For 11 years the Common Murre Restoration Project has been restoring seabird colonies on a small seastack known as Devil's Slide Rock, on the San Mateo County coast just 15 miles south of San Francisco. The Devil's Slide breeding colony held close to 3,000 Common Murres (Uria aalge) as recently as the early 1980s, but was wiped out as a result of human-caused mortality.
Tens of thousands of murres in central California were drowned in gill nets between the late 1970s and mid-1980s. Then, in the winter of 1986, the oil barge Apex Houston accidentally discharged some 26,000 gallons of oil while en route from San Francisco to Long Beach Harbor. About 9,900 seabirds were killed as a result of the spill, of which about 6,300 were murres. After the spill, no murres were known to breed on Devil's Slide Rock and the colony disappeared.
Launched in 1996, the Murre Project uses a technique known as social attraction to restore murre colonies, employing such tools as murre decoys (including those of adults, chicks, and eggs), three-sided mirror boxes, and CD players projecting amplified murre calls to lure the highly colonial birds back to Devil's Slide Rock.
To help the Murre Project monitor and research the growing colony and provide public access, two remote-controlled video cameras have been installed on Devil’s Slide Rock. Signals from the cameras are transmitted to the nearby Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel, and from there streamed live over the Internet.
Visitors at the hostel can enjoy interpretive displays and watch the murres on a 17" LCD TV hardwired right to the video receiver for high quality picture, while a live video feed is also available online.
Viewers can follow the nesting season of the murres along with other seabirds such as Brandt's Cormorants (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) and Western Gulls (Larus occidentalis). Seasonal patterns to look for include courtship and pair bonding (March to late April), egg laying and incubating (May to June), chicks hatching (June to July), and chicks fledging (July to August).
Spend the night at the Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel.