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Parakeet & Hermit Rock Dramas

Brian Fitch
 

As I wrote via cell earlier, Erik Atwell spotted the Parakeet Auklet making a very brief sortie around Hermit Rock at 10:30 this morning (6/28).  The rest of us honed in on the spot, and we too saw the auklet make several more quick flights around the top of rock.  On one landing, it was briefly visible, but otherwise it kept alighting out of sight.  We had all been out there from around 8:30 onward.

Around 11:30, after Hugh and Ken had to leave, Erik and I saw a Peregrine swoop into the long vertical crack in Hermit Rock where the Pigeon Guillemots nest, and I got my scope on the bird as it waddled into a small cave near the top.  As I was waiting for it to come out with prey of some type, Erik called out "Peregrine," and I turned to see a falcon on the low rock just left of Hermit, with an adult PIGU wriggling in its talons.  It turns out that the cave penetrates through the rock, and the falcon had emerged from the far side with the guillemot. 

We both commented that the auklet ought to have been startled out of its hiding place, but we were caught up with watching the struggle.  After a few seconds the PIGU broke free, slid down the rock and vanished underwater, and we didn't see where or if it surfaced.  But as I watched the falcon, which seemed to limp a bit as it walked on the rock, I spotted the Parakeet Auklet in the water just beyond the falcon.  Erik got some photos of the alliterative pair of birds in the same frame, and I commented on Nature's weird themes.  (Para-keet and Pere-grine for those of you who aren't much into literary terms.)  We also heard the auklet joining in the chorus of complaints about the falcon, giving its upslurred trill along with the calls of the upset guillemots and oystercatchers.

We watched the PAAU for another half an hour as it allowed itself to be washed closer to shore, making many dives into and through oncoming breakers.  Erik left around noon, and shortly after that the second drama unfolded, as the auklet seemed to weaken and let the waves move it very close to the rocks and small cliff faces on the shoreline.  I couldn't see any sign of it feeding, but I don't know the species well, so perhaps this kind of extreme Surf Scoter behavior is typical.  After 25 minutes of fearing that I was about to see it smashed to death, it jumped onto a low rock, only to be washed right off again.  It then swam over to a bigger rock directly on the shore and jumped onto it.  I soon left, wanting to think positively about its future survival despite the perilous behavior I'd been seeing.

On a non-aquatic note, I suspect that Pine Siskins are breeding on the level above the Hermit Rock viewpoint.  Last week I heard and then saw a siskin singing for quite a while along the upper road by the steep sandy trail up to Ft Miley West, and today I saw one or more siskins go in and out of a cypress adjacent to last week's spot.

Brian Fitch

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