Planes, Sharks, and Birds
It’s been a varied week on the Farallones. Unfortunately, the “perfect” weather system never really materialized, so we didn’t get a big push of migrant birds. It’s still been pretty solid, considering: yesterday we banded a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (about California’s 22nd record), and a Gray Catbird (the island’s 17th record) and a couple of Palm Warblers showed up.
Two days ago we were sitting inside the house when the whole island seemed to explode, shuddering and vibrating. The number seven jet from the Blue Angels, practicing for San Francisco’s Fleet Week, had strafed the island and flipped into a vertical ascent over the lighthouse, firing his afterburners. He did various acrobatics right overhead, some barrel rolls, smoke stuff, and extremely low passes over the rest of the afternoon. While entertaining, the stunts violated the no-fly airspace over the island (to protect the wildlife). The pilot was apparently contacted and “apologized profusely.”
And yesterday a coast guard helicopter briefly landed on our catchment pad, disgorging two young, dark, and tattooed guys who spent most of the day tinkering on top of the lighthouse (the light’s been broken for a year). Their helo subsequently left, broke down elsewhere, and the two guys had to go off on a shark-diving boat to get home.
Speaking of sharks, this morning we all lined up to watch a spectacular Great White attack in the bay right off our front steps. A dive boat and a research boat were both on the scene and radioed close-up details to us while we watched through scopes. The shark, a 16- or 17-footer named Tipfin, spent almost an hour tearing apart an Elephant Seal on the surface, with lots of thrashing and blood. Good stuff!
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