Monday, November 5, 2012

Farallonia's Common and Scarce

By Luke Musher
HY Anna's Hummingbird, a common bird on the Farallons.
Since I first arrived, I have found it incredibly interesting how some species that are fairly abundant just 30 miles east on the mainland can be incredibly rare, and are thus highly coveted by us Faralisters here in Farallonia.  Then there are birds that are much more likely to turn up here than on the mainland.  For example we get far more Least Flycatchers, an eastern vagrant, than Dusky or Hammond's Flycatchers, which are relatively common species in the west.  We recently had two Farallon megas, Common Goldeneye and Cooper's Hawk that are doubtfully any birder's idea of chase birds.  However, birders who spend time on the Farallons take their island lists very seriously, so when I called out the goldeneye over the radio, the others came sprinting to me as if it were an Arctic Warbler (not surprisingly also induced a rapid and shamefully twitchy response).
NOT the Loch Ness Monster, but the 20th Island record and 6th Fall record of Common Goldeneye for Southeast Farallon Island.  Nearly all records are in winter.
Cooper's Hawk, one of roughly 30 records for the island [Photo by Ryan DiGaudio]
Despite the fact that the birding has been slow due to various amounts of wind and/or fog, we've had a a trickle of arrivals over the past few weeks, including new Grasshopper Sparrow, Lapland Longspur, Short-eared Owls (almost daily), Rough-legged Hawk, Blackburnian Warbler (a good vagrant anytime, but especially this late in the season), and Surf Scoters to name a few. 
Lapland Longspur, the most likely species of longspur here, but still a relatively uncommon bird.
Short-eared Owl, a common species but an outstanding bird every time.
We have butterflies too, like this west coast lady....
...and this painted lady.
We haven't seen many Pigeon Guillemots lately, but this individual, Hermen, has been here since the breeding season, and is finally molting in a much-needed new set of remiges.
One of my favorite recent birds was a Horned Puffin yesterday (pow! that's a lifer) that was spotted while we were operating the crane to bring the boat on shore.  Ryan DiGaudio, Nora Livingston, Maggie Spilatro and I all basically spotted the bird at exactly the same time and realized it wasn't a Tufted Puffin, which breed on the island and would be far more likely, but a Horned.  Jim Tietz got this as an island bird while still waiting on the boat he was arriving on.  Note the white underparts, pinched base of the bill, and obvious paleness in the face–much different than any Tufted Puffin.  What a BAMF.
Eh not the best photo ever, but a great bird anyway.  Horned Puffin just chillin'.  One of less than 30 records for the island, 8th fall record.  This bird is far more likely in Spring, but rare any time, and scarce in any part of coastal California.  


  1. What amazing finds!!! Thank you for sharing these images...good or bad....they are wonderful and inspire. Looks like a great time.

  2. i love our herman!! take more pics lukey!

  3. oh my god this is so sad rip herman. you need to UPDATE MISTER. it has been TOO LONG