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Since the high litter season is upon us, I am out on Drakes gathering the man-made debris washing in with the strong southern winds of late.
Near to where the northern fur seal found me just over a week ago (turns out it is a female and very feisty as well as still alive), I came around a corner just as a juvenile red-tailed hawk lifted off the sand with an injured, but still very alive northern fulmar. It was slowly climbing and headed straight towards me with the struggling pelagic payload in its’ talons.
I dropped down to the ground to cut a smaller profile as I watched the hawk flapping and flapping, yet gaining altitude like an overloaded Bonanza at noon in august at Truckee. That is, it had a positive rate of climb, barely.
The fulmar was flapping and struggling under the hawk which probably did not help matters much.
As the pair was about to be overhead and about 70-80 feet up, the hawk jettisoned the fulmar and floated upwards with ease. The fulmar dropped like, well, a rock. SPLATT! Onto the hard sand with about 1 inch of water. The dazed bird looked around, not sure if this was better than being pierced by talons and flown away to be eaten.
I sat crouching for a couple minutes to see if the hawk planned to return and try again. It did circle us a few times but eventually flew off to find a smaller bird.
After walking east a few hundred meters and picking up oyster spacer tubes and tampon applicators by the dozens, I turned around and found the floundering fulmar being swept back and forth in a slowly rising tide. I dropped my bags of plastic and went over to see if I could move it to a less hectic place. Even after all it had been through, this bird was very capable of defending itself. I barely was able to grasp its’ wings and keep my hands away from the sharp end trying to peck me. I carried it up to where a pile of logs had been pushed up against the wall and laid it in a protected spot in which to die without the tide and raptors interrupting.
I learned today from the folks at The California Academy of Science that these egg masses are likely from the Common Market Squid (Doryteuthis opalescens)
You can learn a bit more about it here.