Saturday, February 6, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Where to begin?

In the bedlam that leads up to bird nesting season on Alcatraz, sometimes things change so quickly that one can scarcely find the time to describe and document it for such a fine and clever readership as yourself.

With that said, here is the mother of all wrap-up posts. I hope you aren't averse to bullet points.


    We had been toying with the theory that our falcon sightings represented two individuals and not one, especially in light of just how easy the falcon was to observe, and how difficult the individual was to size and sex. One day he would seem crow sized. The next day she would appear to be as large as one of our very large ravens.

    Well, I confirmed it. While observing one in a cypress tree across from the entrance to the basement, I maneuvered myself into a position to simultaneously observe the power plant. In the tree I observed this:

    and on the power plant, I observed this:
    Not a great photo, I know, but more than adequate for my purposes.

    We have a pair! Later, I saw them dancing and darting around each other in a fit of aerial acrobatics that I can only imagine represents some kind of courtship behavior. I reported all of this to our wildlife biologist and now the hope is that they will attempt to nest here.

    If they do stay, they may prefer to nest on an isolated cliff deep in the areas closed to protect birds during nesting season. If they do, we may have a hard time documenting it.
  • The common ravens now reside at the southern tip of the island, just off the dock. This may be due to the just mentioned falcon pair which has established itself in the trees on the northern side, which the ravens once called home.
  • Some brandt's cormorants now roost on the west side of the island.We hope this represents an early show of strength for the brandt's cormorant colony, which saw tremendous success before it disappeared entirely in 2009. Prior to the last few days, the overwhelming majority of cormorants seen fishing west of the island were double-crested.

  • Quite surprisingly, human beings aren't the only organisms on Alcatraz to catch Falcon Fever this winter. As our falcons have been diving at triple digit speeds and decapitating murres and pigeons as though head-having itself was going out of style, the island's other winged residents have been taking notes. Here are a few of Alcatraz's newest, most eager and heretofore most unlikely predatory birds, perching at great heights, waiting for an unfortunate pigeon guillemot to fly below and become a juicy snack:

    The unhinged European starling, ready to attack, fiending for fresh guillemot blood.
The common ravens may have lost their favorite tree to falcon invaders, but they remain philosophical, as they have learned a profitable hunting technique from their newest enemy.

The white crowned sparrow knows you don't take its prowess as a killer seriously. In fact, that's just what it's counting on.

Stay tuned to MAGANRORD: the only bird blog with a body count


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