An elephant seal beachmaster defends his harem at Ano Nuevo State Reserve.
This was probably the largest alpha male that we saw on this trip, and he was a real brute. You can see how the chest shield of scar tissue that forms during their brutal battles extends nearly around the back of his neck, which means that he has done some serious fighting throughout his life. His reward for this is to be the chief protector and only mate of a harem of ladies.
In the above shot, he is moving at full tilt to fend off another male intruder. One of the females in the harem was calling loudly for a few minutes to alert the alpha male that she was uncomfortable with this newcomer, and once he decided to respond he moved quite quickly through the harem. The challenger was behind the dune from where we were standing, but apparently backed down since we didn't get to see a fight, and the alpha male then settled down for a nap where he stopped. Watching him move his huge mass so quickly was really awesome, he is surely a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, he was moving too fast for my shutter speed in the overcast light, and this was the only sharp frame I got of his burst.
This is a more traditional shot of the beachmaster, and why they call them elephant seals. It really shows off his long proboscis which is covered in scars from his battles and his serious chest shield. It is truly an awesome experience to be in their presence, and especially on the beach with them. A trip to Ano Nuevo State Reserve is a must for any wildlife lover in the area!