Los Farallones

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

Changing of Seasons…

A weaned Elephant Seal with unique tags on his hind flippers which will allow us to follow him throughout his life.

Winter on the Farallones is coming to an end; the winter team are collecting the last of their data, packing bags, saying goodbye, and looking forward to hot showers at home. Having been on the island from mid-December, they have been closely monitoring the ups and downs of the Elephant Seal colonies throughout their breeding season. Now it’s spring, weaned pups are testing the water and the majority of adults have left to feed before returning to molt later in the year.
Big changes don’t stop at pinnipeds as we are fast approaching the seabird breeding season where the island takes on a whole new role.Over 350,000 seabirds make the Farallones their home during the summer, and are already arriving in massive numbers to establish themselves and prepare for the season.
Overlooking Fertilizer Flat and Shubrick Point murre colonies from the Murre Blind, a perfect position to resight and monitor murres down below.

250,000 Common Murres come to the island annually to breed, often to the exact same spot as used in previous years. Having recently touched down in huge numbers, they are now jostling around, getting acquainted with neighbors, and finding their mate before settling in to lay a single egg in the coming weeks. All of this commotion is too irresistible to ignore for our Peregrine Falcons… We caught this one chowing down, to the indifference of the Shubrick Point colony!

Our work out here during the summer partly involves monitoring groups of breeding birds, but also to follow individuals we can identify with unique color coded bands. As they begin streaming back on land, we can pick out these birds and see how they do throughout the year.
Old nm/kt (green over metal on the left leg, black over tan on the right leg) back again for another season, we will be keeping tabs on his success this year and hopefully see him rear a chick at the ripe old age of at least 21 years old!

One of the first murre resights of the year was of this individual, who was banded back in 1999 as an adult which could make him as almost as old as I am!
For the first of the summer research team to arrive, we have been busy spring cleaning auklet nestboxes and carrying out some maintenance work before everything really kicks off. Over the next 5 months we will be monitoring 13 species of breeding seabirds, non-breeding and migrant birds, seals, sea lions, cetaceans, salamanders, and even crickets! So time to take a deep breath and prepare.