Los Farallones

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

Birds And Sharks (And More Birds)

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!