From the Sublime to ... blubber? Thursday, 12/6/12
Great big blobs of blubber! When you're this close on the Central Coast, you HAVE to make a stop at the colony - The Piedras Blancas elephant seal colony, which is 4.4 miles north of Hearst Castle. Last time we were here in April '09, the beach was full of molting seals; they were lined up like cord wood on the sands. This time of year the pregnant females are arriving, with the first birth usually around Dec 20th. Darn it - we're too early! The beaches are crowded with seals from December thru February - more than 4,500 pups were born at the Piedras Blancas rookery in 2012. That's a lot of blubbery babies!
Here's some valuable information for you, compliments of the E-Seal News: Older males make the 5,000-mile trip to the Aleutian Islands twice a year, traveling along the continental shelf and feeding on bottom fish at about 2,000', tho dives to 5,000' have been recorded. Females and juveniles go north and northwest, but usually not as far as males. They feed on squid and fish. While they're at sea, the seals spend most of their time deep under water. They can stay down for over an hour and spend less than 15% of their time at the surface. The seals fast while at the Piedras Blancas rookery, living off all that blubber. See, I bet you learned something new....
At a vista point near the Northern Elephant Seal colony.
Elephant seals sharing the sand with sea gulls and spent bull kelp washed ashore. Before long, this entire beach will be jam-packed with seals. Notice the boardwalk that was installed for visitors? It also serves as protection for the seals. Docents in blue jackets are always nearby to answer questions. Even with our jackets on, a bone-chilling wind kept our visit short.
Female (left) and subadult male. These guys are SO big. Males can weigh between 3,300 and 5,100 pounds!
Look at the size of this thing!
A bellowing subadult male, exercising his roar. See the female on the right, resting in the depression?
The noise these big tanks make is unbelievable!
A San Simeon beach, close to the campground.
And - lo and behold! - on the other side of Hwy 1, on Hearst property, were the zebras (using maximum zoom - they weren't real close). They weren't hanging out with cattle this afternoon, tho we heard that's what they like to do. I'd call that slumming....
Tomorrow (Friday) we head for home. While we were away these past two weeks, we missed flooding rains that slammed Northern California (for which we are most grateful). But, now it's time to go home and make sure all is well (it was). What a great two weeks we had!