Friday, November 3, 2017

Photo Friday: Hanging with the Elephant Seals

Last weekend we did a little excursion to Año Nuevo State Park to see what the Elephant Seals were up to. Turns out it's "juvenile haul-out" season, and there were a lot of youngsters on the beaches. It was also just a kind of cool day for a hike. The fog was sitting right on the coastline, so that we walked in and out of the sun and fog. Not much of a story here, but some photos.

Looking back through the fringes of mist.
We passed a really pretty pond on our way to the beach.
Pelicans were almost as numerous as elephant seals. The birds and the marine mammals ignored each other, occupying neighboring spaces but not competing.
After a walk of about 1 1/2 miles, we reached North Point, where the seals congregated on the beach.
From a distance you could think it was driftwood, if not for the sound effects. Seals on the beach, pelicans on a low rock just offshore.
For the safety of all concerned--even a yearling elephant seal outweighs an adult human by a fair margin--you can't get very close. My telephoto made up some of the difference. These guys (and they are mostly guys) come in a wide range of sizes. The males take about 7 or 8 years to mature, and get very, very large. Females are sexually mature after 1-2 years, so you don't see many of them here in the "teen zone." They are much smaller than males at maturity, but still bigger than you and me. Combined.
We visited during the mating season in 2014, so I thought I'd throw in a couple of shots to show both how big the males get and the noses that give them their name.
No one is quite sure what the droopy nose is for. Maybe for retaining moisture during the long mating period on land (but then why do the males have it and not the females? They spend as long or longer ashore). Maybe for noise-making, but the docent told us that last winter, a male got his nose ripped off in a fight--and it made no difference to his call.
This shot gives some idea of the relative size of male and female elephant seals. For the record, a mature male will run about 16' long and weigh 6000 pounds. A female will be up to 10' long and weigh 2-3000 pounds before she starts nursing her pup (which is done on land, with no eating or drinking on the mother's part).
Just hanging with his harem. Maybe the chicks dig the proboscis?

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2017
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  1. Love the pics! I can't get over the size of those guys!

    1. We didn't get close enough this time to get the whole feel of it (nor the smell), but it is mind-blowing to see them from a few dozen feet away. What blows my mind is that they spend long periods ashore, neither eating nor drinking. Since I can't make it from breakfast to lunch, I'm deeply impressed :D

  2. What a wonderful experience! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Sometimes I almost forget how lucky I am to live where I do. Then something like this reminds me.

  3. Oh Elephant Seals. Buncha dorks. Pics of them are always cool, but you can TELL when you're close to them. The smell and the sounds are a slice of magic (and not the good kind).

    1. LOL! You definitely don't want to try to get all buddy-buddy with them :D

  4. Replies
    1. It is. I realize that I have lived most of my life within sniffing distance of salt water (well, from age 7, except for college in Spokane and a few sojourns in Colorado). I tend to take it for granted, and I shouldn't.

  5. Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos. You have great adventures.


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