Yesterday we had what seemed to be our first really big Murrenado. When it's windy out the Common Murres will sometimes come back to the island in masses, and there will be thousands either on land, in the water, or in the air. There seems to be a constant shift in where they are concentrated between those free places, making them pretty hard to actually count. When they are in the air they can create these Murrenados, where they fly in this large circular formation. Yesterday I counted over 7000. At one point there were two to three thousand in the air forming a huge Murrenado, at another point about 5 minutes later the mass had shifted to land, with over 4000 on the rocks.
Just a portion of the Murrenado (it's hard to capture on video)
This morning we woke up to the Western Gulls resuming their territories around the island. Jim and Liz counted around 7000 across the island, most of them evenly spaced by 5-10 feet, which I guess is about the size of their territories. This has only happened twice since I've been here and it seems to be pretty unpredictable what mornings they choose to head back to their little spots on the hill for a few hours.
Today we had a small wave of arrivals on the island. Nothing too exciting, but we gained quite a few songbirds (Robins, Varied Thrushes, American Pipits, Cedar Waxwings, a Clay-clolored Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrows, a Savannah Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrows, a White-throated Sparrowm Oregon Juncos, Anna's Hummingbirds and more) and banded around 17 of them.
The only owl I caught last night was one we'd caught as the sun was setting and had been banded a while back. It's actually the owl from the picture yesterday. It has one silver band with a 9 digit number on its right leg and a blue band with "A63" on it's left leg, something we use to resight it in the field. It's always good to recapture birds to confirm that are still here or see how weight is fluctuating, but it's nice to catch unbanded ones too, which has not been happening much.
A common misconception about living on an island is that you must eat poorly. No grocery store? Military rations it is! Fortunately, that is not the case here on the Southeast Farallon Islands. As I've mentioned before, every two weeks we are resupplied by a group of volunteers who do a large shop for us, picking up nearly anything we request. So, despite what you may have envisioned for my island thanksgiving meal, it was in fact a feast. We still had work to do during the day, so it was late by the time we stuffed ourselves and could not even get to dessert.
Sorry for the lack of entertaining pictures! It's been pretty windy, leaving us with few birds, and the inability to actually see shark attacks or whales, so data proofing it was for today! The Cassin's Auklets were back again last night and when I got up to do the 6am weather I was in serious danger of getting nailed by one flying into me.
There are lots more gulls around these days. Not as many as past years, but still a lot. Lots of Murres too, thousands actually. Songbirds, not so much, like 8 species a day, so here's some more scenery (warning: it's the same).
We got some of our food resupplies off of the boat today, but due to some serious rains and big swell we were only able to get one load off of the boat that came out here. As a result the guys on the boat did not get a chance to tour the island! It was a bummer for all. BUT, we got a turkey.
Completely unrelated, here are some fatties And this weirdo
Last night the Cassin's Auklets decided to come back for the night. They are one of the breeders out here but this time of year we don't see them a whole lot, especially on land. On nights that they come back to land you can hear them singing all over the island and if you walk around you find them scattered everywhere, crawling into rock crevices, existing holes in the ground, or start to dig their own.
They are not the best fliers so they are pretty easy to catch by hand as they stumble around, attempting to hide, but often just flying into things (including humans).
After catching a few and seeing them fly around a bit you realize how much padding they must have to survive the beating they give them selves every time they make that crash landing into their burrows.
This morning there was a tame but very close attack off of East Landing. I got down there to see the carcass floating, a bunch of blood, then the shark slowly came a long, chomped it once, chomped it twice, and then took it under.