Aug 2, 2014. Trip to Farallon Islands
Also – Aug 9, 2014 -Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society Farallon Field Seminar! – With Bob Power, David Wimpfheimer and Matthew Dodder. To register please call the SCVAS office at (408) 252-3740. E-mail Alvaro if you have any questions.
The Farallon Islands, off San Francisco, are the stuff of myth and lore. The history and natural history of these islands is truly unrivaled. Yet remarkably while this amazing bit of rock is only 27 miles from the Golden Gate, few Bay Area residents have made the trip to see the richest island for seabirds and marine mammals anywhere in the state! Going to the Farallon Islands is like living a wildlife documentary, the numbers of birds and sea life is astounding. Keep in mind that this is a well protected wildlife refuge and we will see the islands from the boat, visitors are not allowed to step foot on the islands. Besides there is no port or wharf on the islands, biologists visiting have to be hoisted up from the water by a crane – we can do without that!
Our trip to the Farallons will begin from Pillar Point Harbor north of Half Moon Bay, once out of the harbor we have approximately a two and a half hour trip to the islands. We will look for migrant shorebirds (Surfbirds, Black Turnstones) on our way out the harbor, as well as Harbor Seals and if we are lucky Harbor Porpoise outside the harbor entrance. This area is also great for the Marbled Murrelet and we will be on watch for that rare coastal seabird. From there we will head WNW towards the Farallones, the trip out is over relatively shallow water but still very rich foraging grounds for many birds. We may see foraging flocks of Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets, Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters and maybe a Humpback Whale. Anything is possible here including various species of dolphins (Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Risso’s Dolphin, Northern Right Whale Dolphin, or Dall’s Porpoise to mention a few). There will be Western, Heermann’s and California gulls, and perhaps migratory Red-necked Phalaropes and perhaps the first returning jaegers and northern terns.
Once we reach the islands, we will concentrate on observing wildlife off the largest island, Southeast Farallon. The numbers of birds here are staggering, as are the numbers of marine mammals. There are over 250,000 breeding birds here! Most of them are Common Murres, with over 150,000 birds. This is a real conservation story, as at one time the eggs of this bird were collected here to sell in San Francisco, and the birds plummeted in numbers at this point. The world’s largest colony of Western Gulls is here, as are most of the world’s Ashy Storm-Petrels, unfortunately the stormies come in at night and if we see them we will not see them by the islands, but offshore somewhere. There is a good variety of other breeding birds here such as Brandt’s, Pelagic and Double-crested cormorants, Black Oystercatcher, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s auklets (see above). The pinniped show is great here as well in diversity and numbers! There are California and Steller’s sea lions here, along with Harbor Seal and the massive Northern Elephant Seal. After these islands were given adequate protection the Northern Fur Seal also re-established itself! This is a fun and exciting trip – I am hoping you can join us!! Birds, whales, seals and a bit of Bay Area history…..it’s going to be a great day out.
Resources – how to protect your camera from spray and drizzle. Download Here.