Los Farallones

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

Pupdate from Team Eseal 8

The winter season has gotten off to a slow start this year, with the first pup being born on December 29th, 2017. This is 5 days later that the long-term mean date for the first pup, and the latest on record for SEFI!
As the Farallones continue to lose sand from their beaches, the haul out areas continue to dwindle in quality as far as Northern elephant seal rookeries are concerned. Most cows make their way up Mirounga Beach, a narrow, rocky channel that can quickly become inundated with water when tides and swell heights surge. They continue up a slope to Sand Flat, located in the main rookery on the island, where the majority of the pregnant cows can be found this year.   Because Northern elephant seal pups are not able to swim, the higher and drier the cows can stay, the better. Now, a third of the way into January, 33 cows have arrived and ten pups have been delivered. The bulls have also started to claim their spots on the island and, as the season unfolds, it will be interesting to see who secures the position of harem master and who heads back to sea with their tail between their flippers.
Overall, the weather on SEFI has been quite varied, starting with some warm dry weather which moved to high winds, fog and rain, we even experienced a double rainbow! double rainbowThe New Year’s Day “Supermoon” was a sight to see from SEFI and allowed for some excellent tide pooling, but brought in king tides that provided a challenge of their own as the cows and pups struggle to stay high and dry.
Bird numbers on the island have remained consistent for this time of year. The Common Murre have been coming to roost on the island more frequently, occasionally more than a hundred thousand! There are also the typical small groups of wintering shorebirds, cormorants, and songbirds, but it wouldn’t be the Farallones without a strange transient bird sighting or two! We had a Band-tailed Pigeon and several Yellow-rumped Warblers stop by the island on their way south, definitely behind the main group!

pigeonBand-tailed Pigeon. Photo by Garrett Duncan

With all the joy and excitement of the Northern elephant seals about, the team has also experienced some sadness as they said goodbye to Ryan Berger, the winter season Farallon Biologist. Ryan has been coming to SEFI for eight years as a member of the Point Blue team and will be dearly missed by staff and wildlife alike. We wish him luck in his new endeavors!
team cave