Skip to main content

Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge is for the Birds

08/25/2017 11:00AM ● Published by Jordan Venema

The Bird Isle

September 2017
By Jordan Venema
Photo Courtesy of USFWS

Looking at Castle Rock, a small island about a half-mile off the coast of Crescent City, it’s no wonder how the bit of land got its name. The mound of rock and pinnacle of stone could be interpreted in the shape of a turret rising from a fortress, but more than physically, Castle Rock is also metaphorically similar to some medieval castle, providing a safe place and refuge to the North American common murre.

“It’s actually the biggest murre colony between Alaska and the Faroe Islands,” says Eric Nelson, the manager of Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge. “It’s a pretty important place in the California system.”

It might surprise the common Californian that the common murre, the northern hemisphere’s equivalent of the penguin, has such a large colony so near the coast.

According to Nelson, the colony population is about a quarter-million birds, even though the island is just 14 acres.

“During certain times of year, the birds are just jammed on there,” he says.

Interestingly, Castle Rock hasn’t always been a designated refuge, and not always for the murre. The island was first designated a refuge in 1980 to protect the then-endangered Aleutian Cackling Goose, “which is no longer endangered,” adds Nelson. “They were taken off the list in 2001, but in 1980 there were probably about only about 1,500 left, and one of the places that they stopped on their way back to the Aleutian Islands where they nest is Castle Rock. As the population has increased, Castle Rock has become less important to the geese, so they now roost in other areas on the mainland.”

Due to the murre colony, Castle Rock remains restricted to the public, since murre do not create traditional nests, but rather keep their eggs lodged against the bare rock. All in all, it makes for a sensitive nesting area.  

“It’s closed for a couple reasons,” Nelson says. “Primarily because the disturbance that would occur with humans going out there would be enormous. One person traipsing about the island at the wrong time can cause the complete collapse of the murre colonies.”

Also, Nelson adds, “the soil is very susceptible to damage, and landing on any kind of island is not typically a very safe thing to do.” 

Which creates a challenge even for those who work at the refuge, who monitor the birds with high-tech equipment. 

“The biggest challenge we face,” continues Nelson, “is how to get meaningful information on the birds and really see what’s going on without a detrimental impact. Sea birds are difficult to study and obviously there are limitations,” he adds, but the effort isn’t without reward.

The refuge conducts some research to care for the birds, which nest roughly between April and October. The equipment and cameras are set up before and taken down after the nesting season.

This surveillance doesn’t just give information about the birds, but also about the local and wider ecosystem. While the refuge surveys murre activity such as nest initiation, the success of laying eggs and hatching, and size of colony, they also pay attention to eating habits, “which is really telling,” adds Nelson. “We can zoom in and see what kind of fish are predominantly being fed to the chicks, such as smelt and rock fish in the north – but in the Bay Area it’s anchovies, and in Oregon it’s different yet.”

Nelson calls the common murre the marine canaries in the proverbial coalmine. “What’s going on above with the sea birds can help tell you what’s going on below the surface,” says Nelson, thanks to the patterns of murre diets depending on the region.

Though the island remains closed off to the public, there are ways for people to enjoy the birds – safely and responsibly from a distance. 

While nobody can prevent kayaks or other boats from coming within 300 feet of the island, Nelson warns, “the seas in that part of California are very fickle.” Plus, he adds, “you can see the island with a good spotting scope on a nice morning with the sun at your back. That way you can get a good look.”


Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge

www.fws.gov/refuge/castle_rock


In Print, Today Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge
  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/22/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/23/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/25/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/26/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/26/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day I

    01/26/2018
    04:00PM — 08:30PM

    Redding Cultural Cruise is just around the corner, coming Friday, January 26! Participate in t...


  • Wildcard Brewing Co. Foodie Friday

    01/26/2018
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    On Fridays from 5pm-8pm, we bring you the best of both worlds: a frothy pint and a flavorful plat...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Redding International Folk Dancers

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    Folk dance is for everyone and for all ages! Our motto is: If you can walk you can dance. We meet...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/27/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day II

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 03:00PM

    Join us SATURDAY, JANUARY 27 for Day II of Redding Cultural Cruise! Visit a number of Redding ven...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Brewhouse Tour

    01/27/2018
    04:30PM — 05:00PM

    Want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes at Wildcard? Join us for a tour. This is y...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Redding Community Contra Dance

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    What is contra? Contra dance is the American cousin to Scottish and English Country set dances. I...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/28/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Conductor and saxophonist Scott Seaton welcomes Terrie Baune (violin) and John Chernoff (piano) f...


  • North State Symphony

    01/28/2018
    02:00PM

    In this more intimate concert, Maestro Scott Seaton on his saxophone joins Concertmaster Terrie B...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/22/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/23/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/24/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Midweek Madness

    01/24/2018
    02:00PM — 08:00PM

    Visit either Wildcard location on Wednesdays and get $3 off a growler fill! Come by the brewery a...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/25/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/26/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/26/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day I

    01/26/2018
    04:00PM — 08:30PM

    Redding Cultural Cruise is just around the corner, coming Friday, January 26! Participate in t...


  • Wildcard Brewing Co. Foodie Friday

    01/26/2018
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    On Fridays from 5pm-8pm, we bring you the best of both worlds: a frothy pint and a flavorful plat...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Redding International Folk Dancers

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    Folk dance is for everyone and for all ages! Our motto is: If you can walk you can dance. We meet...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/27/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day II

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 03:00PM

    Join us SATURDAY, JANUARY 27 for Day II of Redding Cultural Cruise! Visit a number of Redding ven...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Brewhouse Tour

    01/27/2018
    04:30PM — 05:00PM

    Want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes at Wildcard? Join us for a tour. This is y...


  • Redding Community Contra Dance

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    What is contra? Contra dance is the American cousin to Scottish and English Country set dances. I...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/28/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Conductor and saxophonist Scott Seaton welcomes Terrie Baune (violin) and John Chernoff (piano) f...


  • North State Symphony

    01/28/2018
    02:00PM

    In this more intimate concert, Maestro Scott Seaton on his saxophone joins Concertmaster Terrie B...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/29/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/30/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/31/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Midweek Madness

    01/31/2018
    02:00PM — 08:00PM

    Visit either Wildcard location on Wednesdays and get $3 off a growler fill! Come by the brewery a...


  • The Peking Acrobats

    01/31/2018
    07:30PM

    For the last 30 years The Peking Acrobats have inspired fans young and old as they defy gravity w...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    02/01/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Vinyl Night

    02/01/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Vinyl Night! Join us downtown the first and third Thursday of every month. We are going to ditch ...


Enter to win!

 

Check out our sister publication, Enjoy Magazine: South Valley Living

 

Wedding Style Guide 2017
Enjoy Magazine Facebook
Enjoy Magazine Instagram Instagram
Enjoy Magazine Pinterest Enjoy Magazine

Enjoy Our Sponsors