The Murres of Egg Rock

On Easter Sunday I walked west on the former Highway One at Devil’s Slide on the San Mateo County Coast. My destination was the common murre success story that is Egg Rock. This somehow seems appropriate, given the day.

I remember driving this white-knuckle stretch of Highway One. The current roadway is routed through a tunnel to the east. Peregrine Rock is on the left.

As I passed “Peregrine Rock“, so named because of the nesting peregrine falcons on the cliff face, two juvenile rock wrens were perched out on the retaining wall. I took a few photos of the obliging wrens and then headed down the road to the Egg Rock lookout.

This juvenile rock wren was very accommodating.

Egg Rock is a collection of rocks just off the coast of Devil’s Slide. It is the scene of an alcid success story. Egg Rock supported a breeding colony of about 3,000 common murres. A murre is a seabird that superficially looks like a penguin. They spend much of their life at sea but come ashore to breed.

In the early 1980s the colony saw a rapid decline due to gill netting, a change in weather patterns, and pollution. The colony collapsed altogether and no murres nested on the once populous rock. In the middle 1990s a murre restoration project was started. By 1996 just 12 murres where observed on Egg Rock. The restoration project employed murre decoys, mirrors, and broadcasting murre calling in order to bring murres back to Egg Rock. And it slowly began to work.

By 2005 there were 328 murres and by 2014 the murre population reached 3,200 birds. The murres of Egg Rock had finally recovered to their pre-1980s numbers.

Road cuts are a geologist’s gift. Here is the sedimentary uplifted rock of Devil’s Slide.
A sign of spring: a Bewick’s wren in song.