29 January 2011

Elephant seals

Our New Year's trip to California included - true to habit - a drive along a stretch of Pacific coastline and - likewise true to habit - a stop just outside of San Simeon. Here is a beach which is popular with Northern Elephant Seals (which have previously mentioned briefly).

Despite having stopped at this particular beach numerous times in the past this was our first time stopping there around New Year. We hadn't been there very long before we sensed that this was a very special time of the year: Excited cheers from the crowd of (human) onlookers and a sudden intensification of the activity amongst the gulls on the beach is apparently the typical way of welcoming a newborn elephant seal.

Newborn elephant seals weigh a 'mere' 60-80 lbs and their skins looks funnily wrinkled and loose, but over the 4 weeks of nursing they can grow to 300 lbs after which their skin looks much smoother ('filled out' in a sense) like on the adult elephant seals.

At that time the pup is left behind by the mother who mates again before going out to sea. In anticipation of mating the large males are busy during this time marking their territories on the beach.

After watching the elephant seals we seated ourselves in the rental car to eat a bit of bread before driving further. There was a bright gull who appeared to know that humans in car with bread meant there might be a chance of getting a bite - so we had company watching us intently through the windscreen from the bonnet until we started the engine and pulled out of the lot.

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