Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Lighthouses and elephant seals

Today we traveled from one lighthouse hostel to another. We're currently staying in the grounds of the Pigeon Point lighthouse, one of the tallest lighthouses in America. This afternoon we attempted rockpooling (or tidepooling as they call it here) again, but the tide just wasn't low enough. We did see a lot of sea anenomes clinging to the rocks like barnacles. From beside the lighthouse we spotted harbour seals lounging on the rocks, and raising their heads and tails in the air when waves were approaching. We also spotted two, maybe even three migrating grey whales on their southbound journey.

Elephant seals were however the main attraction of the day. At 10.30a.m. we left from the Ano Nuevo State Park visitor centre on a 'docent' guided tour to the elephant seal colony. In November/December the huge male elephant seals return to shore and begin sparring with each other. The females arrive in December, shortly before giving birth. The dominant males establish large harems of females. About four weeks after birth the pups are weaned and left to fend for themselves, while the female seals mate and return to the sea. Usually by now they would be seeing pups already born at Ano Nuevo, but this year the females seem to be late to come ashore.

Our walk led us to the dunes, to viewing areas and right between sleeping males. We didn't see any pups, but some heavily pregnant females and many many males, some huge with large proboscises. The males make a tremendous bellowing sound. more to follow...

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