Thursday, February 26, 2009
Winter rain, spring flowers
The most common plant on SEFI is maritime goldfields (Lasthenia maritime), also known as "Farallon weed." This native spreading annual blankets the entire island, from the edge of the marine terrace to the lighthouse, with vivid green leaves and bright yellow flowers. It even grows on West End Island. Cassin's auklets dig their burrows underneath its canopy.
Human visitors aren't the only animals on SEFI to appreciate the maritime goldfields. Sometimes on hot days the elephant seals will fling bits of the plant on their backs in an attempt to stay cool. In these photos, elephant seals lounge in the goldfields on the marine terrace.
Other common native plants include fiddleneck (Amsinckia spectabilis), with small, yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers that grow along a stalk like its namesake; miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), with tiny pale pink flowers in the center of a circular, glossy leaf; red maids (Calandrinia ciliata), whose flowers are a gorgeous deep purply red; and common chickweed (Stellaria media), a spreading, low-growing plant with a cluster of little white flowers. Another favorite is sticky sand spurry (Spergularia macrotheca), a succulent with fleshy thin linear leaves and purple or white flowers.
Non-native wildflowers grow on SEFI as well, including scarlet pimpernel (Anagalils arvensis), dwarf nettle (Urtica urens), goosefoot (Chenopodium murale), storksbill (Erodium moschatum and E. cicutarium), New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia expansa), and plantain (Plantago coronopus). One of the most common non-native plants is umbrella mallow (Malva neglecta), which sports a beautiful purple flower and big leaves. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been working to control both Malva and New Zealand spinach for 20 years, but the tenacious plants seem to have a strong foothold here.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Action on the Beach
as shown in the above photo of an attempted copulation by Mauricio on Sand Flat.
towards other males. Dominant alpha bull Rusty, above, only needs to bellow and all other males retreat.
get enough of cute weaners (ourselves included), the photos below are offered for your viewing pleasure.
Finally, for those of you who can just never
enough of cute weaners (ourselves included), the photos below are offered for your viewing pleasure.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Powered by the Sun
This past week, Mike McGoey of the company NexGen returned to SEFI to replace the batteries. The 48 extremely heavy batteries (300 lbs. each) were carried to the island by two Pave Hawk helicopters from the California Air National Guard's 129th Air Rescue Wing. They also removed the 12 old batteries (1500 lbs. each). It took 7 trips, but all the new batteries were delivered safely, and we are so grateful for their assistance.
Mendel Stewart, the manager of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's entire San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge complex - of which the Farallon Island Wildlife Refuge is just one part - visited SEFI to oversee the delivery of the batteries. Derek Lee, PRBO's winter Farallones biologist, showed Mendel the main northern elephant seal breeding beaches and Steller sea lion haulouts. After all, the wildlife is what we are out here to monitor and protect. Thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NexGen, and the California Air National Guard, PRBO scientists are able to continue conducting research into one of the world's most productive and important marine environments, powered by the sun!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Weaner City 2009
Weaners will now remain on the island for the next month, sleeping and playing with each other, and molting their black pup fur until their new pelt is a smooth silver-gray. They will live off their (considerable) blubber for the month, before leaving land and inshore waters for the first time and swimming out into the deep sea to forage for fish and squid. It likely will be the most difficult year of their lives, dodging sharks and searching for food using nothing but their instincts. Ocean climate conditions such as El Niño Southern Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation play a large part in whether they survive. We wish them luck and hope to see them back on SEFI next year.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
West End Excursion
Today, SEFI biologists made a special, all-day excursion over Jordan Channel to
April and Ari with Pastel Cave and the edge of Great Arch in the background.
PRBO Biologist Derek Lee and intern Monica Bond in front of beautiful granite rock formations.
On this trip we found 10 elephant seal cows and 10 pups at Pastel Cave Highlands, and 11 cows and 11 pups and 3 weaned pups on
A bull elephant seal weighs about 5,000 pounds - much more than this "little" 150-pound pup! The blood on the bull's neck is from a fight with another bull for dominance of the harem.
To our delight, we also spotted a group of 24 northern fur seals on Indian Head Beach. Some had been tagged at the Channel Islands in southern California. We read the tags and enjoyed watching and photographing their antics. These sweet-looking but rather aggressive seals were extirpated from the Farallon Islands by Russian and Yankee fur traders a century ago, and are only recently making a comeback here. Fur seals first returned to West End Island in 1995, when 4 individuals were counted. Last year the population had grown to nearly 200 including pups.