Saturday, April 26, 2008

The first comprehensive survey of the habitat of the Xantus Murrelet was completed last night by Harry Carter, Darrel Whitworth and Percy Hebert. Using a Zodiac inflatable and a bright spotlight, they have counted everyone of these night-active murrelets seen around all the Pacific Islands of Baja California and Alta California from Isla Asuncion to San Miguel Island. This has been a labor of 7 years for these dedicated seabird biologists. It will be a while before final numbers are known, but the data gathered will be of great benefit in protecting this threatened species that nests near the waters edge in tiny caves and whose chicks stumble down into the sea at only 2 days old, where they are then fed by their parents.

Here at San Clemente Island there are an abundance of California Sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher). Small sheephead are all females until they become sexually mature, but after a few years, almost all will become males. The change in sex is accompanied by a change in color and body form which can be seen as a gradient in the attached photo. Notice the darkening of the area near the tail and the enlarging of the head and brow.

Today, Jeff and I made a survey of the beach at Pyramid cove and found a float like the fenders we use on Alguita and a 55 gal drum for fuel among other debris. Unfortunately, one of the sea lions at Seal Cove has fallen victim to an ugly looking strap which is eating into its neck. Darrel and Harry took the photo. We don't have a razor rod like Harry used at the Farallones to free this animal. It may end up as one of the troubling statistic by Wallace who estimated 100,000 marine mammals die each year in the North Pacific from entanglement in marine debris.
Tonight the team will take blood samples in order to determine the genetic structure of world population of Xantus murrelets.
Posted by Captain Charles Moore

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