Monday, May 31, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Alcatraz has babies! Cuteness overload!

The visitor to Alcatraz wants his Al Capone, his "Machine Gun" Kelly and his "Birdman" Stroud. She wants to tour our rows of tiny cells, to see the narrow cots, the lead paint peeling off of crumbling walls and to hear the loud sounds of cell doors slamming, all behind a curtain of dense San Francisco fog. And we'll give them that.

But not before they find themselves surrounded by these speckled grey balls of pure fuzz and cuteness. Every year around this time, Alcatraz becomes an avian nursery nurturing around five percent of the world's baby WEGUs.

You'll be slain when confronted with three thousand of these. The following pictures are from summers past.

Nowhere else can you buy a ticket for a reasonable price, take a twelve minute ferry ride and experience this. Our baby WEGUs are beginning to hatch!

These were the first hatchlings we saw:

Pardon the graininess. This gull family lives deep in the parade ground area, which is closed for nesting season. As more chicks hatch, we'll have many more photos for you.

Unfortunately, it's our duty as a metal-themed bird blog to bring you br00tality as well. We don't enjoy doing it, but the bitter fact is that these balls of fluff often die at their cutest. One of the first clutches hatched yesterday and each chick promptly died. Amazingly, out of the thousand nests on the island, this was the one featured in our recent post entitled "Now we wait..." I wonder whether I've cursed this gull family. One individual:

But there is optimism to be had. Each nesting season we have our favorites that we root for and many of them go on to fledge successfully.

Speaking of babies...

Well, no one thinks of our fierce little peregrine tiercel as a baby but the little guy still hasn't donned his adult plumage. The books say we can expect him to turn from brown to blue after the breeding season. If he decides to stay and he survives through to winter, we'll have a better idea of where he falls among the three North American subspecies of the peregrine falcon. It's been suggested that he's a Peale's falcon, a coastal, northwestern variety that is the biggest and darkest of the three, and the largest subspecies of peregrine in the world. Our little guy may be a little small for all of that.

One concern with our peregrine is that while we still spot him regularly, the frequency of observation has declined considerably and now your only shot to observe him is to carefully scan the lighthouse. When his crop is full and he's feeling sedentary, he can be found on the upper ledges.

Ryan T. Gosling! Baby goose!

If there were an Intrade contract that Ryan would fledge, it would be trading at 95 cents for a dollar payout at this point. This guy/gal is money in the bank:

While we've been very critical of the geese that nest on Alcatraz, it's been a true privilege to watch this little guy at every stage of his development, from a cute but anonymous tiny ball of fuzzy green confetti, to a little yellow football-sized creature trying to make its way in the world. Now he's going on to be a real goose, quickly growing into his adult plumage. Where does the time go?

One more thing: Maganrord has one thing to say to the following pair of California gulls that has been seen near the old prison incinerator: Nest, or get off the spot! We're tired of seeing you hanging around doing nothing! We want to see some CAGU chicks.


BourbonHawk said...

Images of the other dead chick from the nest are here:
Image 1
Image 2
I came upon it maybe half an hour after it died, according to a docent who was posted near the nest. The parents were loudly fighting over its body.

Lishkanator said...

Hello! I just found this blog and am pretty excited about it. I work for a bird conservation organization, PRBO, and have led 4th and 5th graders on nesting seabird fieldtripos to Alcatraz for the past 3 years, as part of a a multi visit classroom and field seabird education program, SEA Alcatraz ( Why haven't we met? It's great to know others are so passionate and interested in the bird life out there. Keep up the great work!! Thanks, ~Lishka

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