Meet Stumpy – The islands first Lesser black-backed gull

On 12 November 2018, while on a routine evening bird survey of the island, the SEFI crew encountered a third-cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull. This was a first island record for the species and one of only a handful that show up in California every year. Interestingly, we noticed that this bird was missing its left toes, a unique trait that makes it possible to track sightings of this individual in other locations. Sure enough, when the word was put out to the local birding community we discovered that the same bird had been spotted in Foster City, California last April!

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A red-footed rarity

On 5 September 2018, the first Red-footed Booby since 1975 appeared on Southeast Farallon Island. On 7 November 2018, another Red-footed Booby appeared. Though they remain rare, the number of red-footed boobies sighted in California is on the rise. With warming oceans and changes in their primary food resources, you might start seeing more of these tropical birds along the central California coast in the coming years.

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Where wood warblers wander

For the last two years, Point Blue has been collaborating with researchers from the University of Copenhagen to study the departure direction of vagrant songbirds which find their way to the Farallones. The goal of the project is to determine if these seemingly lost birds are doomed to perish by migrating the wrong way or if they are able to reorient themselves and continue their journey to the wintering grounds. To tackle these questions, we captured birds in mist nets and, after obtaining morphological information and feather and blood samples, attached small radio transmitters to their backs. Using an array of antennas set up at the lighthouse with automated and handheld receivers, we were able to track their movements as they departed the island. if they are able to orient back to the mainland and successfully overwinter, then they will likely survive to breed in the future and possibly pass on the genes that control their mirror-image migration on to the next generation. Correction would indicate that the Farallon Islands may serve as an important stopover site for these migrating birds to rest and feed, allowing a greater chance at survival.

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Observing white shark predation

In the fall, sharks migrate to the coast of California, including the Farallon Islands, to feed on pinnipeds (seals or sea-lions) when the abundance of immature animals is at its peak. This gives us a unique opportunity to study them. On September 27 as we were watching from the Lighthouse atop Southeast Farallon Island, a swarm of gulls began to circle and a pool of blood was observed in Fisherman’s Bay, indicating that a shark had just found a meal.

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A Great Start to Fall Migration!

September 5 was a day to remember. Throughout the day, western migrants and eastern vagrants continued arriving at the island. It all started with a Connecticut Warbler on the kitchen windowsill as I was finishing breakfast. I ran outside for a better look and immediately heard a Mourning Warbler (another uncommon bird for the island). By the end of the day, we had tallied 15 species of warblers alone, including an Ovenbird, four Tennessee Warblers, a male American Redstart, and a Blackpoll Warbler. Read on to find out what else we have seen lately and to learn about one particularly special visitor to the Farallon Islands.

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Listing Birds

The Farallon Islands are uniquely situated for people interested in the act of finding and identifying birds, otherwise known as “birding”. The cluster of jagged rocks that make up the Farallones are located just far enough offshore to provide a stable platform for spotting rare pelagic species like the Cook’s petrel, and close enough to

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Time to Fly

By Farallon Island seabird intern Sophie Bennett As mid-July comes to Southeast Farallon Island, the chicks of the Island’s most dominant breeding seabird species, the Western Gull, are beginning to fledge. Over 8,500 pairs of Western Gulls breed across the island, which equates to >30% of the global population, making Southeast Farallon the most important

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The Future of Upwelling

One of the main reasons we study seabirds, both on Southeast Farallon Island and on a worldwide scale, is that they provide us with a vital insight into the state of the oceans. If seabirds have a successful breeding season, this tells us that the sea has enough of the right nutrients to support vast

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A Surprise Encounter with Sei Whales

Summer on the Farallones isn’t all about the birds. In addition to daily opportunistic sightings, we conduct standard 1-hour whale watches from atop Lighthouse Hill to document the timing and abundance of Cetaceans around the island. These data are useful in particular for showing where whales are in relation to the shipping lanes leading into

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Watching the Sea

To celebrate 50 years of research on the Farallones, we plan to briefly highlight some of the different projects we do out here during the summer season. From simple tasks such as taking the weather, to complex tasks like keeping track of over 400 Cassin’s auklet nest boxes. For example every morning, the designated sea

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