Lions and Elephants and Otters, Oh My!
Okay, perhaps the title of this post is a little deceptive. Some of you may be thinking this is another post about Loxo the Elephant, but you would be mistaken. (Although, if you haven’t kept up with the developing Loxo, I highly recommend you pay him a visit at home or on Facebook!) The title more correctly refers to Sea Lions, Elephant Seals and Sea Otters, but that seemed too wordy and descriptive. This post actually builds upon last week’s trip to the Pacific coast of California (see Long John Silver Slept Here, for the first installment), featuring some of the landscapes and wildlife encountered between Morro Bay and the Monterey Bay. We wound our way up the Pacific Coast Highway (US Highway 1) on a splendid day, filled with sunshine and mist from the ocean. For those of you who have never traveled this route, let it suffice to say that this is not a place to be if you are in a hurry. On the other-hand, if sight-seeing and enjoying the splendor of God’s Creation appeals to you, put this destination on your to-do list!
The image below will give you a glimpse of what the landscape along this portion of the coastline is like.
I had some phone calls to make, so Leah spent about an hour combing the beach at Morro Rock collecting sand dollars and sea shells. Afterwards, we wandered the wharf, taking in the sites and smells that are so unlike home at Montana. Most of the anticipated shorebirds were in plentiful supply as we traipsed our way around the docks, warehouses and shops.
We stopped in Cambria for lunch at the Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill, and I can give a hearty recommendation for their Moonstone Chowder (clam chowder in a sourdough bowl). However, make sure to fill your gas tank well-before arriving here, as their fuel was a full dollar per gallon higher than either San Luis Obispo or Monterey!
Not too far north of Cambria, at Point Piedras Blancas, there is a beach inhabited by a multitude of elephant seals. Having done virtually no research on what to anticipate on this trip, we were delighted to discover this popular tourist site. There were at least several hundred of these critters sunning themselves and sparring for space in the sand. One particular young elephant seal was barking and nudging at an adult female, which we guessed to be it’s mother. The youngster became annoying enough that “mom” finally barked back, and silenced the pup quickly!
Male elephant seals can grow to 15 feet long and weigh over 5000 lbs, so it was no surprise that this female let out a loud scream when the adult male ran over her!
Many years ago, I remember watching a television documentary showing male elephant seals doing battle for breeding ground. As large as these animals are, it is amazing how well they can “stand up” to fight, which consists of slamming their tusks into the foes neck. Far across the beach, a couple adult males were engaged in such a battle, and third eagerly joined in the games.
To the victor, go the spoils; but there is always a price to pay. The battle scars manifest in large callous patches along the neck, as shown on this male.
Arriving in Monterey, we were greeted by the ever-present Sea Lions. As in common for these animals, they often perch on buoys and socialize in the groups near the shoreline.
Walking along the shore at Pacific Grove, we encountered a Sea Otter enjoying a fresh shellfish breakfast. You may notice that he sports orange and yellow tags, as this endangered species is being closely studied as the population recovers.
Rounding out this portion of our travels were a couple birds that were first-time sightings for us. Leah was quick to notice a visit by a Black Turnstone that was picking its way through the rocks. The color of this bird allows it to blend in with the dark rocks, and become fairly inconspicuous.
A “gulp” of Brandt’s Cormorants was taking in the morning sun, and I was really taken by their bright blue throats and wispy,white plumes adorning their bodies.
And finally, another gulp of cormorants setting on rocks amid the incoming surf. They seemed to enjoy the regular spray of salt water from the crashing waves.
The Psalmist wrote, “This great and wide sea, In which are innumerable teeming things, Living things both small and great,” Psalms 104:25. Indeed, God created the seas to benefit mankind in numerous ways. Not only are these bodies of water a useful means of conveyance, they also play an intimate role is seasonal weather patterns, a source of food and industry, and abound in the beauty and magnificence of the Master’s hand. For all the space that oceans occupy across the globe, God did not create them in vain; they were created to be inherited by man for our service. As the products of His creation, He cares for us and seeks to guide us in our lives – we should do the same for what we inherit from Him. Our proper stewardship of the blessings He allows us, is a way we can show respect, reverence and gratitude to Him.
- Elephant Seals (hikercarl.wordpress.com)
- Sea otters face a growing threat: shark attacks (mercurynews.com)