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Murrelet Caves on Anacapa

Posted by: roy-lagemann | June 26, 2009 | 1 Comment |

Xantus’s murrelets do not make nests of their own. Instead, they seek out the darkest, most protected areas they can find to lay their eggs. On Anacapa Island, this usually means they nest among the cracks and crags in one of the many caves around the perimeter of the island. In May, Kristen and I (Augie) were invited to help survey murrelet nests on Anacapa alongside Daryl and Harry. This is no simple task, considering the number of great murrelet nesting sites on the island, and the fact that murrelets are able to fly to high places on the cliffs and squeeze their way deep into very small paces. To conduct these surveys, the four of us would venture out on a zodiac from our new home base, the Retriever, and leap onto the island near various caves that have potential to accommodate breeding murrelets.

The Retreiver

The Retreiver

When we were in a cave, Kristen and i would check to see is any new, unmarked spots had evidence of a murrelet nest, which included egg shell fragments, eggs, and even nesting birds! we even found a few caves with nesting Pigeon guillemots.

The shell of a hatched murrelet egg

The shells of a couple hatched murrelet eggs

A nesting Pigeon guillemot

A nesting Pigeon guillemot

Daryl would check known nests, which were cleverly marked, and record his observations and Harry would wait in the zodiac for us to return (sometimes with a surprise waiting for us).

Augie with a molamola that harry picked up after mistaking it for a balloon.

Augie with a dead molamola that harry picked up after mistaking it for a balloon.

Sometimes we searched for nests on the cliffs around the island, and near the end of our journey, we searched near a big group of nesting Western Gulls on the cliffs above the dock on Anacapa. We got to winess fist hand the aggressive behavior of nesting Western gulls who would scream and dive at the back of our heads! luckily, they never got near enough to hurt us. At this site we spotted a pair of gull chicks and many gull eggs.

Harry, Kristen, and Augie on the cliffs, searching for new nests

Harry, Kristen, and Augie on the cliffs below nesting western gulls, searching for new murrelet nests

a couple of cleverly hidden western gull chicks

A couple of cleverly hidden western gull chicks

At night, we went out on the zodiac, as we had before, hoping to net and band as many murrelets as possible. We were successful, and managed to catch over 20, including 2 with hypoleucus plumage, which was very exciting! This short trip was a great way to end our time in the feild. We had a great time and hopefully helped collect some useful XAMU data.

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Responses -

ah! I’m so jealous! live AND dead mola mola!!!! I have to get my act together and start looking harder. You guys are like twenty-five ahead of me, and it’s a shut out.
Nice guillemot picture! So cute.
I hope you’re still having fun. Say hi to school for me!!

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