Los Farallones

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



We keep hoping that the winds will turn southeast, but they maintained their westerly flow for yet another day. At least they were light, but the excellent visibility meant that most birds that found themselves over the ocean could choose to fly back to the mainland where there would be more food and better habitat. We did add a couple of new landbirds to our Farallonathon list, though, such as the Sharp-shinned Hawk, American Kestrel, Burrowing Owl, Western Wood-Pewee, and an Oregon Junco. We wondered whether the junco could be a pink-sided due to its mostly blue-gray head and dark lores, but the peach color on the sides was not extensive enough. A drab little sparrow also caused some debate as to whether it was a Clay-colored or a Brewer’s. We decided that it was a Clay-colored because it lacked a complete eyering, had a vague, but definite central crown streak, and broad, but pale, moustachial and malar streaks. Neither the junco or the sparrow flew into the mistnets.

Amazingly, the Burrowing Owl was a bird that we captured and banded in 2007 and has returned for another year! We did not capture it and did not need to because it is the only Burrowing Owl in North America that has a blue band with an A over a 5 in this particular configuration. Last year, when we banded it, we aged it as a juvenile. We also cut a piece off its central rectrix so that we could analyze its isotopic signature to determine where it was born. Hopefully we’ll capture it again so we can cut off another piece and see if it summered this year near where it was born.

More exciting than the birds was a Fin Whale that we observed from the island. It was travelling with two Blue Whales and appeared to be fairly close to the island, so we hopped into our boat and tried to check it out since none of us had ever had a good look at one. We thought that we were getting close because we suddenly caught a whiff of something that I thought was garbage, or one of the interns having intestinal problems. I quickly realized that this pungent smell was the breath of the whales. When we finally got out to the whales, we were only able to find the two blues. They were immense and truly awe inspiring.

We also found more evidence that the sharks were around the island when we found a shark-bitten sea lion that had hauled out on Mussel Flat. Yowza! Those sharks need to improve their aim!

On day 3 we only added eight points to bring our total up to 86. The forecasted big storm gave us high hopes that it would bring something interesting. The forecast was for southeast winds.

Location: Southeast Farallon Island
Observation date: 10/1/08
Number of species: 35

Eared Grebe 15
Pink-footed Shearwater 30
Buller’s Shearwater 7
Sooty Shearwater 40
Brown Pelican 1061
Brandt’s Cormorant X
Pelagic Cormorant X
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
American Kestrel 1
Peregrine Falcon 3
Wandering Tattler 6
Willet 1
Whimbrel 9
Black Turnstone 69
Western Sandpiper 1
Heermann’s Gull 30
California Gull 225
Herring Gull 1 juvenile
Western Gull X
Common Murre X
Pigeon Guillemot X
Cassin’s Auklet X
Rhinoceros Auklet X
Burrowing Owl 1 A returning bird from last year!
Anna’s Hummingbird 1
Western Wood-Pewee 1
Black Phoebe 5
Say’s Phoebe 3
House Wren 1
American Pipit 1
Tennessee Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
Magnolia Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) 1
Palm Warbler (Western) 1
Ovenbird 1
Chipping Sparrow 6
Clay-colored Sparrow 3
Savannah Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) 1

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(