Saturday, December 22, 2007

See Who's Back

With today’s arrival of the first elephant seal pup of the 2008 breeding season, to First Cow, we are finally starting to see some action on the main breeding beaches of the Farallon Islands. Although we only have three cows so far (including First Cow and Robin Robertson), this is typical of the beginning of December. In the past two years we documented unusually early cow arrivals, as well as the earliest pup ever born here, and we wondered whether the trend would continue, but the timing of seal arrivals appears to be back to “average.”

The big males are starting to sort out their hierarchy. Last year the three largest harems on Southeast Farallon Island were dominated by Don Francisco (Sultan of Sand Flat, by far the biggest harem), Bob Bond (Master of Mirounga Beach) and Brendan (Titan of the Terrace). None of the bull males have yet arrived, but we’re watching and waiting with bated breath. To date, we have seven large males who are potential contenders for access to females, although none of them are true bulls.

Aubrey, although relatively small in size, appears to be an aggressive fighter. Aubrey easily has everyone else – including Salvatore – running scared, and is currently the master of Sand Flat (and its two cows).

Salvatore hung out on the periphery of Sand Flat last year, constantly sneaking up on females under Don Francisco’s (very large) nose but then high-tailing it when Don bellowed his anger. Salvatore is back in the same spot this year, and has been in at least one big fight because we found him one morning on Mirounga Beach nursing some bloody wounds on his nose. When Aubrey leaves Sand Flat, Salvatore takes over, but then flees when Aubrey returns. He is bigger than Aubrey and beat him last year, so we’re still waiting to see how things shape up between them.

Bedlam Boy is another larger-sized male with a big nose who has been coming to the Farallones for several years. He has many fighting scars which make him easy to spot from afar. So far he has fled from both Aubrey and Salvatore, but he is certainly in the running for at least one of the smaller harems.

Rusty is an old favorite of ours, and was the first big male to show up this year. He has been hanging out on the Marine Terrace, perhaps saving up his energy to take over one of the harems once the cows show up in full force.

Don Quixote is a new male tagged and named this year. He first arrived on Sand Flat, but promptly was kicked off by Salvatore. Don Quixote had some bloody wounds on his back, so he’s been taking it easy at Sea Lion Cove for the past few days.

DMX is smaller but a very insistent male who aggressively pursues the females. He still flees from the bigger males but always has his eyes on the cows. Today he just took Mirounga Beach, with its one cow.

Let us know who you think is going to be the King of the Farallones this year!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey there!! Glad to see that the ladies (and guys!) are back. Robin Robertsons legacy lives on there...yum :)

My King vote: Rusty, 'cause we named him :)

Hope you're having a fantastic winter so far! Happy New Years and Happy Birthday!! - Kelly & Josh