloody spectacular shark attacks. The local Great Whites are now collectively chomping almost a seal a day. During the fall season, we take rotating 2-hour shifts at the lighthouse with a spotting scope to record and observe shark attacks, and those shark watches are getting interesting. Last week we were able to position and focus the webcam on a full-scale attack in progress off Sugarloaf. Matt Brady, fresh off the island after spending a couple months here, somehow picked that moment to check the website from the mainland, and watched the action from afar (!). A sighting of seven Orcas yesterday, however, has the shark enthusiasts worried: in past years, all the Great Whites have cleared out after close encounters with killer whales. In at least one well-publicized instance, Orcas caught and ate a large shark here. So we’ll see what happens.

Some bird highlights since the last update (*=banded): Clark’s Grebe, Black-legged Kittiwake, Least Flycatcher*, Mountain Bluebird, Townsend’s Solitaire*, Gray Catbird*, Sage Thrasher*, Magnolia Warbler*, 4 Black-throated Blue Warblers*, Hermit X Townsend’s Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler*, 10+ Palm Warblers*, Brewer’s Sparrow*, Clay-colored Sparrow*, Grasshopper Sparrow*, Slate-colored Junco, Chestnut-collared and Lapland Longspurs, Tricolored Blackbird*, and Hooded Oriole*.

It’s too hard to choose, so we’ll just throw down a whole bunch of recent photos (click to view full size). Enjoy!

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