Los Farallones

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

Farallonathon: Day 2

The Score:

Yesterday’s total:  85
Migrant Birds:  5
Breeding Birds:  2
Shark Attacks:  2 (10 points)

Total Points: 102 Points

The second day of Farallonathon coincided with a major boat day. Jim Tietz, the Fall Season Biologist went on a two week break, while Seabird Season Biologist Pete Warzybok joined the SEFI crew. Kristie Nelson also departed the Island, but Mark Dettling and Megan Elrod came on; this is Megan’s first stint on the Island, while Mark has been here for several previous Fall Seasons.

There were fewer birds around the Island yesterday, as clear skies and Northwest winds overnight allowed birds to continue their southward journeys. However, we did have a few new migrant birds arrive, including an American Kestrel, a Red-necked Phalarope (on the later side of their migration), and the first House Finch of the year.

In addition, two breeding species that were missed yesterday were observed: one Rhinoceros Auklet and several Cassin’s Auklets. Though both species are resident in the California Current, adults leave the vicinity of the Island after the end of the breeding season; the birds we saw were likely young birds.

The bulk of our points for the day were due to two close, particularly spectacular Shark attacks. One off Sea Pigeon Point and Saddle Rock in the morning was quick, but the other, off Blow Hole Peninsula in the evening, lasted for more than half an hour. At times, the sharks were within 100 meters of the Island, allowing for some great photo opportunities.

We also saw several US Navy ships steam past the Island, on their way to Fleet Week in San Francisco.

?????? All photos are copyright Dan Maxwell, and were taken on October 8th.

This adult male Lesser Goldfinch was one of two on the Island; not worth a point (we saw three the day before), but still a nice addition to the Island’s avifauna.

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An immature Northern Elephant Seal killed by a Great White Shark floats belly-up off Blow Hole Peninsula.


Shark attacks are almost always spectacular and Adrenaline-inducing, but they’re not often as close to the Island as this one was.


This Shark was about 14 feet long – that’s a big fish!
Although all Farallon Biologists love Seals, predator-pray interactions like this are an integral aspect of life on and around the Island.
The USS Carl Vincent, on her way to San Francisco for Fleet Week.