Showing posts with label ano nuevo state reserve. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ano nuevo state reserve. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Elephant seal for the new year, Año Nuevo State Reserve

Photograph of a bull elephant seal under an overcast sunset at Año Nuevo State Reserve

For my first post of the new year, I thought I'd dig into the archives to celebrate one of my favorite January traditions while living in California -- the northern elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Reserve. There's nothing quite like seeing these beasts hauled out on the beach, and I definitely miss being an easy car ride away from the spectacle. These two frames are of the beachmaster of loser's beach in January 2011. After successfully charging a rival seal back into the water he reared back and roared before settling back into the sand.

Photograph of an elephant seal resting on the beach at Año Nuevo State Reserve

View more photographs of elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Reserve


Thursday, March 11, 2010

A pup's life

Around this time of year at Año Nuveo State Reserve, most of the adult northern elephant seals have gone back to sea, and all that's left are the weaners (the term applied to the young seals that have been weaned and left behind to fend for themselves). The shots in this post are from when the seals are much younger, only a few days after they are born in January. Our annual winter trip was full of babies this time, and it was great to be on the ground-level with them.

Its tough being a pup

When these cute little pups are born they're jet black, weigh around 75 pounds, and live on a diet of their mother's very rich milk (over half of it is fat). In the 28 days or so that they nurse they'll gain around 10 pounds a day and weigh upwards of 350 pounds when they are weaned. This is an incredible growth spurt, and it is quite taxing on the mother who fasts during her entire stay.

Lunchtime

And while all of that growing might seem a bit tiring...

Cute scratcher

...its not all about lounging on the beach, feasting, and looking cute. After those relatively easy first four weeks their mothers will disappear back into the ocean, and the pups are very suddenly weaned. At this point they are completely on their own, and need to figure out how to swim, and even how to eat.

Mom, baby, and dad (?)

By the end of April the self-taught pups will follow their instinct and head out to sea. Amazingly, they'll all individually head north to feed along the coast and won't touch land again until they return to this same beach in September.

Elephant seal hug

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Resting giant

Sleeping giant

By now, most of the large male elephant seals are likely back out at sea, where they'll stay without coming back to land until sometime in July. This shot is from my trip to Ano Nuevo State Reserve in January, and is of a sleepy large male along the loser's beach in the park. Since these guys are usually thought of as big ugly aggressive beasts, I like to show their more mellow side -- and really, they spend most of their time resting anyway. In this shot, I like how clearly you can see their eyebrows, which is a clear patch of nine fat hairs.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blackbirds at Ano Nuevo

Brewer's blackbird ready for takeoff

I'm going back through all of my unposted shots from a January trip to see the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo State Reserve in hopes of putting together a post about the pups, and remembered that I took a few frames of these curious blackbirds as we waited for our tour to start. These birds seem to hang around the picnic areas there, and were happy to land on posts only a few yards away.

Red-winged blackbird

I really like the pose in this shot (it looks sort of like he's mid-dance), although I wish the head was turned just a bit more so it was brighter.

Blackbird shuffle

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Elephant seal flippers

Flipper abstraction

While on the beach with these guys, I spent a fair amount of time at the longest range of my zoom trying to work for some intimate portraits. Mostly I was focused on the faces of the old males and their wonderful big nose and textured chest shields. However, their flippers have always intrigued me as well.

Flipper-nails

They have five fingers within their flipper and each ends in a tiny little "flipper-nail" (for lack of a better term). While at first glance it seems to beg the question of why they would still evolutionarily need nails at the end, it does appear that they are good for scratching an itch upon occasion (although, one would think there might be a better reason as well).

Scratch that itch

It's really interesting to watch them use their flipper, as you can see that their bone structure really must be similar to ours, where there are multiple knuckles in their "fingers".

Friday, January 15, 2010

Relaxing on the beach

A quick post for this shot of another smaller male elephant seal taking a break on the much quieter Cove Beach of Ano Nuevo State Reserve. This beach is outside of the official wildlife protection area, meaning that for the seals its much quieter since there are only a few of them, and for the humans, it means that you can go to this beach without a guide. On the times we've gone in the past two years, there have been a handful of males, most of them smaller than the beachmasters ruling the harems in the official area, that appear to be happy to have a quiet beach to themselves.

Photograph of a northern elephant seal relaxing on the beach

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Protecting the Harem

An elephant seal beachmaster defends his harem at Ano Nuevo State Reserve.

Chasing down the challenger

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.

King among his harem

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!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Elephant seal after dusk

Elephant seal at dusk

I'll begin my series of elephant seals from our weekend trip to Ano Nuevo State Reserve with a few shots that were taken right at the end of our terrific trip. After our late afternoon tour we went back down to "Losers Beach" to spend the final minutes of light with some big brutes that usually camp out there. We had a chance to watch a younger guy displaying his toughness for a while, and as the last bit of light slipped out from behind the clouds and below the horizon I took a few final shots of this beast who was right near the stairs from the beach.

Elephant seal after sunset

My wife had a lens with a wider zoom range, and she took some wonderful shots of the seals as part of their environment. Here's one of my favorites, with the last sliver of sunset included.

Last sliver of light