They Grow Up Fast / by Michael Johns

After a two week hiatus from the island, I arrived yesterday to the signs of change. The landscape on the Farallones is now significantly drier, the gulls less intense in their areal assaults, and many of the seabird species we monitor now have chicks big enough to leave the protection of their parents and start life as individuals. The common murre chick pictured here is close it 3 weeks old, and will soon follow the male parent through a busy colony, past a dense pile of hauled out sea lions, and over a steep cliff into the sea. Thousands more murre chicks will do the same, in nightly mass fledging events that take place just after dusk. These chicks will then be reared by the male at sea until they are big enough to fly and forage on their own, bringing the chick to the fish instead of the fish to the chick.