Management activities on the island include invasive plant control and habitat improvement. Invasive plant species on the island compete with natives and degrade habitat available to burrow-nesting seabirds such as Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklets. Dense stands of annual grasses and mat-forming New Zealand spinach make areas unavailable to potential nesters by blocking access to the soil. Habitat improvements, such as controlling invasive species and removing the debris that has accumulated due to decades of human occupation, are an ongoing process.
To improve nesting habitat and to aid with research, a
habitat sculpture was built in 2002 by Meadowsweet Dairy using broken up
cement around a steel frame to create habitat for crevice nesting seabirds. Nest
boxes with plexiglass backs were placed between chunks of the abandoned concrete
to facilitate monitoring activities. Cassin’s Auklets nested in the boxes in the
first season after completion and Pigeon Guillemots moved in the second year.
In 2000 boardwalks were built in cooperation with several partners at
strategic locations across the island to prevent field station staff from
crushing burrows during daily activities. The boardwalks were constructed using
an “auklet through” design to provide spaces for seabirds to excavate burrows
between planks. Density of burrows along the boardwalks is higher than natural
areas after only three years. Projects on the horizon include creation of a
murre nesting ledge from concrete rubble, continued removal of debris, and
reconstructing the trail to the lighthouse to make it more bird friendly.
Management of the refuge also restricts public access and minimizes the
impact researchers have on Southeast Farallon Island. With the exception of food
and propane for cooking, Southeast Farallon Island is a self-sufficient research
station. The Coast Guard stopped supplying the island with water and diesel in
1998 leaving refuge staff to find new ways of providing water and electricity.
In accordance with the US Fish and Wildlife Service's commitment to
environmental conservation, it was decided that instead of transporting water
from the mainland, rainwater would be collected on the island and the noisy,
unreliable generators would be converted to solar, dramatically reducing diesel
consumption and emissions.
A self-sufficient duty station does not come without cost and personnel must
continually perform maintenance and facility repairs in addition to biological
activities. There is an obvious down-side to collecting water from a bird refuge
and purifying and moving the water around the island requires a network of
pipes, filters, and pumps that must be constantly maintained. There is no dock
on the island so a rotating crane is used to lift the work boat from the water
to the landing area. The crane also requires frequent maintenance.
The houses were constructed in 1879, and the main residence house was recently
remodeled providing a comfortable retreat from the howling wind and nesting gulls. Food and personnel are brought to the island by a dedicated group known
as the Farallon Patrol. The patrol is an organization of boat owners (mostly
sailboats) who volunteer to make the run to the island once or twice a year.
They are the Farallon supply line.
A tradition that spans back to 1968 is keeping a journal that documents the day's events. The
Farallon Journal is kept by Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly known as PRBO Conservation Science) biologists. They record weather, unusual events, and any birds seen that day, among other
things. These journals are a vital link to the past and have become a rich source of data of the changing conditions and wildlife populations of the islands.
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Farallon National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex.