WEGUs in March – here they are confiding, easy to admire, and “much that is good…”
The Western Gull (Larus occidentalis) is the”typical” large, white-headed gull of the west coast of the US. Seen at most beaches, but rarely inland (except at the Salton Sea), this is more of an obligate “sea” gull than other gulls. They breed on offshore islands during the summer, and the Farallones constitute an important breeding location for them. They are the most obvious island resident due to their numbers and their character. Here, a brilliant quote from one of California’s earliest naturalists – William Leon Dawson.
Much that is good and all that is evil has gathered itself up into the Western Gull. He is rather the handsomest of the blue-mantled Laridae, for the depth of color in the mantle, in sharp contrast with the snowy plumage of back and breast, gives him an appearance of sturdiness and quality which is not easily dispelled by subsequent knowledge of the black heart within. As a scavanger, the Western Gull is impeccable. Wielding the besom of hunger, he and his kind sweep the beaches clean and purge the water-front of all pollution. But a scavanger is not necessarily a good citizen. Call him a ghoul, rather, for the Western Gull is cruel of beak and bottomless of maw. Pity, with him, is a thing unknown; and when one of their own comrades dies, these feathered jackals fall upon him without compunction, a veritable Leichnamveranderungsgebrauchsgesellschaft. If he thus mistreats his own kind, be assured that this gull asks only two questions of any other living thing: First, ‘Am I hungry?’ (Ans., ‘Yes,’) Second, ‘Can I get away with it?’ (Ans., ‘I’ll try.’)
[…]Nothing in the life of the Farallons [sic] is more striking than the rapacity of the gulls and their determination to profit by any excitement which will frighten the peasantry.
Posted in adventure, birding, Birds, California, ecology, Farallon Islands, Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, Farallones, field camp, field work, fieldwork, gull, ornithology, outdoors, seabirds, Uncategorized
Tagged biology, birding, birds, conservation, Farallon Islands, Farallones, fieldwork, gulls, islands, larophile, marine biology, ornithology, Point Blue Conservation Science, seabirds, south east farallon island
—– Written for (and cross-posted from) the excellent Point Blue Conservation Science Blog – Los Farallones —–
My internship at the Farallones involved many different fascinating studies, but one of my favorite studies were the seabird diets, as they really tie in the oceanographic aspect of marine ornithology. We are lucky to be able to live on this incredible, rugged island surrounded by the Pacific ocean and work with the birds that call it home, but sometimes it can be easy to take for granted just how strong the connection is that these birds have to the marine environment. By incorporating the feeding ecology of the seabirds, we are also considering vast topics like oceanic health, fisheries ecology, and climate change, much of which is still poorly understood. Taking part in studies that delve into this mysterious, watery realm is pretty exciting. Brandt’s cormorants also happen to be one of my favorite birds on the island – how could you not love the silky black birds that look like Muppets with long necks and giant feet, and whose eyes are a vibrant, deep turquoise?
Male Brandt’s Cormorant in full display glory
Posted in Birds, California, conservation biology, ecology, Farallon Islands, Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, Farallones, field camp, fieldwork, ornithology, seabirds
Tagged animals, banding, biology, birds, brandt's cormorant, cormorant, ecology, Farallon Islands, Farallones, field work, fieldwork, internship, islands, marine biology, ornithology, Point Blue Conservation Science, seabirds