Saturday, November 5, 2011

Otter Treats

Look, we sighted a new sea otter mother and pup pair. This pair was scurrying about collecting candy all over the Moss Landing neighborhood. Moss Landing is one of the best places in the world to see real life sea otters and sea otter pups still with their mom. This sea otter enthusiast tours with Elkhorn Slough Safari regularly.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sea Otter Uses Bottle

Sea otters are known to be tool users, but this otter found a unique tool, check out the photos. It is a holiday weekend, so he grabbed a beer bottle to crack his clam open. Sure wish folks would discard their trash properly. Turned out that the clam was harder than the bottle and the bottle shattered when he smashed the clam. Luckly the otter did not get cut. He ended up using another clam shell to open his meal. We want to thank Elkhorn Slough Safari passenger G. Brouner for letting us post his "otter in action" photos on the blog.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Landward Sea Otter

Sea Otters at Elkhorn Slough exhibit an unusual behaviour for a sea otter. Our slough sea otters are known to haul out on land. Sometimes they rest on shore, groom on shore, and even collect food on shore. We have watched otters break apart the marsh sediment to expose and catch shoreline small crabs to eat. More than one otter does this on Elkhorn Slough. This is a photo by Captain Yohn of a sea otter sitting in the pickleweed while grooming.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Nursery Grounds

The Elkhorn Slough is the nursery and birthing grounds for many fishes. In the early summer there are hundreds of rays and sharks that give live birth in the slough. Most of these harmless invertebrate eaters are leopard sharks, bat rays, and smooth hound sharks. Often their fins are viewed in the summer shallows. The Captain lifted a leopard shark out of the water for a few minutes so that the passengers could get better look, and passenger C. Menke took this shot.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pelicans are Back!

The California brown Pelicans are a protected species of bird. They return from Mexico breeding grounds to Elkhorn Slough every June. The Elkhorn Slough provides the pelicans a major resting area during the summer. There can be over 6,000 birds in one area. Each morning they fly off to spots all over the slough and Monterey bay.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Nesting Birds

Late Spring and early Summer are great times to observe nesting birds and later their chicks on Elkhorn Slough. The most common nesters sighted while on the tour are gulls, egrets, herons and cormorants. The egret & heron rookery is up high in a grove of trees that overlooks the slough channel. The gulls seem to like manmade structures like broken docks, navigation signs, and buoys. The cormorants like to be surrounded by water and most nest near the entrance on abandoned pier pilings and decks. This photograph is of a Brandt's Cormorant sitting on its nest.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Swimming Lessons

We are excited to be watching harbor seal pups this spring. The first births were in March and there have been about three to four born per day. Births usually continue until the beginning of May. The wee ones call to their mothers with a soft bark that sounds like "mom", recognized by even human moms. This is a photo of a little one taking swimming lessons with its attentive mother by its side. It will be fun to watch them grow up over the next few months.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

First Time Ever

For the first time during nearly 17 years of Elkhorn Slough Safari tours, a Stellars Sea Lion was sighted during a tour. The subadult male was resting out of the water at the mouth of Elkhorn Slough. He was over two times larger than any of the California sea lions also resting there. Captain Yohn Gideon’s description, “The Stellars dwarfed all the other California Sea Lions, he was massive. He had a deep throaty growl, very unlike the barking of our familiar Calif sea lions.”
Stellar sea lions are a threatened species according to USFWS. They had a historic range to as far South as the Channel Islands. Male Steller sea lions can weigh up to 3,000 pounds, and females up to 770 pounds. Males are 10 to 12 feet long (they can be larger than a bear) and females average around 9 feet in length. Currently known from Northern California Coast and sometimes as far south as Ano Nuevo, this is quite rare for Elkhorn Slough or Moss Landing.
This photograph below lets you see how much larger he is than the Calif, sea lions. Photos by Captain Yohn Gideon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Harbor Seals

The Elkhorn Slough is a well known Harbor Seal resting and pupping area. From the tour we always see large numbers of these seals. This time of year we can "see" pregnant females. Their bellies get obviously swollen much like a woman's. Soon Spring will arrive and we will start to see seal pups on the slough. This seal group seems to be saluting us, however they are just keeping their flippers dry and warm as the tide rises around them.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pacific Flyway

The birds are starting to make their way North. All sorts of birds are stopping in to feed at the Elkhorn Slough "cafe" on route to return to nesting areas. The slough is packed with some very large flocks such as sandpipers, whimbrels, curlews, willets, godwits, and a variety of ducks. Other species are starting to grow fancy dress feathers for breeding time such as the fancy frilly crest feathers of the egrets. Grab your binoculars.