Los Farallones

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

Another Fogged-in Day On The Farallones

Our 2012 Fall crew is just getting settled in here on Southeast Farallon Island.  After two weeks, September has arrived, and so have lots of migrating landbirds, shorebirds, and even our first shark attack of the fall!

As you might have guessed, we have had some fairly foggy weather up to this point, (socked in all day today) but hopes are high for better visibility, calmer winds, and better conditions in general for migrant birds to find our island.

These first few weeks have already turned up some great records.  The Ruff that you saw in our last post was only the first of some great observations including a Semipalmated Sandpiper, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and Hooded Oriole.

Over the next three months, we will be conducting surveys every day to monitor migrating seabirds, landbirds, shorebirds, pinnipeds, cetaceans, bats, white sharks, and even salamanders.  Stay tuned to see what we will find!

Here are some photos of birds we have seen over the past week.

This juvenile Ash-throated flycatcher looks a lot brighter than you would expect in an adult.  As you can see, nearly all of its flight feathers are a rich rufous, whereas an adult would show darker grayish secondaries.
During a daily gull survey, Jim noticed this California Gull which was banded this year at the Mono Lake gull colony.
The biggest rock star on the Farallones right now is certainly the Northern Gannet.  Many birders have been taking whale watching tours out of San Francisco just for a chance to see this incredible bird which was first spotted on April 25.  

We spend long hours counting all of the Black Turnstones roosting at high tide, so it’s always a pleasant surprise when we run across a Ruddy Turnstone like this one.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is an especially rare bird in California, however, 9 of the 24 accepted state records have occurred here on SEFI.
With flycatchers in the genus Empidonax, like this Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, measurements of a bird in the hand must  often be taken in order to confirm the bird’s identification.  This species is very similar to the much more common Pacific-slope Flycatcher, but after capturing, banding, and measuring this individual, there was no doubt that it was a Yellow-bellied.
Here’s a Pacific-slope Flycatcher from the same day for comparison.  Note the dull edging on this bird’s tertials, and the teardrop shaped eye ring.  The Yellow-bellied has much brighter white tertial edging and a rounded eye ring.

Western Sandpipers can be tricky to separate from Semipalmated Sandpipers, unless of course they are posing only inches apart, “crossing swords”.  Note the much longer, decurved bill of the Western on the left, compared with the short, straight bill of the Semipalmated on the right.