Sea Lion Survey Project News – April 25, 2018

MMM Survey lead Charon Vilnai, with dedicated volunteers Jane Straight and Dr. Joe Mortenson Photos by Song Hunter

During our last monthly sea lion survey of the Fort Ross Sea Lion Rocks, FRC’s Director of Programs, Song Hunter, spotted the first tagged animal we’ve seen during one of our surveys! The animal was a California sea lion, and from the yellow tag we can tell this sea lion was tagged at San Miguel Island (the westernmost of California’s Channel Islands).

A massive Steller Sea Lion {Eumetopias jubatus} bull


Luckily, Song was able to get a good photograph of the tagged animal, so that we could send the image to the Marine Mammal Laboratory (MML — a division of NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center). MML collects resighting photographs of California and Steller sea lions, which happens to be the two resident sea lion species at Fort Ross. See here the original photograph:

Original photograph of Sea Lion Rocks (East Otino Rock Haulout) by Song Hunter on 4/25/2018.

Below is a cropped and enlarged image of the original photograph. We’ve encircled the tagged sea lion, but you can see that these tags can be very easy to miss.

Sea lion tagging and branding is done by (NOAA Fisheries) authorized research organizations and agencies, so that individual animals can be tracked throughout their lifetime, providing scientists with valuable information concerning migratory patterns, habitat use, reproductive success and much more. Click here for more information about sea lion branding in the Pacific Northwest.


The more resightings the better! If you are ever out observing the sea lions at Fort Ross and get a photograph of a branded and/or tagged animal, please send to Charon Vilnai at

  • Charon Vilnai, FRC Programs Instructor & Sea Lion Survey Project Lead

Beach Watch Survey – April 9, 2018

Last Monday’s Beach Watch Survey was an especially active one, with many new species (to us – Charon and myself) and a few very unusual sightings!

Each time we go out we feel giddy with excitement, like kids on a treasure hunt.  ‘What do you think we’ll see today?!’

Each survey we try to beat our previous record of species observed.


-Article & Photos by Song Hunter

The spring wildflowers were in full bloom, blossoms of every color everywhere we walked. Douglas Iris {Iris douglasiana} above.

Scarlet Pimpernel {Anagallis arvensis}

This survey we observed 66 Caspian Terns {Hydroprogne caspia} – which was the first time we’d seen them along our beach – Fort Ross Clam Beach – 855.

Grey Fox {Urocyon cinereoargenteus} relieving itself in the Call Picnic area 😀

When we first saw this, we thought we were witnessing a plane crash!  Later, looking through the pictures it looks as though it may be a fueling situation?  Still, pretty amazing to witness.

Cream Cups {Platystemon californicus}

After confirming with the Cal Academy team – Sue Pemberton – this is a dead male California Sea Lion {Zalophus californianus}


Our first official (photographed) Bald Eagle! {Haliaeetus leucocephalus}

Common Ravens {Corvus corax}


SURF 2018

All photos by Paul C. Miller

The Stanford-US Russia forum brings together Americans and Russians for a week-long conference at Stanford and in Washington, DC, where they share their collaborative research projects. But before the academics begin SURF kicks off at Fort Ross, where the students do community service, learn about their shared history at Fort Ross, and just soak up the glorious Sonoma Coast. It’s one of our favorite exchange programs and we are proud to contribute to this project. Thanks to Renova Fort Ross Foundation for underwriting SURF, and to all the FRC volunteers and board members who came out to lend a hand.


Grey Whales, Stellers, and Mergansers, Oh My!

Can you guess what made these holes?

During our last Beach Watch survey of Fort Ross State Historic Park, Charon Vilnai and I (Song Hunter) were lucky to see a few less common/seasonal species (to FRSHP) and a few very common species up close and personal!

All photos were taken February 9, 2018 by Song Hunter

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