Monday, March 31, 2014

Molting in March

Lots of seals on the beach, returned from their migration and ready to molt. A few have already begun shedding their skin.

Sand has piled up at the cliff, cut away by the tide below. I don't remember seeing sand piled up like that. High tides today, with rain forecast later in the afternoon.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Early molt

Adult females and juvenile seals are arriving on the beach already. It seems early for molting, but checking previous years of this blog, perhaps not. Quite a few seals are on the beach, several already actively molting.
High tide came far up the beach. The returning seals have last year's brown coats, soon to be replaced by pearly gray.

Swimming lessons

 Pups are learning to swim. An adult female, already returned from her migration, rests in the water while a weaner climbs out.
Some get playful, like this one tossing around a piece of kelp.

 This lone pup ventures into the water while his brothers and sister sleep. No doubt he's joining the rest of the group already in the water.
High surf last week crashed against the rocks and rolled up on the beach, but these weaners are big enough to hold their own.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Setting a weaner on the right beach

Thje Marine Mammal Center called on Monday with an elephant seal weaner who needed to be relocated. He'd come ashore in Oceano, where the beaches are heavily used. in places, trucks and sand vehicles are allowed. It was not the right place for a weaner.

The team picked him up and brought him to the Morro Bay center. He was fat and healthy. He just needed a better place to live. They decided the Piedras Blancas motel beach would be a good place.

We met the team there and drove down to the beach. There were plenty of other weaners and even some adult females still on the beach. He was reluctant to leave the carrier, but we persuaded him.

The team herded him toward the group of weaners and females.

He let out a few barks to announce himself. the others ignored him, but who knows what an elephant seal registers?

We were confident that he'll fit in and find his way, as the other weaners do. He now has an orange tag, indicating that he is a rehabilitated seal. Perhaps we'll see him again in the future. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Weaner spring days

Nearly all the mothers are gone, returned to the ocean to forage for food and gain some weight. The fertilized egg each mother carries won't start developing until she returns to the beach in May. That gives her a chance to eat and put on some healthy blubber before the embryo begins to require nutrition.

Most of these weaners have molted their wavy black newborn coats and are glowing silvery gray and brown. A couple of them are still peeling off that old coat.
Weaned pups have climbed close to the boardwalk. There's extra fencing there to keep them off, since some of them did get up on the boardwalk last year. Nice close viewing for visitors, though!
The beach seemed a bit empty, until I walked north and looked back to see dozens piled up in the cove.
Quite a few adult males are still on the beach, but they are thin. You can see this  one's hip bones jutting out. One of the researchers said that he thinks the males stay on the beach for a couple of weeks after the mating season just to get some real rest. They sure looked peaceful.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Blind in one eye

It's no disability for this adult male. His eye appears blind, but he was enthusiastically pursuing females on the beach. He held his position in the dominance hierarchy, below some but above others.
He comes up the beach.

Using his good eye to check her out.

That eye definitely is occluded, probably the result of an injury.

He was cautious around the dominant male, but didn't let it stop him.