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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Category Archives: Photography – Nature
Working through my yosemite images. Of the ones I did up along Tioga Pass, this is my favorite so far.
Every so often you run into something that makes your day. For instance, around the end of March, Laurie and I did a road trip out to Merced NWR, as much to get out and about as to look for birds. While exploring around the entry parking area, I found this rabbit.
I realized he looked familiar. He was.See that muzzle?
This is that rabbit back in 2010. I have no idea what caused that damage to his fur, but it’s quite distinctive. Here we are, three years later, and while some of the fur has grown back, that damage is still visible. The nice thing is that three years later, he’s still around and hopping — in about the same place I originally saw him — and seems healthy. But if you compare the two images, you can see how he’s lost a bit of that youthful glamour….
My trip this weekend was to the Morro Bay area to join a group down at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. It’s peak time of year, as the females have been giving birth since mid-December.
The reason we got together saturday was that an early morning high tide was going to shrink the size of the beach, compressing the seals together. They were grumpy to start, the hope was that they would be grumpy AND cramped. There was some fighting going on, but the main alphas had their territories and mates worked out and didn’t argue much; it was the lesser males sparring and working on the pecking order, and it was the lesser males running like crazy away from the alphas and the females trying not to be caught.
So needless, there was a lot of action, but no heavyweight fights.
The morning broke to fog, which came and went throughout, and which gave the place a weird moody feel. I set myself up as a position I’d staked out earlier that gave me good angles up the beach. Others in the group set up in other locations or wandered the area. Images from the outing are being posted to this flickr group.
The females wean their pups for about a month, giving off a large percentage of their body weight to the pup, and then the pups wean, and the females go into heat. The males mate them, and then the females leave again.
There are sometimes significant disagreements about who gets to make with whom, and for the females, it’s whether the males can catch them. It’s not exactly consensual. The female’s tactic is to run, and if caught, throw sand in his face and hope he gets distracted.
Elephant seals can move surprisingly fast for something that big and bulky – for about ten feet, at which point they need to stop and rest.
The rule on the sand is pretty clearly “if it’s bigger than you are, run…” — the smaller seal invariably loses the argument, sometimes badly. Newborns are sometimes attacked by the adult males, but more often the males simply run over them if they don’t get out of the way. I saw a couple of cases of that Saturday — no significant injuries, but it had to hurt.
There are three primary sounds on the elephant seal beach: the adults make two primary sounds, one that sounds like a burp, and one that sounds like a fart. Now, imagine thousands of elephant seals all cramped together on a beach… the infants make a sound that more or less sounds like a malfunctioning car alarm.
The pups will stick around for some time after that learning to swim and building body strength, but the adult’s responsibility for them is now ended. Many don’t survive the first year. The males will molt and then head off into the waters again, so by March the beach will be mostly empty until the cycle starts again next fall.
After a few hours, we all headed off for some breakfast and chat, then I headed back to Morro Bay for an afternoon of serious birding.
All of my elephant seal images are now on my flickr account, or you can look at this slideshow:
Many thanks to Mike Baird and the Photomorrobay group for organizing this and letting me tag along…
Last weekend I went out on a day trip, starting out in Moss Landing and ending up exploring the by-roads of Monterey County. The primary purpose was to do some experimenting on some gear I’ve been meaning to get comfortable with — my Better Beamer flash extender, and my new intervalometer. Moss Landing was a good place for this because I knew I’d have subjects, they were convenient to the car, and the lighting conditions are challenging — unless it’s overcast, the sea lion dock is generally covered with partially backlit, glare-filled light.
Much to my surprise, we had a cousin visiting:
That’s not a California Sea Lion, it’s a Stellers Sea Lion. He’s a huge beast, too; look at him in comparison to some of the California Sea Lions you can see in the picture — he’s like 4x-6x the size and weight of those guys.
His presence there was notable enough to get a blurb in the papers. At that time, I wasn’t sure what I had, but someone on the birding lists from Elkhorn Slough clued me in (thanks!). He was evidently seen in the harbor last winter for a short time, and was around for a few days when I happened to be there as well — he’s since moved on again, it seems, and hasn’t been seen since Sunday.
So nice timing. This is a species that generally lives north of here, although there’s now a small breeding population at Ano Nuevo and another on the Farralons. While there, his primary activity was — sleeping. This was one of the rare times he actually sat up, and if it’s not obvious, he’s scratching an itch. And then he laid out and went back to sleep.
And yes, as you can probably tell from this image, the lighting was challenging. And I still have work to do on my flash technique, but it was good practice at dealing with the beast. Oh, and complete trivia: this is the first image I’ve published using Lightroom 4 and their new processing engine…
Look at the whiskers on that guy. They are significantly longer than the california sea lion’s head.