Mar052015

Point Lobos is my mistress

Point Lobos is my mistress. At least that is what my wife claims. She accuses me at times of spending more time with Point Lobos in her part of the woods than here at home in our part of the woods. That is not true in fact. But, perception is 9/10ths of the facts. Point Lobos State Nature Reserve on the central coast of California is located a couple miles south of Carmel, between Carmel and Big Sur about 125 miles south of San Francisco.

Born to be Wild

Yesterday, I returned to Point Lobos to search for the mama otter who birthed twins last week. The more I thought about the incident over the past week, the more questions I have. The backstory is I saw an infographic last week on the Point Lobos website showing birth seasons for different animals around the park. Sea Otters showed peak season for February. I decided I would search for sea otter pups at Point Lobos Thursday morning, February 26. Beyond my wildest expectations I came across newborn sea otter pup twins.

Loyalty Traveler –  Rare sea otter twin pups at Point Lobos State Reserve (Feb 27)

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is called the “crown jewel of the State Park System. The coastal, mostly undeveloped park is seven miles south of my place in Monterey, California.

The website http://www.pointlobos.org/ is better for more up-to-date happenings at Point Lobos like the birth of sea otter twins last week and the rescue of one of the abandoned pups by Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Twin sea otter pup rescued at Point Lobos – KSBW news.

Sea otter twins-3

Sea otter with twin pups born February 26, 2015. One of these pups was abandoned and rescued by Monterey Bay Aquarium as otter pup 696.

 

I happened upon a sea otter and pup within minutes of my arrival to Point Lobos last week and perhaps within minutes of the sea otter twins birth. The sound of a sea otter pup crying is one I have heard before. Just as I spotted the pup in the small cove north of Coal Chute Point, mama otter swimming toward the pup snatched it up and onto her chest. I was surprised the mama sea otter went directly to the rocks and pulled the pup onto wave splashed rocks. After the events that unfolded this past week, it might be that she placed the two pups on the rocks just after birth to catch her breath and figure out what to do with two pups? Within a minute she carried the pups back to the sea and loaded them on her chest and abdomen for the swim across Whalers Cove to calm water near the scuba divers parking lot. I photographed mama otter with her twins for an hour until about noon and went home.  My photos saddened me as I looked at one of the pups hanging on to mama after the journey across Whalers Cove, looking water logged and worn out like Leonardo diCaprio’s character Jack, hanging on to Rose near the end of the movie Titanic.

Later that day, an abandoned male pup was rescued at Whalers Cove by the Sea Otter Research and Conservation SORAC team at Monterey Bay Aquarium. Sea otter pup #696 is living in the Monterey Bay Aquarium now. I think I’ll call him ‘Lucky Jack’.

I located mama and her remaining pup yesterday between two other single sea otters floating in Whalers Cove, Point Lobos. I had photographed two other otters last week moments before coming upon mama sea otter with twins. These four souls seem to be the current resident sea otters for Whalers Cove.

Mom otter and pup

Sea otter and remaining pup seen March 5 in Whalers Cove, Point Lobos State Nature Reserve.

 

Mama otter seen March 4 with her remaining female pup (born Feb 26) resting on her chest under her chin floating restfully in Whalers Cove, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

Gray Whales are passing by Monterey Bay

The gray whales are heading north past Monterey on their way back from Mexico to Alaska. Yesterday afternoon was the offshore northern express for whales with pairs and small pods of whales seen all along the coast. I spotted around ten whales. They did not seem to be in any hurry swimming north. The abundance of flukes and flippers sticking out of the ocean surface gave the appearance of playtime on the migratory travel circuit.

Whales

Whale flukes and flippers sticking out of ocean past Sea Lion Point rocks, Point Lobos State Nature Reserve.

 

Beyond the rocks two whales sticking their body parts out of the water.

A website I check to see the gray whale migration notes from Palos Verdes viewpoint in Los Angeles helps with determining what is happening off the Monterey County coast. The American Cetacean Society Los Angeles Chapter records the number of whales seen passing Los Angeles from the cliffs at Palos Verdes.

ACS-LA 2015 census

ACS/LA whale census graphic shows the relative number of whales southbound and northbound on Alaska-Mexico annual migration.

 

ACS/LA has counted 354 whales heading northbound so far this year and only spotted one calf. The mama gray whales and calves leave Mexico later in the season after the calves have fattened up on milk. Calves should be passing Monterey in the next six to ten weeks.

Normally the sighting of so many whales traveling slowly along the coast and making a spectacle with all their body movements out of the water would be feature entertainment for the Point Lobos live action reality show.

Sea Otter Pup drama ends and Harbor Seal Pup drama begins

Sea Lion Point offered high drama in the afternoon. The trail to the beach at Sea Lion Point has been closed for more than a month as sea lions congregate there this winter.

Sea Lion Point

Sea Lion Point at Point Lobos State Nature Reserve with hundreds of sea lions on the beach.

 

The vantage point on the bluff around 100 feet above the sea is a great photographic spot. My head was abuzz from all the whale sightings. I arrived to a new buzz among eight or so people about something in the cove.

An older man standing next to me with an iPad pointed out a white harbor seal pup on the rocks, born a few minutes before. The part of the story I don’t know is why mama harbor seal was in the ocean and pup left alone on the rocks?

The problem was low tide. This was around 3:00pm and low tide was not until 4pm. The sea level where mama seal was swimming was some four feet below the rock outcrop tidepool where baby seal pup was left alone.

seal pup-1

Newborn harbor seal pup in tide pool, while mama seal in water at low tide is unable to reach her pup on the rocks.

 

Seal pup lying in tide pool on rocks four to six feet above sea level at low tide. Seagulls are eating the seal’s birth sac. A white snowy egret is checking out the scene while mama seal finds herself unable to get back on the rock at low tide.

There was a discussion an hour earlier with a male visitor in a different part of the park when I was photographing whales. The man questioned if turkey vultures flying overhead were condors and if the ravens on a rock in the distance were turkey vultures? My previous sentence gives you my opinion on what I thought the birds were.

turkey vultures

Several turkey vultures arrive within minutes of the seal pup birth to devour birth sac left on the rocks. Vultures do not disturb the living seal pup.

Turkey vultures zoomed in on the seagull activity and moved in with dominance to devour the remains of the seal pup’s birth sac.

Some 15 minutes passed since I arrived and all the people who witnessed the seal pup birth left Sea Lion Point. The live action seemed like it might turn into a horror film until the turkey vultures left the scene without disturbing the living seal pup.  Little pup just lay there the way harbor seals do. Every few minutes he shifted his weight and moved his body an inch or two in the tidepool water. His little flippers were like a newborn’s arms and were not capable of lifting him at all to move across the rocks.

Mama seal made another strong attempt to reach pup. She reached only enough height to see her pup laying in a pool of water eight feet away.

Seal mama

Mama seal can get high enough to see her pup, but can’t climb rocks to reach seal pup at low tide.

 

I stuck around for an hour. Seal pup made attempts to move, but moved only a couple of inches with each effort. The pup never cried and I did not hear any sound from mama seal. Unlike the barking and boisterously loud sea lions on the nearby beaches and rocks, harbor seals are quiet animals. Pup feeding season is the primary time you hear harbor seals vocalize. Newborn harbor seal pup simply lay there in the tide pool, eyes open…waiting, unable to see mama.

Other park visitors walked by, couples smiled and took photos of the hundreds of sea lions and selfies from the cliffs with an ocean backdrop. Below a newborn pup waited, quietly, patiently, its entire view of life up to that point being several large vultures and seagulls walking around the rocks.

Mama was swimming in the water below the rocks when I left Sea Lion Point.

High tide was 10pm last night.

Seal pup-2

Seal pup alone in the tide pool as I left the area of Point Lobos State Nature Reserve. Mama seal must wait still several hours for high tide to reach her pup again.

 

The outcome of this seal pup is unknown to me. The pup looked healthy and six or seven hours separated from mama was probably not life-threatening.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. I was there on a trip about a year and a half ago and I certainly see why you get back whenever you can. Unfortunately for me it was just a one night stand.

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