Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Murre Blind

I sit at my desk in the murre blind with an open window view of Point Reyes 17 miles beyond Fisherman’s Bay, listening to some tunes and noting the unique color band combinations of tens of thousands of murres chattering away and shuffling on the slope below. The wind has entirely died overnight; the sea is like a lightly rippled blue tarp, with gentle lines from the northwest lapping the weathered white guano covered granite of Sugar Loaf Islet. Fringing the murre colony, Pigeon Guillemots display their vibrant red mouths as they whistle a soft high pitched call; while regal Western Gulls stand in pairs on the cliffs around the blind window, ready to defend their patch of Farallon Weed from any foreign invader or challenger. Prospecting Tufted Puffins, the clowns among the breeding seabirds here, circle at eye level just meters from my window; their rock star head gear fluttering in the wind. Two resident Gray Whales break the calm of Fisherman’s Bay with their powerful exhalations, surfacing for a few quick breaths as they feed on Mysiids and other pelagic invertebrates. In the distance, spouts from a different kind jettison from the blowholes of the largest mammal ever known to breath – the Blue Whale – weighing over 100 tons. The goliaths are early this year, along with at least 40 Humpback Whales that scatter the horizon in all directions. I pause the MP3 device to hear the low growl of Steller (or is it Steller’s?) Sea Lions basking in the morning sun at Arch Rock, accompanied by the strange squealing vocalizations of Northern Elephant Seal weaners and the familiar dog-like bark of California Sea Lions. This chaotic symphony of pinnipeds emanates directly upwind of my perch, my nose full of the pungent odor of molting marine mammals in the light breeze. 

As seen in losfarallones.blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Calm After the Storm

Through the office window I can see rays from the rising sun illuminating Maintop peak on West End, big puffy golden clouds drift past in a light breeze. The roar of hefty 10-12 foot swells still linger from a big blow we experienced several days ago, with winds that peaked around 35 knots and waves triple overhead that nearly broke over Saddle Rock and completely swamped Middle Farallon 3 miles to the north. North Farallon, further up the archipelago, took on the image of a comet streaming across the Pacific, with a tail of mist and spray stretching downwind for miles. It was a dramatic event that postponed the scheduled patrol run indented to drop off a few new volunteers and fresh provisions – but an air of calm has settled over SEFI and it looks like a good day for a landing. There have been three of us on the island for just under a week now. Dinners have been quiet and journal entrees brief. We’ve spent a few late nights watching certain cinematic gems such as “Pirate Radio” and “Ghost Busters”, but most nights have ended early.

Spotted the first Tufted Puffin of the season while resighting murre bands up at the Murre Blind yesterday. The chunky black bird with bold broad orange beak buzzed by the cliffs of Lighthouse Hill in several circling flights before heading back out to sea (the were a lot of B's in that sentence); just checking out the scene and probably waiting until more puffins show up before it finally settles in. The Rhinoceros Auklets are also preparing to invade their cliff crevices around the island, we’re seeing a slight increase in Rhino Auklet peregrine kills about, which means there must be an increase in live ones about as well. Even the whales appear to be arriving for their feeding season off the island; I spotted another Blue Whale from the lighthouse yesterday just 2 miles east of Shubrick Point– the second confirmed sighting of the season.  

Good news, four fresh packs of Oreos are due to arrive on the delayed patrol run…the perfect midday snack.