Friday, February 4, 2011
A large bull elephant seal glancing my way at Año Nuevo State Reserve. This big bloke didn't seem to mind us being on the beach with him, which is no surprise since he received a steady stream of visitors, but he periodically wanted to check where we were. For these shots, he was turned to face the trail that came down to the beach, and was displaying as new visitors arrived around the bend (I suppose he wanted to make it clear that he's the owner of this territory). After showing off for them, he often would glance back our way to make sure that he knew where we were. There was one time when my wife had gone a bit further down the beach to check out the really cool fossil-filled rocks there, and he glanced over backwards like this in my direction. When he saw only me, he noticeably started scanning the beach until his gaze found her location, and then he put his head down and closed his eyes again. Just keeping tabs on the visitors in his domain, I suppose.
It's fascinating to see such a large animal like this (the northern elephant seal is the second largest seal species in the world, smaller than only the southern elephant seal) be so flexible. It's not so surprising to see the much smaller harbor seal contort its back, or certainly a California seal lion, but it's pretty incredible to see one of these brutes bend over backwards.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
A late afternoon walk along Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore on an overcast Sunday was a real treat a few weekends ago. I first encountered a collection of perhaps 10 or so snowy plovers all hanging out in the same spot. Its always fun to watch them sprint between footprints in the sand before settling down into one for a bit. And while I was filling up a memory card on those adorable shorebirds, I didn't even realize that a huge flock of sanderlings (with a handful of western sandpipers too) had landed less than 100 ft behind me. So needless to say it was a great surprise to have creeped away from the snowy plovers only to finally stand up again before realizing the scene before me and heading back to the prone position. There was certainly at least 75 birds in this flock, and at this time they seemed to be in relaxation and preening mode.
Trying to pick out a single bird to accent was sort of difficult, as they were constantly scurrying about (even while appearing restful they almost never stop) and changing places. However, I did happen to have my lens on the right bird at the right time on a few occassions, to get some shots with a more interesting pose than just a standing sanderling.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
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.
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).
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".