The other seabird island - and my Big Walk.

Alvaro Jaramillo

SF birders,

   Ok, I realize that Southeast Farallon Island is amazingly important world wide for seabirds, monitoring and conservation. However, remember that concept about putting all of your eggs in one basket? There is another local island where auklets breed, elephant seals snort and biologists work their magic to understand the world of seabirds. That is Año Nuevo Island, in southern San Mateo County. I have never landed on SE Farallon, but I have been on Año Nuevo, and it is amazing and important! With that in mind, let me tell you a bit about what is going on there and my “Big Walk for Auklets.”


    For 28 seasons, a project has been happening right in our neighborhood which most birders do not know about. The monitoring and restoration of the seabird colony at Año Nuevo Island, in San Mateo county. This work is being done by the amazing biologists, interns, and volunteers for Oikonos Ecosystems Knowledge a non-profit working to study and conserve seabirds throughout the world. Their major projects are in Chile, Hawaii, and here at Año Nuevo.

    On Año Nuevo Island the biologists have deployed artificial ceramic nests for both Rhinoceros and Cassin’s auklets, and they have restored habitat with native coastal plants that hold the soil and prevent the erosion that can be so troubling for the auklets. Since habitat improvements started in 2010, the population of auklets has more than doubled on the island, the effort works! At the same time the biologists are monitoring a total of 8 seabird species, including growth rates, population numbers, and food being brought to the nest. In 2020 for example Cassin’s Auklets were a month early in their breeding due to abundance of krill offshore, and Rhinoceros Auklets brought bay only Pacific Anchovy to the nests. Usually the Rhinos bring back a diversity of fish, but anchovy was so plentiful in 2020 that they became specialists on this fish!

    How will all of this change as marine heat waves become the norm? We do not know, but we are certain that long term monitoring programs, and seabird conservation initiatives such as this one are vital to understanding the dynamics of change, and perhaps what we need to do to adapt as well.

   Recently I joined the board at Oikonos and have been amazed that all of this was happening right here in the Bay Area and that most birders are not entirely aware of the work. That is the main goal of this not, to let you know that this near shore island near the border between Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties is a hotbed for seabird conservation and research. The biologists I have met working at Oikonos are also amazing, a creative and dedicated group of people who are changing the world either here or in other parts of the world where they are working. As well, each year new biologists and conservationists are trained as part of these projects, the future of seabirds and their conservation will be in the hands of these young biologists!

     As this is a challenging year economically for so many organizations, it is not surprising perhaps that funds are needed to keep this long-term project happening. That is why tomorrow I am doing my “Big Walk for Auklets.” The idea is to walk within a 5 mile radius of my house in Half Moon Bay, see as many species of birds as I can, and hopefully survive the nearly 20 mile jaunt I will do in my quest to beat 110 species on foot power. Please have a look at this website if you want to donate to the project and to my fundraiser.

   Thanks so much. Good birding and wish me and the auklets luck.



Alvaro Jaramillo