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
2013 was pretty great with Asian birds. Got back into the US just in time to start the new year, so 2014 starts with California birds and then the glories of birding the Aleutian Islands!
We went a little later than normal for the winter birding season at Lake Mattamuskeet Wildlife Refuge, near Swan Quarter, NC. This is a popular birding hotspot due to its importance as an Atlantic Flyway stopover for many wintering waterfowl. Tucked away in a remote (think: no cell reception) section of eastern coastal North Carolina, Lake Mattamuskeet is the largest natural-turned-man-made lake in the state, at 40,000 surface acres. It is a very shallow lake at an average depth of 3 feet. Lake Mattamuskeet is also very popular among duck hunters and fishermen.
To visit Lake Mattamuskeet, you have got to have some plan of where you want to birdwatch, as the Refuge itself is not very “user-friendly”. It lacks clearly marked trails, information boards, or rangers, although this year it has shown some progress in attempts at development towards naturalists. Late December and early January are probably the best times to visit, and you will be rewarded with sights of abundant tundra swans, snow geese (one of the only places to see them in the area), and many other varied duck species…especially if its been a cold winter.
This winter proved to be rather mild, and therefore there were not as many waterfowl as when I first visited the Lake in 2007 – which was a cold winter, and birds covered the lake. The tundra swans could be heard honking from far away.
Still always worth a visit every winter, below the jump here is our species list from Sunday, January 8th, 2012: