Saturday, December 25, 2010

High Tides, Alpha Males, Few Adult Females

Similar to last year, this winter's incoming tides have once again, been extremely high, completely covering many of the beaches coveted by the elephant seals for the birthing season. Unlike this time last year, though, our storms have been of the tropical rain-drenching kind from the south, mixing with some southward bound chilly northern fronts.

Maybe the change in weather pattern is the reason why there are currently fewer pregnant adult female elephant seals on shore this early in the birthing season than in years gone by. As a result, there have so far only been a handful of births.

In contrast, there seem to be many more large adult male elephant seals in the extreme heavy-weight class, who, so far, appear to be much more mellow toward each other than in previous years at this time. For the most part, they've hung up the do-not-disturb signs and have been spending much of their shore-time sleeping instead of engaging in their traditional bloody, dragged-out fights over territory.

For those who like the excitement of elephant seal fights, some sparring sub-adult males can still be spotted tussling away here and there.

The few remaining tan-to-gold colored youngsters are spending their time sleeping, half-heartedly participating in their mock fights, or moving as fast as their small bodies will allow out of the path of the amorous large males.

For more photos, click here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Giants Are Starting to Go into Action

The famed giants of the elphant seal world are starting to sleep less and become more active on shore as fight time draws near. In fact, even a few threat-claps can be heard at dusk as these huge males prepare themselves for the inevitable battles over territory.

In the meantime, sub-adult males continue their often quite ferocious dominance battles in the bays of the pocket beaches as well as on land. In fact, gangs of six to eight sub-adult males can often be seen working together to antagonize smaller elephant seals.

The pregnant females do their best to stay well away from the warring factions trying to get plenty of rest in anticipation of their fast approaching birthing and suckling season.

Surprisingly enough, there are still quite a few weaners and other youngsters still hanging around the beaches resplendent in their golden-colored fur.

For more photos, click here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

BIG Adult Male Elephant Seals Starting to Show Up


Taking a well-deserved nap

As the Fall Haul-Out heads to its close for this year, a smattering of the large adult male elephants seals can already be seen sleeping and snoring on several of the beaches along the central California coast.

So far, the bloody and sometimes protracted fights for territory have not yet begun. This may in part be due to the fact that these huge males are quite exhausted from their almost continual search for food while at sea and need to sleep so they can recoup their massive strength. Another contributory fact might be that there are so few adult males here this early that territory is not yet an issue.

Quite a few pregnant females can also be observed resting on the beaches along with the remaining sparring sub-adult males as well as more than a few left-over weaners and two- and three-year-old youngsters.

The fur of these youngsters, which has changed to a beautiful golden or pale tan color, will be shed during next year's molting season.

Most of the elephant seals look well-fed this year, and their fur lacks the blemishes of last year. Also, the amount of cookie-cutter shark bites seems less than in time gone by.

As the days in December roll by, more and more adult males will be coming ashore and the showdowns for territory will take place more and more frequently until the pregnant females arrive and start to give birth, with the first births coming maybe as early as the middle of December.

To see more photos, click here.