Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Neighborhood - Day 26

Well, we've had three straight days of thick, thick fog. Visibility has average 1/4 mile. Makes it hard for us to see birds out in the water, but more importantly the migrating birds can't see the island. Consequently, we have had very few land birds and the ones we do see are the same ones we've been seeing for about a week. The Harris's Sparrow is still hanging around, a Golden-crowned Sparrow (S/OOY) and a White-crowned Sparrow (S/GOB). We are hoping for a break in the fog soon and maybe a few more birds before the season ends. We seem to be seeing less oiled birds, but are still checking all the birds we see.

The Farallon Islands are within the city limits of San Francisco, so technically I'm living in the big city. San Francisco is split up into many neighborhoods with their own quirks. The Farallon section of town is no different.

It's kind of a dirty place. Most of the residents make their home right on the ground and others in cracks and crevices. They tend to be noisy and smelly, including us biologists. It can get crowded out here so everyone has to get along or keep to themselves.

The Elephant Seals are pretty lazy. The spend most of the day hauled out on land sleeping, making burping farting noises the whole time. But you can't get mad at them because they have these big, dark, round puppy dog eyes.

The California Sea Lions never shut up, barking day and night. Luckily the rocks they like to hang out on are far enough from our house that we can sleep. If they're not causing a ruckus on land, they're goofing off in the water. They hang out in groups swimming around and porpoising. Sometimes they go surfing, riding inside the waves as they break. Looks like a blast!

Some of the most ubiquitous birds on the island are the Western Gulls. They are always around, but mostly keep to the shoreline. When the conditions are right (only the gulls know) they land all over the island, seemingly picking a nesting spot. It's a bit eerie, all of the sudden there are a bunch of gulls evenly spaced around the island. By noon the next day most of them have moved back to the shore. They won't start nests for another 4 months or so.
When the do start to nest, biologists on the island will be ready to study them. The gull nests that they monitor get these addresses. I've seen hundreds of these placards around. During the nesting season the gulls become the worst neighbors around. They attack anyone near their nest by pecking and pin point aerial fecal bombs.

Many of the birds are still recovering from the earliest human inhabitats who decimated the populations of just about every organism on the island. To help them out, friendly humans have built them artificial homes. A kind of Habitat for Avianity. These boxes are for the Rhinoceros Auklets.

The cormorants (Brandt's and Pelagic) build nests made of Farallon Weed on the sides of hills. All around their nesting areas the ground is covered in stinky cormorant poo. When it rains the poo gets very slick, so you have to hop from rock to rock. This nest near the top of a small hill has quite a view.

Over all I'd say the neighborhood is pretty cool. Now we just have to keep the yuppies away.

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