Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fall Haul-Out Picking up Speed

As we enter the second week of September, more newcomers of varying ages are starting to haul ashore to enjoy their turn on our beaches.

Click here to see more photos of our current visitors.

This fall, a good many of these elephant seals also seem to be unusually generous in 'decorating' our shallows and sandy beaches with their own brand of often brightly-colored fertilizer.

Engaging in struggling with seaweed at this time of year is also a favorite past-time of many young males. Experts have often wondered if elephant seals actually swallow the seaweed/kelp that they toss around. From my observations, it would seem as though they do. The process is often a long and laborious one as the elephant seals have no means to hold the long strands as they strive to break off a bite-size piece. Instead, they have to shake/toss the seaweed till a small piece is broken off. Then the broken off piece has to be carefully maneuvered into just the right position in the mouth so it can slide down the throat without causing the elephant seal to choke on it. To successfully facilitate this rather difficult process, the elephant seal often drinks large amounts of seawater to help in the actual swallowing.

Why elephant seals choose to eat seaweed/kelp is not clear. Maybe they do so for the same reason dogs eat aid in digestion.

Click here to watch video of young males struggling to swallow some seaweed. ( Some of the video has been slowed down to better show the action. )

As we proceed further into the Fall Haul-Out, more and more elephant seals will come ashore to get some R&R before heading out once again to feed before the birthing/mating season that will start sometime in December.

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