Los Farallones

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

Rocks In Our Pockets

An exciting weekend on the Farallon Islands!  The much anticipated ATMOSPHERIC RIVER 2017 arrived in full force, with drenching downpours, 35 knot winds, and awesome waves.  Conducting field work in the wind and water was a challenge, but we happily adapted to the soggy conditions.  The promise of a warm cozy house after a long day made it that much easier.  Everyone enjoyed quite the show at East Landing Sunday morning, where the power of the wind combined with a South swell, put the force of the ocean on full display.  Watching the ocean go wild was well worth getting pelted in the face by tiny rain daggers.

The human team had the good fortune of escaping indoors, if only the new elephant seal pups on the island were so fortunate.  Northern elephant seals prefer to haul out on sandy beaches protected from weather and strong wave action.  Unfortunately for the seals, the Farallones have lost many beach areas through time and are lacking in sand, and many of the seal haul out areas are vulnerable to rising water.  Mirounga Beach, located in the main rookery on the island, has been a popular destination for pregnant cows this year.  The beach is narrow, rocky, and quickly inundated with water when tides and swell heights surge.  Elephant seal pups are not able to swim, and being swept out by wave action can have grave consequences.  We hope that the majority of these cows will move up to the more protected Sand Flat area of the colony, but the narrow nature of Mirounga Beach seems to be causing a bit of a bottleneck.
Seals packed into Mirounga Beach.
Seals packed into Mirounga Beach.

On Monday January 10, ATMOSPHERIC RIVER 2017 made a smooth transition into PUPOCALYPSE 2017.  Monday began with sun and gentle breezes, and ended with the arrival of eight new pregnant cows and six newborn pups!! A very exciting day indeed.  We have high hopes that the new pups can build up a layer of blubber before the next winter storm system hits.