Saturday, April 02, 2011

Spring, Seabirds, and Spray

In mid March, after 3.5 months on the island, the winter crew departed in one of our seasonal crew switches. It is now seabird season, and the seasons of wildlife have changed with the weather. After a very wet March with storms from the south, clear skies, and strong northwest winds have returned, as you can see from this video today of Saddle Rock on the south side of the island.

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Elephant Seal cows and bulls have departed, leaving their weaners here on the island. Most will enter the ocean soon for the first time and depart the Farallones. Cassin's Auklets, the small burrow nesting and krill eating seabirds that our one of our focal species, began nesting in early March. The discovery of the first egg in a nest box on March 2nd was the earliest we have ever recorded. Common Murres, Western Gulls, Pelagic Cormorants, and now even some Brandt's Cormorants, are attending the island in preparation for their breeding seasons.

Spring is characterized by strong northwest winds, which help drive productive upwelling which feeds the Farallon food web. Today's 35 knot winds are typical for this time for year on the Farallones. The video below shows what it's like walking to the north side of the island during these conditions. I'm trying to hold the camera as steady as I can! 

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These conditions can whip the ocean up into foam, check out "Farallon snow" at North Landing!

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Stay tuned for regular posts from the Farallon seabird season...

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