In April 2011, I once again arrived on the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge to start another season of seabird research working with PRBO Conservation Science. In my seventh and perhaps last season, I decided to start a photo a day challenge for myself. The challenge is to share a new and interesting photo for each day I am on the island this year.
Murre chicks are hatching! These little guys have the cutest hairdos of frosted spikey down. Most chicks are still very small and are being constantly brooded by their parents. Murres feed their chicks by bringing back whole fish, carried lengthwise in their bills. Because the fish are visible, we can actually identify what they are feeding the chicks. The chicks are very good at scarfing down their meals as soon as they arrive so we have to identify the fish as they are flown in. We'll do this in daily two-hour shifts we call "diet watch." Feeding rates vary throughout the day so we also periodically do all day diet watches, dawn to dusk, involving everyone on the island doing multiple shifts throughout the day. This diet watch data is some of the most interesting data we collect. The proportions of different species in Murre diet changes every year and tells us a lot about how the fish populations are responding to the environment.