Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The sun is out!

California has been under a very hot high pressure weather system, and Piedsras Blancas has not been spared. On Monday September 27 there was a cool breeze, but the sun was very intense. It's hard on all of us, marine mammals and humans. Temperature records have been exceeded, http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2010/09/28/1305846/san-luis-obispo-county-tries-to.html. It was 105 in Cambria, where we complain if it gets over 80. Some clouds have moved in today, but our outdoor thermometer is reading 98.

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

Foggy fall

Actually, it's been a foggy summer. John Lindsey, meteorologist for Pacific Gas & Electric, attributes that to the cool water conditions of La Nina combined with persistent northweseterly winds recorded at Diablo Canyon's meteorological towers, http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2010/09/18/1294247/kelp-enjoying-the-fattest-summer.html. Water temperatures at Diablo have averaged as low as 51 degrees on some days in August. Today, NOAA reports the water temperature at Avila as 55.8 degrees, http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/dsdt/cwtg/cpac.html.

Mr. Lindsey's reports are interesting, but should be viewed with some scepticism. His primary purpose is to advocate for his employer, PG&E.

He ties the winds and cool water temperatures to an increased upwelling that has brought nutrients to the coastal kelp forest, producing exceptional growth in the kelp forest.

Monday was foggy on the bluff. It makes the seals look even more magical.

Juveniles are arriving all the time now for their fall haul-out rest. They take four to six weeks on the beach at this time of year. The young of the year return from their first migration. This mixed-age group of young males tops out with a five-year-old. The development of his elephant-like nose, his proboscis, indicates that's about how old he is.

This youngster surfs up on the beach, somewhat wary at the young male already resting there. They made their peace and the newcomer made his way onto the sand.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Docent training

Friends of the Elephant Seal trains its docents in three weekend sessions in the fall. This year, training dates are October 9 and 23 and November 6.

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

Elephant Seals in captivity

Elephant seals are deep water animals that spend only part of their time on land. I thought it would be impossible to keep one in captivity. However, another docent found these examples of Southern Elephant Seals being kept in European zoos. The film is of Goliath, who was sent from Hamburg to visit the Basel, Switzerland zoo in 1938: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUFe8iL_E34.

He translates the description of the film as:

He was sent by train in a 20 cubic meter crate. It took two days from Hamburg to Basel. He was only there for a visit, but became a big attraction. He weighed in at around 3 tons, was 4 meters in length, and ate 50 kilos of herrings a day while in Basel. You will see him "catching" a few from his trainer in the video. It took 10 men, some winches and a tractor to transfer him from train to wagon to zoo.

This photo was taken in 1975 in the Berlin Zoo. The caption translates into: You don't get to do a tooth check without a bribe of some sort!

In this picture, Roland V gets a 'snowmassage' from his keeper in the Berlin Zoo. It isn't dated.
These photos are remarkable -- for the familiarity the humans have with the seals, and for the fact that the seals survived at all, apparently healthy and content. I plan to research this further and see what I can learn.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Pinedorado Parade

Pinedorado is the major holiday weekend in Cambria. The story is that, like Brigadoon, Cambria is replaced once a year with another town, mythical Pinedorado. The parade on Saturday morning kicks off the events.

Every local group, some informal ones created for the occasion, has an entry. I marched with Friends of the Elephant Seal. We assembled at the end of the parade route so that Charmaine Coimbra could take this picture. She posted a series at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=121752935562&ref=ts#!/album.php?aid=207745&id=183449522622&fbid=424131627622&ref=mf.

I liked the Kelptics, left in a photo from the Tribune, http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2010/09/04/1276394/photos-pinedorado-days-begin.html. They created musical instruments from trumpet mouthpieces and kelp. Who Knew?
The Dancing Dogs, who trotted along beside their owners, stopped periodically to dance on their hind legs with their companions. The Friends of the Library pushed carts of books.
More than 60 organizations participated. FES docents always get applause and thanks. We hope it's also a recruiting tool for new docents. Training is in October and November, in time to get informed docents out on the bluff before the breeding season starts in late December.