Tuesday, December 28, 2010
My guess was that the missing mother was about ten feet away. A female was sleeping just beyond the group. The large reddish spot on the sand suggested that a birth had recently happened there, and she was the likely mother.
Two of the mothers barked and threatened each other. The third quietly tended to two pups. The bright sunshine causes sharp shadows that make this photo difficult to decipher. Here one of the mothers barks at a pup, while her rival tosses sand on her back.
All four of the pups were very new, and I didn't see any of them nursing. The two pups affiliating with the quiet mother were sociable toward each other, nosing each other companionably.
The beach isn't terribly crowded yet, but this group managed to get their signals crossed. I don't know whether anyone has every documented switched pups. It seems like something that could happen, without ill effects. So long as a pup gets care and adequate milk, it wouldn't be important that it be from its biological mother. Last year lots of mothers nursed other pups after theirs died in winter storms.
We'll see how the season progresses. Few females have chosen to settle on the north end of the rookery, where the beach has eroded.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Weather is harsh, rainy and windy. The pups don't have much body fat, blubber, when they are born. They gain weight fast, but they appear vulnerable to cold and wet at the start.
I'm in between holiday travel, but will post as news trickles in. One of the events I attended was the National Geographic Marine Recreation Community Workshop in Monterey, http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/. They invited people who are involved in ocean-related work in the community to partner with them in educating the public about the oceans. Speakers included Dan Costas, who leads marine animal research and is a co-founder of TOPP, http://www.topp.org/; Jim Covel, senior manager of Guest Experience Training and and Interpretation at Monterey Bay Aquarium; Gary Grigggs, a researcher on coastal issues; Bridget Hoover, director of the Water Quality Protection Program; Lisa Lurie, Agriculture Water Quality coordinator for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary; Barton Seaver, chef and ocean advocate; and Tierney Thys, an expert on the ocean sunfish and all-around ocean expert.
The site has lots of the amazing photos that National Geographic is known for. This Frilled Shark lives as far as 5,000 feet deep. It's one of the critters that elephant seals know about but we don't. This one, which is almost five and a half feet long, was captured off Japan in 2007 and lived in captivity only a short time.
The opportunity to get all these wonderful people in one room at the same time was the best Christmas present I could have had. Every one of them was inspired and inspiring. I learned from all of them. I felt a whoosh of power in that room. Lifeguards, rangers, dive shop operators, whale-watching boat captains, Monterey Bay advocates of all kinds, and me, represented the elephant seals -- what a perfect way to reach more people who want to learn about the oceans and do better.
One of the phrases that stuck with me was, "You are now a citizen of Planet Ocean." I'm going to start telling bluff visitors that.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
It's the beginning of the season, so this bull, who arrived last week on the south end of the beach, may yet move on to another rookery. An adult male arrived Sunday on the north end of the beach but was gone the next day.
So much of the sand was washed away in last winter's storms, there is little beach left above the high tide line at the north end. Whether females will choose it for their pups remains to be seen. This vista shows high tide Monday 22 November. It was a high tide that day, the full moon, but not as high as it might be. Even so, the water comes right up to the base of the cliffs.
That's not an issue for these juveniles, fat and well-developed. The pups can be washed out to sea.
Monday, November 8, 2010
One small female gave birth to an undersized pup, a fetus really, which did not survive. There were a few early births last year. Even the ones that are large and apparently fully developed don't survive when they are born outside the usual season. I don't know whether anyone knows anything about these early births.
One day after the new moon, the tide was high today, although not as high as it will be during the winter. There's hardly any beach above high tide line at the north end. I'm concerned about any mothers who arrive on that beach at low tide to have their pups. They probably won't survive. We'll see how the season progresses.
In the docent training last weekend, USGS Wildlife Biologist Brian Hatfield asked docents to report all shark wounds and scars. He said he has expected to see an increase in shark attacks, but hasn't documented that. In October, a surfer was killed by a shark about a hundred miles south of Piedras Blancas, at Vandenberg, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39800366.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
I and other elephant seal docents joined the crew for lunch on Tuesday. Sebastian's in San Simeon, http://www.yelp.com/biz/sebastians-store-san-simeon, contributed the crew's lunches. Thanks, Sebastian's! These young people have worked very hard to build a new trail and boardwalk for us and the many visitors to the viewpoint. It was a privilege to sit down and meet them. The supervisor told us this trail was the biggest CCC project he had supervised to date.
The north end of the beach remains narrow. A lot of sand was washed away in last winter's storms. at high tide on Tuesday, little dry land was left untouched by waves. In the past, there's been plenty of room for pups to be born and grow to be weaned. I'm concerned for any pups born on that end of the beach this year.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Most rested, some young males sparred. More continued to arrive.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Worse news is that otters on the Central Coast are suffering from a bacterial infection. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Now it turns out that some of these playful marine mammals are also being poisoned by an ancient microbe — a type of cyanobacteria — that appears to be on an upsurge in warmer, polluted waters around the world.The discovery was made by Melissa Miller, a state wildlife veterinarian and scientific sleuth investigating the multitude of things killing otters faster than they can reproduce. The Southern Sea Otter population has dropped for two years in a row, the U.S. Geological Survey announced last month. An estimated 2,711 otters remain in Central and Southern California waters.
This beautiful picture was taken by Lawrence Ho of the LA Times.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Sign up before Sunday, September 19, www.elephantseal.org.
I've been invited to become a docent mentor, for which I'll spend Saturday morning in training. New docents spend three sessions on the bluff with an experienced docent: observing and practicing under supervision, getting feedback before facing the public alone.
The training is excellent, all locally developed, since there isn't another program like this. When I talk to people, I'm constantly recruiting new docents. "It's a great way to learn the natural history," I tell them.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Some cruise ships can hold 6,000 passengers, so a lot of sewage can be dumped from just one vessel. The refuse ends up being jettisoned into the sea, and if close enough to shore can affect water quality at beaches, leading to closures. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/26/epa-bans-cruise-ships-fro_n_695269.html
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
“Although it is still uncertain whether or not the 3 million gallons of oil loaded onto the vessel before its departure on Dec. 23, 1941 remain in its tanks, we aren’t taking any chances,” said Steve Edinger, Administrator for the Department of Fish and Game’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) in a press release. “We are taking proactive steps to determine if there is a pollution threat and, if so, to prevent an oil release that could impact California’s coastal areas.”
The Montebello Assessment Task Force commissioned the sonar survey to determine if the Montebello poses a pollution risk to California marine waters and coastal habitat. The task force was convened in 2008 at the request of Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee and includes representatives from OSPR, the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research
Institute (MBARI) and Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee’s (R-San Luis Obispo) Office. OSPR has provided $100,000 in funding from its Oil Spill Prevention and Administration Fund for this and other research on the Montebello. The task force is working with federal agencies to secure additional funding for the project.
The sonar images will help the scientists understand the sea floor conditions on which the wreck rests. How stable it is, what it's like down there, will be used to plan two more remotely-operated vehicle dives to the wreck, planned for summer and fall 2011. The ROV on those dives will record video of the wreck, which will be compared to videos taken in 1996 and 2003, to see how the sunken ship is deteriorating. It will also take samples from the cargo tanks, to see whether there's any oil left in them.
The upper portion of this image shows a vertical sonar image of the wreck of the S. S. Montebello, along with lines indicating the path that MBARI's seafloor mapping AUV followed while surveying the wreck. The lower portion shows a "cross section of the stern of the S. S. Montebello, with each dot indicating a single sonar "ping." Image credit: © 2010 MBARI
MBARI’s seafloor-mapping AUV carries three different types of sonar, which send brief pulses of sound toward the seafloor, then measure how quickly and how intensely these sound waves are reflected back to the vehicle.
Sidescan sonar yields a black-and-white image of the ocean bottom that shows how strongly sound is reflected. Sidescan sonar can show areas of hard and soft seafloor, as well as hard objects such as the wreck.
Multi-beam sonar can be used to create a detailed bathymetric map or a three-dimensional image of the seafloor (and hopefully the wreck as well).
Sub-bottom profiling sonar can indicate the density of layers of rock or sediment beneath the seafloor.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
A couple of males occasionally wake up and spar for a few rounds, but not much comes of it. It's not serious fighting at this time of year, since it's not the breeding season.
Crowds of visitors, many from other countries, are amazed at the sight. These bulls are still molting.