Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Weaners on the Move

The weaned pups, AKA weaners, are definitely in the majority on the local elephant seal beaches as March passes St. Patty's Day and the First Day of Spring.

Click here for more photos of weaners.

Even though you might see plenty of weaners sleeping away their hours preserving precious stores of mom's fatty milk, you will also see many of these eager and curious youthful elephant seals bouncing around the beaches interacting with one another and honing their water skills in tide pools, creeks and the shallows. They are very social and very alert as they explore everything around them, constantly verbally communicating and often staring curiously at passers-by, human or otherwise.

Click here to see video of weaner activity on land.

Click here to see weaner activity in the water.

Starting to join these social groups of weaners are the first of the tan-colored yearlings as well as two-and three-year-olds. Even quite a few of the brown-to-tan colored adult females have ventured ashore after having replenished the weight lost during birthing, nursing, and mating.

Click here to see photos of other elephant seal goings-on.

From late March through June, large groups of youngsters and adult females will be populating the beaches of Elephant Seal Land to get some R and R during their month long stay, with some of them looking rather ragged as they endure the molting process.

The molting that elephant seals experience on a yearly basis is known as a catastrophic molt because they completely shed their old fur once their new gray one becomes ready for use.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Time for a Change

March is a time of change for the elephant seals as the crowded, noisy beaches of January and February have become almost empty of adults with only a few late-birthing moms, and a few tired, skinny but hopeful males, as well as some recuperating males still hanging around. The remaining brown-looking adult males are resting up and pooping as they prepare to leave to regain their lost weight, and maybe their lost pride as well. The remaining exhausted females are all too anxious to leave the attentions of these tired but unrelenting-in-their-sexual-efforts males and quickly regain their lost weight so they can start to nourish the new fetus in preparation for the next birthing season.

Click here for some of the last photos of adult males and females.

For the most part, however, most of these mainly skinny-looking males sporting still-healing battle wounds of scratches and tooth-marks are recuperating from this rather different birthing and mating season.
( The females seemed to be unusually bitchy, while the males seemed to be lacking in sufficient testosterone. Thus making successful mating rather a difficult proposition. )

Click here for photos of some the last matings of this season.

Towards the end of February, I was very fortunate to witness an amazing feat of strength and stamina on the part of one alpha male that went on a highly successful raid on a neighboring harem. Because of the length of the events, I split the video into two parts. Part 1 shows the lengthy fight where he temporarily banishes the reigning alpha male. Part 2 shows his triple mating !

Click here to see a shortened video of this lengthy 20/25-minute fight that took place towards the end of February. ( Very unusual at this time of the season )

Click here to see video of the triple mating.

As March moves along, it's the time for the weaners ( as the weaned pups are called ) to start fending for themselves.

The weaners are fun to watch as they try tasting varying objects on the beach, practice swimming in the creeks and/or tide pools, bicker amongst themselves, and spend plenty of time sleeping, preserving their mom-given fat-rich nourishing milk.

Click here for photos of young elephant seal weaners and almost weaners.