We just returned from a brief trip up the beautiful California Central Coast for our yearly family reunion. I would have told you about it in advance, but it’s generally not a good idea to publicly announce that somewhere around fifty of my family members have all vacated their homes for a long weekend.
I’ve shared this beautiful rock before. We gather in the city of Morro Bay, a beautiful seaside village with the central feature being this marvelous 576 foot high volcanic plug.
I had only one other “must see” for the weekend. It was important to me to go just a few miles north of Morro Bay and to stop along Highway 1 at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. More than 17,000 elephant seals call the rookery home. When we caught up with them last September during their mating season, they were gathering by the thousands.
We had hoped to make another trip in late January to see the pups, but it just didn’t happen. Maybe next year. The elephant seals migrate thousands of miles to this secluded sandy beach twice a year for breeding, birthing and molting.
We found the population quite a bit smaller this visit, but we could witness some of the molt.
Elephant Seals shed their skin as they grow, much like a snake, molting after the breeding season. During this time they cannot enter the ocean as they are missing necessary insulation.
Judging by the small beached population, we were definitely late to witness the molting season.
Do you see the kelp beds out beyond the rocks? According to one of the volunteers, the kelp beds help protect these majestic mammals from their enemy, the Great White shark. The elephant seal can dive to 5,000 feet and stay as long as an hour, providing a good defense, but the kelp helps provide a natural barrier.
Sophia and Karina were genuinely interested in these noisy and oddly moving creatures, and I hope we can make a return trip later this fall to visit with them when once again they number in the thousands.
Care to take a look at them through an EsealCam? The non-profit organization, Friends of the Elephant Seal, provides the live camera and depending on the time of year, you could get quite a show.
Click HERE if you’re interested in seeing what they’re up to–just remember to coordinate your visit with California’s Pacific Standard Time! I just checked on them and presumably they were sleeping. I’ll see them again in the morning.
Nature has provided us with some amusing–really quite funny looking creatures, don’t you agree?