Faces Only a Mom Could Love

December 25, 2018 at 7:30 pm (California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) ()

Elephant Seal bull calling out a challenge

I’m recovering from a 3-week bout of acute bronchitis and needed to get my nature fix, so I spent Christmas Eve day visiting some of my favorite spots on the Central California Coast.

The Elephant Seal Rookery at San Simeon is seeing some early action during the winter breeding season, but there were far more bulls than maternity patients. Since there weren’t too many ladies to fight over, many of them enjoyed sprawling on the sand catching a few winks, their gnarly snouts wiggling as they snored.

There were occasional challenges, however, with heads thwacking and teeth slashing before one – usually the younger, smaller bull – backing down. The more grotesque the “trunk” and the thicker the neck, the more powerful the bull. Some young males choose to tangle with someone their own size, waiting for the day they can claim mating privileges.

Bellowing bull

Frankly, they look more like hippopotami (hippopotamuses?) to me.

The few moms on the beach had newborn pups squawking amid the din of barks and bellows. They will soon fatten on rich milk and will be joined by hundreds more moms and pups on the beach.

Watch the video and hear the racket!

The rookery is a very popular place, and many languages of amazement and awe were heard on the boardwalk that allows for safe viewing. Docents are often on hand to educate visitors and make sure they don’t bother the seals. The morning was stunningly warm. I’ve been at the coast on summer afternoons that were colder than this December morning! Oddly, rain came in before sunset.

Clash of the Titans

The birthing and breeding season will peak in January and February, and many elephant seals haul out on smaller beaches nearby. As with all marine mammals, care must be taken not to harass them by getting close to them. It’s bad manners, and also against the law. Enjoy them, respect them, and protect them.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

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