GANNET & PUFFINS, OH MY!
Shearwater Journeys' pelagic trip to the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge on August 4, 2013 was packed full of action throughout the day. Highlights included: the continuing NORTHERN GANNET (see August 5, 2012 report), loads of TUFTED PUFFINS and other breeding seabirds; a great variety of pinnipeds; HUMPBACK WHALES and HARBOR and DALL'S PORPOISES, as well as BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS; and finally, that iconic symbol of California — the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE.
The morning fog enshrouded the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE, above. It is quite a treat to actually sail under the bridge, providing a completely different viewpoint.
We headed straight away in search of the NORTHERN GANNET, pictured flying above.
No worries, as we found it quite easily on the rock known as "Sugarloaf," above.
It was really neat to see the gannet both sitting on the rock and flying around. It was not on a nest. And, according to refuge personnel, it never built any kind of nest.
We saw the first of 35 TUFTED PUFFINS right at Sugarloaf.
Eventually, Tufted Puffins were found sitting and diving right around our vessel.
Most of the Refuge is a designated Wilderness Area where the forces of Nature predominate and its natural character is preserved for future generations.
The Refuge is 141 acres and hosts 13 species of breeding seabirds. Some call it the "Galapagos" of California. This is the largest breeding seabird colony, south of Alaska, over 200,000 birds. We saw all of the diurnal breeding seabirds, see list below.
These rock islands lie along the cold California Current, a rich and productive ecosystem that generates a large amount of food through upwelling. Food production has been very good this year. Cassin's Auklets are double-brooding. Food is plentiful.
In 1971 Point Reyes Bird Observatory (now Point Blue) and Wildlife Service joined forces to provide protection, monitoring, research and management of the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge. Management activities include removing non-native plants that cover nesting burrows and creating habitat for crevice-nesting seabirds from unused concrete foundations. Visitors are not permitted to land on the islands.Six species of marine mammals breed or haul out on the Refuge: Northern fur seal, Guadalupe fur seal, Steller's sea lion, California sea lion (above), harbor seal and Northern elephant seal. We saw all but the Guadalupe fur seal which is rare.
Finally, we make our way back to the harbor, going under the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE once more.
Bicyclists riding across the bridge, above.
And, the iconic City of San Francisco, above, was lit up by sunlight.
No finer co-leaders could possibly be found for this fabulous day. Between the leaders, below, the breadth and depth of their knowledge of the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge is unmatched.
Gerry McChesney, above, is currently the manager of this wildlife refuge. We have been friends for many decades. Gerry has a very keen interest in seabirds.
Peter Pyle, above right, spent some 20+ years working at the islands as biologist. He has been involved with seabirds, marine mammals and great white sharks and other wildlife since he began bird banding with his father at age 4. Peter, along with Floyd, left above, and Sarah Allen, below, were doing a MAMMAL BIG DAY on this day! They recorded 30 species of native mammals in one day, setting a record.
Sarah Allen, above, is a author of the University of California Press book, A Field Guide to the Marine Mammals of the Pacific Coast, highly recommended.
Our smiling Captain, Jim Robertson, above, absolutely essential in turning a good trip into a great trip!
Plus, the Outer Limits is one spotlessly clean, stable catamaran.
And, those America's Cup folks — if they only knew what lay beyond —
Many thanks to all who joined us from near and as far away as Italy, and to the Golden Gate Audubon Society, and to Eli for chumming.
The complete species list for August 4, 2013 Shearwater Journeys follows: ALL for San Francisco County:
PACIFIC LOON- 1
WESTERN GREBE- 2
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS- 5
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER - 12
SOOTY SHEARWATER- 1000
NORTHERN GANNET- 1
BROWN PELICAN- 30
BRANDT'S CORMORANT- 300
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT- 125
PELAGIC CORMORANT- 50
BLACK OYSTERCATCHER- 4
MARBLED GODWIT- 2
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE- 50
RED PHALAROPE- 6
HEERMANN'S GULL- 125
CALIFORNIA GULL- 10
WESTERN GULL- 700
ELEGANT TERN- 1000
COMMON MURRE- 300
PIGEON GUILLEMOT- 200
CASSIN'S AUKLET- 25
RHINOCEROS AUKLET- 3
TUFTED PUFFIN- 35
CALIFORNIA SEA LION- 2000
STELLER'S SEA LION- 40
NORTHERN FUR SEAL- 300
NORTHERN ELEPHANT SEAL- 2
HARBOR SEAL- 50
HUMPBACK WHALE- 6
BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN- 6
HARBOR PORPOISE- 10
DALL'S PORPOISE- 15
THRESHER SHARK- 1
NEW THIS YEAR: SEABIRDS & GREAT WHITE SHARKS OCTOBER 20
A few spaces still remain on this trip to the Farallon Islands. We are going in search of Great White Sharks and late fall seabirds. (You should not expect to see tufted puffin). See here, for reservations, or to get on the waiting list when full. Spaces are available on many of our departures from Monterey, Half Moon Bay and Bodega Bay. The season has just begun!