Where wood warblers wander
November 14, 2018
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.
Observing white shark predation
September 28, 2018
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.
A Great Start to Fall Migration!
September 18, 2018
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.
July 27, 2018
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
Time to Fly
July 19, 2018
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
The Future of Upwelling
May 21, 2018
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
A Surprise Encounter with Sei Whales
May 16, 2018
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
Watching the Sea
May 8, 2018
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
April 3, 2018
Exactly fifty years ago today, Point Blue (then the fledgling Point Reyes Bird Observatory) biologists officially began our research program on the Farallon Islands. It was at about 11am on Wednesday, April 3 of 1968 that Buddy Robert, C.J. Ralph, Malcolm Coulter, Fred Sibley, and Richard Bauer landed on Southeast Farallon Island and established what
Oh the Times They Are a Changin'
February 10, 2018
Early February is a time of change for the Southeast Farallon Island’s northern elephant seal inhabitants. Since our last update, we have had some amazing weather and that has allowed the young seals that survived January’s storm to continue to nurse and grow. In fact, earlier this week we had our first pups successfully wean