Saturday, May 19, 2012

Adult Female Bonding

As May passes the mid-way mark, many of the adult females that have been quietly resting and bonding with other female beach-goers on their chosen female-only central California beaches have recently picked up the pace of their usual bickering and jostling.

Since resuming their argumentative tactics, I've been afforded numerous opportunities to capture many close-up photos immortalizing the amazing mouth and tongue actions of these feisty females.
Click here for these fascinating photos.

Now that most of the females have already shed their old and dried-out brown-colored fur, it seems as though the time is fast approaching for them to go fishing sporting their brand new sleek gray fur. Maybe their aggressive behavior signals that they're psyching themselves up in preparation for the tough hunting times in their immediate future.

Click here for photos of their current behavior.

If the scientists are correct, then all of these masses of adult females are pregnant once again, and the fetuses that they carry will now rapidly start to grow as the females get their fill of plenty of good seafood in their Pacific hunting grounds.

Even though scientists are of the belief that elephant seals don't eat when they come to the central coast of California, the strong fishy smell emanating from them is often very prevalent when they first come ashore. Judging by this fishy smell and my observations of the searching/hunting behavior elephant seals exhibit in the shallow coastal waters coupled with watching them snack on tide-pool inhabitants as well as seaweed strongly suggests to me that elephant seals do indeed eat, at least a little, while here.

Click here for video of female action.

As the females are readying themselves to 'push off', the sub-adult males are starting to show up but are remaining offshore well away from the nipping, feisty females. Instead of trying to share the beach with these aggressive females, they're choosing to stay a little ways out as they relax and keep track of who's approaching by doing their bottling maneuvers. ( Bottling is floating and keeping their noses pointing skyward. )

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Masses of Rag-Tag Elephant Seals Occupy Central Coast Beaches

With most of this year's weaners having left in search of much yearned-for food, hundreds, maybe even thousands of brown-furred molting elephant seals of varying ages are swarming to their favorite beaches on the central coast of California. In fact, there seem to be many more elephant seals currently occupying these beaches than during the recently completed birthing/mating season.

Click here for photos of some of the current inhabitants.

The now relatively calm adult females, pregnant again, are trying to get some rest among the masses of brown bodies as they wait for the old fur to peel off and the new gray one to take its place as they undergo their catastrophic molt. The sexually immature females, on the other hand, can be seen hurriedly trying to stay out of the way of the young male elephant seals on the move.

Many of these young males from a couple of years old up to the youngest sub-adults, whose noses are starting to lengthen, are acting out their dominance fighting rituals both on land and in water.

Click here to see video of rock 'n' roll play-fighting.

Many of the 2- and 3-year-old youngsters are exhibiting what is known as scabby molt. This is not a true molt, but is believed to be a skin disease that afflicts some youngsters. On these elephant seals, it is not uncommon to see pink skin or even bleeding skin as the fur comes off.

Click here to watch video of graceful juveniles as they enjoy some carefree water time.

The only groups absent at this time are the older sub-adult males and the adult males. Some of the younger sub-adult males have started to come ashore, but the older ones will come in during May and June. Then in July and August, it’ll be turn for the adult males.

It is believed that each of the elephant seals coming here during this time will spend about one month ashore before heading back out to feed again.