November 13, 2011

Those Sea Lion Eyes

Good morning and greetings, fall color fans. The wide variety of morning light was in full effect along the coast this past week, as I shot my first sunrise of the fall in true living color. The following day I awoke to dark clouds on the horizon, but an hour later the sun briefly broke through to cast out a glow that was simply brilliant. What makes it so special is that this light will shine for just a few magic moments, and then vanish faster than Herman Cain can say, “It simply did not happen.”

Santa Cruz once again made the national news last week, as NBC’s Brian Williams talked about the continuing whale activity in our area, although he led into the story with, “In the waters off of the Southern California coast…” We’ll given Brian a pass on that as he makes mistakes about as often as I leave my feet on defense. The story was in reference to paddlers, kayakers and Penn State alumni getting too close to the gigantic creatures. Much like myself at the Burning Man, they need their space for self-espression.

I had spent some time the previous week out on the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, checking out the humpback whales that were feeding offshore. I had hoped to score a few photos for the blog, but unfortunately they were too far out for me to capture the true essence of the moment, as they were breaching while lunge feeding in the midst of a frenzy of anchovies activity. Despite being a product of a breeched birth, my breaching photos weren’t quite what I was hoping for, or to paraphrase the words of Mandy Pepperidge from “Animal House, “Otter, don’t flatter yourself. They weren’t that great.”

But you can see in today’s first photo a couple of humpbacks spouting off through their blowholes, while the gulls were screaming and the onlookers so close that they could could scrape the barnacles off the whale’s ipads. Compared to what’s been featured in the local and national press, this photo wasn’t quite worthy of Whales Illustrated or Humpback Monthly.

However, there was some good news as when you venture out onto the wharf you never know what you’ll see besides the daily specials at Gilda’s. Had the freshly caught tri tip and scalloped potatoes on Tuesday and they were spectacular. This deal also includes white clam chowder, which always reminds me of the way my mother never made it back in the old country.

Anyway, as I approached the end of the wharf in search of photographic greatness, I could see from the humpback’s location that there were not going to be any Moby Dick moments. But instead, to my delight and amazement, appearing right below me in the chilly Pacific waters were a colony of sea lions, just relaxing and floating on top of the water. There were at least 100 of these beautiful marine mammals, so I took advantage the moment and shot away like Ansel Adams at a bar mitzvah, because as I’ve mentioned before, this is another one of those events that happens only at the edge of the continent. It’s the magic at the edge, like when Darryl Hannah came ashore in “Splash.”

One of the more amazing things about the sea lions is that no matter where I am on the west side, I can hear them barking. Being that my hearing is not quite that of a mature fruit bat, I spend a good part of the day asking the question “What?” Yet, the sea lions will be barking from over two miles away, and I can hear them as clearly as the doctor telling my parents, “it’s a boy and he’s a spitting image of Clark Gable.”

Finally, for Ano Nuevo fans, I included a shot (#2) of the elephant seal colony at Piedras Blancas. Much like the sea lions that hang out under the wharf, any intrepid photographer can just drive up, park the car and snap away at these sleeping pinnipeds. You would think that you’d have to motor up to some exotic locale out of National Geographic or the Animal Planet, but these elephant seals are lounging and texting right off the Pacific Coast Highway.

No one is quite sure why back in 1990 these lovable marine mammals took up residence in this central coast location, but it certainly a great way for visitors to top off a drive through Big Sur. Well, either that or playing hide-and-go-seek at Hearst Castle. I’ve always felt a certain kinship with the elephant seals, as I too, was nearly hunted to extinction for my oil-rich blubber.

On to the late night. “One of the Herman Cain women was paid $35,000 and another was paid $45,000, so he’s saying it just proves he can create high-paying jobs for women. I’d like to see the women and find out what the $10,000 difference was. Turns out 999 was just his rating system: she’s a 9, she’s a 9, she’s a 9. Of course, Cain still doesn’t get it. Like he said he will address all these charges at a press conference tomorrow at Hooters.” –Jay Leno

“There’s a fifth woman that claims to have had a problem with Herman Cain. If this keeps up, it seems very unlikely he will be president, although it seems more and more likely he will become governor of California.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Herman Cain held a press conference to address the sexual harassment accusations coming out of the woodwork. Incidentally, his woodwork coming out is one of the things he’s accused of.” –Stephen Colbert

“Last night the Occupy Oakland protest got out of hand. Demonstrators broke windows, hurled Molotov cocktails and chunks of concrete. Police said it was the worst riot in Oakland since every Raiders home game. “There was some trouble last night in Oakland after the Occupy Oakland protests. They had trouble breaking the crowd up because every time they fired bean bags at them, they started playing hackey sack with them.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“According to a new poll, 42 percent of Americans say they are uncomfortable with the idea of having a Mormon president. When asked why, the people said, ‘We’re still getting used to having a Muslim president.’” –Conan O’Brien “Herman Cain is also taking some flack for saying that China was developing nuclear weapons, but they’ve had them since the 60′s. I don’t think he’s that well versed on foreign affairs. Today a reporter asked him how he would handle Greece and he said he would put an extra layer of wax paper under the pizza before you put it in the box.” –Jay Leno

So that’s our mid-November report. The NBA lockout is still in effect, so I’m able to focus my attention on more important things like college hoops. And if you’re a waterfowl fan, 5 million ducks, geese, shorebirds and Philadelphia eagles have just arrived in the greater Bay Area and Sacramento Valley for their annual convention. It should be quite the visual treat in wetland marshes at Thanksgiving time, especially if you don’t mind seeing 500,000 snow geese lift off at once. We’ll catch you running the quarterback draw. Aloha, mahalo and later, Tim Tebow fans.


  1. Quit complaining about our barking. We don’t badmouth your snoring.

    Comment by Lion King — November 15, 2011 @ 12:38 am

  2. “so close that they could could scrape the barnacles off the whale’s ipads”
    “whales illustrated”
    “the way my mother never made it”
    very funny. gotta love those heart shaped noses.

    Comment by Ralphs Best Friend — November 15, 2011 @ 10:21 pm

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