Friday, September 4, 2015

"The murre's shrill pipe, the puffin's low bassoon..."

Saturday, 29th August

And now a flashing, jeweled tower crowned
These lofty, time-worn granite locks,
Across the circling waters wide
The ever-coming fleet to guide.
And exiles, lone, a loyal band
(Fate wills for every task a crew be found)
Made their abode on this lonely strand,
Alone 'mid jagged, towering rocks,
Wild haunts of screaming sea-bird flocks,
Beside bold seas of restless mood,
In bleak, sea-island solitude.

-Milton S. Ray, Farallon Light, 1855

  SEFI is home to many breeding birds:  Western Gulls are abundant and are joined by a handful of California Gulls which attempt to breed each year (nearly always failing due to Western Gull hostility, hunger, and heinousness). They are joined by Canada Geese (weird), Black Oystercatchers, Brandt's, Pelagic, and Double-crested Cormorants, Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots, Cassin's and Rhinoceros Auklets, Tufted Puffins, and Ashy and Leach's Storm-Petrels. This makes The Farallones one of California's most diverse seabird breeding colonies approached in diversity only by Prince Island off of San Miguel in Santa Barbara County (pictured below as a guest portrait)--and the largest seabird colony in the coterminous United States.  Common Murres and possibly Tufted Puffins have re-colonized Prince Island in recent years--possibly as a result of their protected refuge on the Farallones NWR.  

  Are piping Murres and bassooning Puffins coming to an island near you?  You should certainly hope so.

Prince Island from San Miguel Island during inclement weather in 2013.  Go here if you can.
  It's always a pleasure to see these birds on land, as my views of most of them (save gulls) are normally distant via scope or at sea on a rocking boat, such as in the below (not distant) photographs taken at sea near the island.

  Below is a portrait of one of Milton Ray's 'sea clowns', at sea; will they successfully and permanently re-colonize Prince Island?  With high counts of adults reaching 190-200 birds this year on SEFI, perhaps the answer is yes.

  Here's a Northern Fulmar, several of which have graced us with their tubular presences.  These are seabirds that breed far to the north (British Columbia and Alaska) but visit the rich waters of the Gulf of the Farallones:

The dwindling eBird checklist

SEFI: 63
SCI:   54

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