Friday, September 19, 2014

The Avian Fairies' Sparkling Hoard...

Today dawned with fog and without promise.  But, as dawn matured, the fog lifted and the birds descended.  We had an excellent day on the island with many western migrants and a handful of eastern species plus a bonus from Siberia: Blackburnian, Blackpoll, Tennessee, and Magnolia Warblers, and two Red-throated Pipits.  Highlight from the west was a lone Black Swift soaring overhead.  (See the eBird checklist here) We banded nearly 80 birds today--there was much running.  Tomorrow, dear readers, is my final day on the island.  I am scheduled to sail for the Land of Main at 1500 hours.  One more TPAD lies in our collective near-future.

This is D/13.  Jim caught him/her early this morning near Rabbit Cave

Fox Sparrow was a new island bird for me--a handful of these fellows showed up today in the Western Contingent.  The Zono-invasion started today (presaged by a scout seen earlier in the week)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Very Few Birds But Poetry!

"I have never seen an inhabited spot which seemed so utterly desolate, so entirely separated from the world, whose people have such a slender hold on mankind."  --Charles Nordhoff, after a visit to the Farallones in 1874

Well, I'm not sure how slender of a hold we have on mankind, but today we had a slender hold on migrating birds--as there simply weren't enough to grab.  One confirmed arrival and about 5 other individual songbirds on the island, combined with some potent humidity and warmth, made for a very slow day.  The winds, however, have switched.  Light out of the Northwest and clear skies--my gut suggests that many birds will move tonight.  Will they stop on our utterly desolate outpost?  Tomorrow holds the answers.

As I took figuratively zero portraits today, I will dip into the archives yet again.
Northern Waterthrush--we have had at least three of these characters visiting the island this season
A Farallones poem written by Milton S. Ray:


Drugged by the dreary solitude
Where towering cliffs ever sullen brood
Beside a barren, desolate sea,
Whose rough surf roars monotonously,
And where only the rock wren sings with glee,
Dull, lonely lives the light crew led,
As their aimless years forgotten fled.
With measured flash of their lofty light
They swept the inhospitable seas of night,
'Till the rose-glow of dawn would transient spill
Along the dim crest of some mainland hill.
And fair the dawn.  Forever here
Autumn, summer and spring were one,
With never a day of sultry sun,
And only winter would shatter the tranquil year.

Here is a photo of an American Kestrel, a fine looking falcon

And the painful eBird checklist

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

So Little Birds

Today dawned, again, filled with promise--but not filled with birds.  The island did, however, host a new Blackpoll Warbler, another Hooded Oriole, and the continuing Cliff Swallow.  But, alas, no island birds for Rob.  Tomorrow?  You guessed it; another day.  A front coming through tonight might push lots of birds south.  Or it might not.  In  the meantime, some portraits:

An unbelievably adorable Elephant Seal portrait--look at this thing.  Can you believe it?  I can't. 

This is the Orchard Oriole that I captured yesterday with my bare hands.  A lovely bird--and more common here than Hooded Orioles.
And, today's paltry eBird checklist

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A New Day, But Not Too New

Dawn brought us new birds--but in very small numbers.  We were, however, treated to a Tennessee Warbler and Orchard Oriole (both caught and banded) and a Cliff Swallow (island bird for Rob) and another shark attack off of the west end of the island.  Sharks; please eat breakfast/lunch/dinner/snacks/elevensies closer to shore and in a place where I can obtain portraits.  Thanks.

Dan and Oliver enjoying a manly sunset and flies.  This is TPAD's second human portrait.  They should consider themselves lucky.

Brandt's Cormorants.  Theses guys are abundant breeders on the island and are our constant companions--I have been remiss in not sharing a portrait of them sooner.
And today's eBird checklist

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Dan that's my hat, don't do that!"

I will repeat--today was hot.  Still.  Slow.  Please, if you can spare any birds, send them to us.  Due to today's lack of subjects for portraiture, I will dip into the extensive SEFI Portrait Archive and provide some material from the past.

We had two Chestnut-sided Warblers on the island, at one time.  I have only posted one photo of this species, and I am justified in posting another.  Here we see the voracious predator consuming a hapless moth [a large yellow underwing (AJS 2015)] that was stolen (I saw it all go down) from a Townsend's Warbler.  Lighthouse drama.

Chestnut-sided Warbler vs. Moth.  The moth lost this round.
 We monitor all things that migrate onto, over, and around the island--including dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies (i.e. "bugs").  The migrations of insects are of great interest--if they don't interest you, see your doctor.  If they do interest you, then things are fine.

Variegated Meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum) hanging out on the terrace
Today's eBird checklist, sponsored by eCreosote

Today is Not Yesterday, But There Are Salamanders

Greetings, readers, and further apologies for my tardiness.  Yesterday and today were very slow on Los Farallones.  Slow, still, and hot.  Very few new birds arrived.  Some of the crew wandered over to West End to count Fur Seals and pull spinach.  They certainly started the day with a healthy case of Faranoia, but it subsided quickly as the full promise of a new and unknown dawn was spoiled by the pangs of our newfound depauperate reality.  Tomorrow (as always) is a different day.  Let us hope that dawn brings the avian hordes to our now barren shores.

Here is a Farallon Arboreal Salamander.  A bizarre outlying population of this widespread California species lives here--and it is confined to strange habitat.  Acorn Woodpeckers might feel slightly more at home here knowing that these characters are residents.

I did not band this Bobolink.  It escaped shortly after this photograph was taken, much to my dismay.

Two Posts Tomorrow...

I promise two posts (=4 portraits) tomorrow after my negligence this evening--I was out acquiring portraits until the wee hours.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Quality vs. Quantity

Today's conditions were excellent--but produced very low numbers of birds.  However, the birds that were produced were excellent; Prairie Warbler, Ovenbird, Bay-breasted Warbler, and a smattering of others.  Light winds and high overcast continue, as they have for over 90% of my stay--and tomorrow promises more of the same.

Note, dear readers, that my time on the island dwindles.  My boat for the mainland departs in a mere 7 days.  Let us hope for a final week that is filled with wonderful portrait subjects.

This Bay-breasted Warbler showed up at the lighthouse and spent most of its time hiding at the bottom of Owl Chute--here it is seen cooperating with the portraitist.

This Prairie Warbler was a tag team spot by Don and Rob.  Good work, guys.  Here it is, acting coy.  I hope that it's here tomorrow and allows for some better portraits.
And, finally, today's eBird checklist.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Woodpecker, a Bobolink, and a Shark

Alas, friends: I have no shark portraits.  But a very large shark was seen today consuming chunks of pinniped flesh off of west end.  I hope to see more before my time here is finished (and I hope that they are much closer) and I hope to fetch some portraits to share.

Here is a portrait of an Acorn Woodpecker, wandering the rock in search of sustenance.  What do oak woodland birds think of this place?

This adorable Bobolink popped out of Heligoland and posed briefly.  Heligoland also contained a Yellow-breasted Chat and a Mourning Warbler, plus at least 6 other species.  One tiny wind-tortured pine tree=much habitat.

Today's eBird checklist.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

So Little Birds! So much Curry. So Much Pie. So Much Pesto Ice Cream.

Today was the slowest bird day we have had in quite some time--fog; but no waffles.  One arrival was recorded--a Bullock's Oriole.  Here is a Lincoln's Sparrow we have had the pleasure of consorting with over the past two days.

And here is a Steller's Sea Lion mother and pup; they are having a scuffle.  I dub them Allison and Christian.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Good Day and no Waffle Days in Sight

 Any day in which I get state birds is a good day.  Two state birds=A great day.  Jim located a Mourning Warbler this morning and Dan found a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher this afternoon (while we were performing another north landing).  I saw both birds, and well.  Sleep shall be sound.

 Here is a shot of the Blackburnian Warbler, a bird that has been most uncooperative for photography.  It's a beautiful HY male.  What does tomorrow have in store?  We have had one waffle day since we started the Fall season on 16th August--I hear that this is unusual...
And today's checklist

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

More Birds, Fewer Portraits

     Today we had moderate numbers of birds [Note: I have included a link to the list of birds seen today on the island at the bottom of this post--look for this in all future posts], including some new island birds for yours truly; Black-bellied Plover, American Pipit, and Band-tailed Pigeon--but few new portraits were made. I blame the high barometric pressure.  But, fear not--my portraiture skills are extant, and more bird faces, torsos, and bodies are in our future.

Until that future is the present--here is an insect.  This is the famous Farallonophilus cavernicolous, an endemic cricket that makes its living in caves (note specific name) on the Farallones.  We must have similar tastes, as I am also a Farallonophile.  This was taken outside of the famous Rabbit Cave.

 This is a Swainson's Thrush that is likely upset at its migration decisions/fate.  These thrushes like verdant riparian habitat;  this is not that.  The poor fellows spend lots of their time here in caves and crevices (as evidenced here) or in Veery's Roost atop the lighthouse, acting sullen.  I don't blame them.  Jim had a high count of seven today--there are probably 100 scattered in nooks and crannies about the island.

Today's eBird checklist

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Bat, Some Birds, and No Acorns

     On the 6th day of September, we lost a dear friend.  Robert Snowden, seabird holdover extraordinaire, departed for the mainland.  He is missed somethin' powerful by these here island folk.  But with change comes (frequently) more change.  We received two new islanders:  Oliver James and Boo Curry.  They will likely make appearances later in the blog--if they sufficiently distinguish themselves.

     Today was not crazy with numbers but we had some great new arrivals:  a Blackburnian Warbler was banded, an Acorn Woodpecker stopped in to survey the island for acorns--finding none, it stuck to some rocks, looked confused, and finally disappeared.  It might be here tomorrow;  and two Purple Martins flew in and over in the afternoon.

     We were also treated to this fine fellow who made several passes around the lighthouse (my brain did not know what to do with this 'bird' upon first seeing it) before settling into a mallow at Twitville, only to give away its presence by loudly hissing at Jim (fact).
This Hoary Bat was found roosting in mallow

This Olive-sided Flycatcher was roaming around the island, begging (unsuccessfully) for beer.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pinnipeds and Faranoia

     Jim and I went to Main Top Island today.  This requires a decent amount of preparation and a decent chunk of time—time spent on a different island, with many fewer birds.  This leads to acute cases of Faranoia:

Faranoia (n.)
Pronunciation: /ˌferəˈnoiə  /
Syllabification: far·a·noi·a 
     A mental condition characterized by fear of missing rare birds due to distractions, WPWT, or a simple lack of attentiveness (e.g., looking at one's feet so as not to fall to one's death).

     Faranoia is a difficult condition to tolerate, and news from the mainland of such birds as Grace's Warbler and Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher are of no help.  Thankfully, the day was very slow for birds and no mega-vagrants were missed.  The focus of our visit to Main Top island, and the focus of this blog entry, was Pinnipeds.

The star of West End--the Northern Fur Seal.  Nearly wiped off the planet by fur hunters, this species is making a comeback.  They are hilarious sounding (clicks grunts screams and bleats) and are much more aggressive than other Pinnipeds.  Many adults and pups were seen (up close and personal) on our visit to their homeland.

Here we have a Harbor Seal, photographed in a gulch that I visit daily--this individual loves to haul out at the same spot each day.  Look at the pelage on this character--unbelievable.  Its beauty helps support Phoca vitulina's position at the top of the Pinnipedia ladder.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Traill to nowhere, North Landing, and few Arrivals

 Today saw a changing of the guard--Snowden left us and two replacements were dropped off:  Oliver and Boo.  North Landing was pretty painless, as they brought about 1/5th the amount of food that we brought three weeks ago.  Life is...good.

 Here, for your viewing pleasure, is a "Traill's" Flycatcher

This Ovenbird spent the day upset at Veery's Roost:

I'm exhausted and must sleep... sleeeeeeeeeeeppppppp.........

Some Warblers are Called Townsend's Warblers

Today was a busy day--three new birds for my island list, lots of banding, and more to come.  And a north landing resupply boat tomorrow--joy oh joy!  Hopefully we are saturated with rare birds tomorrow.

A wonderful Townsend's Warbler.  Who of you dislike this bird?  You can leave now.

Tired.  Birds, work, birds.  Here is a Purple Finch.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Open Windows

Today was a good day.  My island list hit 101 species; lighting struck, and it struck more than once--but more on that later.  Here are a couple of quick portraits from today; I need sleep.

This is Blinky, my helper at shark watch today--unless she was eating moths or flies.  Or sleeping.

This is a Cedar Waxwing--a bird that no man or woman could ever hate: beauty incarnate.

Birds. Helicopter. Birds.

Today we had lots of birds.  Not a legendary wave day, but the busiest bird day since I've been on the island.   Northern Waterthrush, Blackpoll, and Bobolink, to name but a few visitors.  Of course, today was the day that a helicopter had to land on the island.  We hope that tomorrow brings even more birds.  And fewer helicopters.

Here we have a gray-headed Orange-crowned Warbler.  A very attractive fellow.
This Blackpoll Warbler happened into the visar of one Rob Rockly this morning.  Later it happened into a net.  Then into a hand.  Then onto a memory card.  And, finally, onto your retinas and into your brains.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tattling, Tennesseeing, and Something Else That Starts with "T"

Today was another slow day--a handful of arrivals (3) and very few birds--but tomorrow's south/southwest/southeast winds may bring us some surprises.  Here's hoping that the fog isn't too dense.

Returning from a Twitville mallow-gathering expedition, Rob Rockly encountered this guy hanging upside down in a net next to the PRBO House.  Lime.  Green.

Wandering Tattlers are fine birds.  Need I say more?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Kites, Kestrels, and Shark Watch

We started shark watch today--the daily 8-hour vigil begins.  During the first watch, we had the following fly past the lighthouse over a half-hour period:  7 Lesser Goldfinches, an American Kestrel, and a White-tailed Kite.  Excellent shark watching.

This is my first art photograph: a Western Wood-Pewee taken through Jim's bedroom window.  The screen gave the photo a soft look and I decided to roll with it.  Plus, there have been fewer portrait subjects as of late.

This Lark Bunting was flushed off of the marine terrace by one Rob Rockly.  Snowden got a lifer; Rockly got a county bird.  Take that, Pereksta.