As many of you know, one of my daily activities is taking my golden retriever “Summer” down to Its Beach. This way we both have a chance to get some exercise, check out the action along the coast and keep our coats shiny. Of course while Summer is furiously paddling out thru the waves to retrieve the stick that I’ve thrown for the 50th time, I relax by counting crows and pelicans.
Anyway, for two weeks back in July there was an elephant seal hunkered down in the sand on Its Beach. It was a year and a half old female who for some reason decided to pick this spot to molt. Why, I don’t know because this beach is loaded with locals, tourists and dogs, many of whom are ignorant on how to behave around a marine mammal when it comes ashore. Here are a couple of simple tips-don’t kick it, throw tennis balls at it or let your dog play freeze tag with it.
Back in early summer lots of dead birds and marine animals had been washing up on beaches around Monterey Bay because of a algal bloom that was producing a powerful neurotoxin called domoic acid. The birds and marine mammals were thought to have been eating such fish as anchovies and sardines, which consume the algae and pass the toxins up the food chain. This particular elephant seal, who I nicknamed “Bobbie” was not a marine mammal in distress, just someone who wanted beach time and wasn’t going back in the water, despite hoards of people and dogs getting way too close to it. She actually left one Sunday morning but came back to the beach the next afternoon while I was there contemplating my life and the true meaning of the Neilson ratings. “Bobbie” pretty much spent her time moving up and down the beach with the flow of the tide, flipping sand on herself (shot #3) or barking at dogs that came to close (shot #4).
Speaking of barking, the fifth shot is a sea lion who I shot on one of the landings off the Municipal Wharf. The final shot was taken 25 miles north of Santa Cruz along the coast at Año Nuevo, which is the largest mainland breeding colony for northern elephant seals in the world. It is also where at certain times of the year 300 or so great white sharks wait out in deeper water for dinner and desert. Myself, I’m just happy with a little ice cream. Finally, on Sunday morning as I was driving along Delaware Avenue I spotted a coyote. It was a youngster and unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me as I hadn’t planned on taking any wildlife shots on my way back from Safeway. Big mistake. But more importantly remember, an elephant seal never forgets.