This family of Elephant Seals
Northern Elephant Seals “haul out” each winter at Año Nuevo State Park near Santa Cruz, Calif. to have their pups. The moms give birth to tiny, squeaky things and nurse them on milk full of fat stored during months of hunting out at sea. When they finish nursing, the young weaners must fend for themselves. Large male Elephant Seals sound a bit like plunging a clogged toilet. Watching them battle is reminiscent of scenes in Jurassic Park, albeit floppier.
This plump California Quail
Baby quail look like peanutshells with feet. They scurry after their parents, struggling to keep up on little peanut-twig legs. Eventually, they grow up to look like this handsome guy - large and in charge of the oak tree or chapparal scrub they call home. A California Quail call sounds like chi-CA-go. Their stylish headgear is called a plume or topknot. This regal gentleman clearly knows quality.
This Harbor Seal pup
It’s normal for Harbor Seal “rookeries” (birthing areas) along the coast to be closed to the public from Feb-Apr. Moms and pups can rest and not be disturbed by people or their unleashed pets that confuse the seals for dog-mermaids. Pups like to lie low while mom hunts for food - they probably haven’t been abandoned. It’s illegal for random heroic citizens to pick them up, cute as they may be. If mom hasn’t come back for a while, call a local wildlife center.
Red-Tailed Hawks make that “screaming eagle” noise everyone recognizes but doesn’t realize is a Red-Tailed Hawk. These two were swooping and chasing each other in Feb. 2012 at Harkins Slough in Watsonville, Calif. The nearby wetlands are a well-known birding spot, full of ducks, teals, coots, green herons, and various raptors like these.
Honeybee populations are declining worldwide. A phenomenon known as “colony collapse disorder” causes bees to become disoriented, disabled, and eventually die by the tens-of-thousands. Considering that humanity needs bees to pollinate much of the food we grow, this is problematic.
Governments, farmers, and researchers worldwide have cooperated on studies to isolate the causes and hopefully reverse the bees’ decline. Many think neonicotinoid pesticides are to blame, and some countries have banned them or restricted their use pending further study.
This Western Snowy Plover
Known for hunkering down in footprints and other precarious little divots in the sand, the Western Snowy Plover is a skittish little brown-and-white shorebird you barely notice until you’re right on top of them.
Listed as “threatened” (not endangered yet, but possibly soon), Snowies are one reason you might see beach dunes roped or fenced off in the summertime. The ropes help keep beach visitors and their pets from disturbing Plover nesting areas. Fencing, sometimes even above nests, helps protect plovers and other birds from natural predators.
The color bands help researchers identify and track specific birds. This one is big a University of Michigan fan, but asked me to clarify that he lives at Ft. Ord Dunes State Beach, so people there will know to watch their step.
Palo Corona Regional Park overlooks Carmel-By-The-Sea and Point Lobos State Park near Monterey, Calif. The park is on private property, only open by appointment or invitation such as with a scheduled tour run by County Parks. Similar public, private, and mixed land-use arrangements exist throughout Carmel Valley. Involving property owners and the public has helped to create recreation areas and a wildlife corridor through the Ventana Wilderness to Big Sur and beyond.
Striking the ideal balance between private property rights and conservation goals is a challenge with a contentious history in the Western U.S. Beach Cow tries to Steer clear of politics, preferring to chew quietly and enjoy the view. She seemed to think I might be able to help ranchers and surfer-hippies get along. She can’t, because she is a cow and cannot talk. She is a wise and lucky creature.
This ... uhhh ... jolly, jumping ... thing?
What is this little bouncy stingray thing? I took the photo at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 2013, but no longer have the details. It seemed very excited to see people, and bobbed up and down waving its little footsies.
There are so many odd and interesting things in the natural world to share with others ... That’s why I chose to build this - it was fun! I enjoy the idea that things I create can inform, or inspire excitement and curiosity about nature and the environment. Thanks for reading!