In the area of the marina at Moss Landing, a very elegant looking bird is prevalent. These are grebes. As a kid, we used to have great crested grebes where I grew up and they were a cool looking bird. This is a different sub type of grebe but the family resemblance is clear. They have a nice shape to them and these have a very striking red eye coloration. They were swimming around in the harbor area and diving for food periodically.
A while back I posted shots of the sea lions at Moss Landing. Since then, their numbers have done a further job on destroying the dock at the entrance to Elkhorn Slough. They are now squeezing themselves onto what remains. They also find other docks or the backs of boats on which to take their rest. Interestingly, they didn’t appear to venture into the slough itself. They were all gathered in the entrance area with quick access to the open sea. Whether they have a territorial battle with the harbor seals or just don’t like the water that way I don’t know. However, it is safe to say the smell around what remains of the dock is pretty ripe when they are about!
If you have seen the previous posts from Elkhorn Slough and have followed the blog for a while, it won’t take too much imagination to work out what bird I also got a bunch of shots of while we were on the boat. The cormorants were out and about keeping me entertained. Maybe they were a little put out that so much other wildlife was getting my attention although they really didn’t seem to care too much about our presence at all.
Whatever their attitude may or may not have been, they were all over the place. Flying past us, sunning themselves on marker posts, resting on sand banks or fishing in the waters around us, they did it all and I tried to photograph them doing it all. Since I have gone overboard on cormorants before, I won’t go nuts here. Just a few to maintain expectations…
The mud flats of Elkhorn Slough are a popular haunt for harbor seals. Relatively easily distinguished from sea lions, these guys seemed to really enjoy just lying out on the flats and sunning themselves. I imagine there are times of day when they are busy hunting for food but they must have been successful by the time we came by because they were not too active.
Their coats are very different when wet and dry and some of them would lie just into the water, possibly as a result of the tide having changed the water level while they rested. You could see the change in the coat underneath versus on top where it had dried out. One or two had even draped weed over themselves. Our guide explained why but I’m afraid I can’t for the life of me remember what the reason was. Therefore, I am going to go with fashion!
The pelican population of Elkhorn Slough is pretty substantial. There were a few white pelicans but the majority was brown pelicans. As we trundled around the slough, a steady stream of pelicans went about their business fishing. Watching pelicans fish is a reasonably predictable task. They glide around looking for the fish in a way that is very different from how they fly if they are trying to get somewhere.
As they spot a fish, they slow up noticeably preparing for the dive. Then they roll in like a dive bomber head down towards the unsuspecting prey. At the last minute, they pull back their wings and extend their head to enter beak first and grab whatever it is that they have spotted. All that is left on the surface for a moment is the ripple from their entry. Then they bob back to the surface, hopefully devouring whatever they were after. Then they lumber back into the air to repeat the process.
Watching this is not tricky. Having it happen close enough to you to get a good shot is a different story. Even at the high frame rate my camera can do, the transition from dive to underwater is very quick and only a few frames. You have to try and track smoothly and keep everything in focus.
I got shots of some more distant entries. These don’t make the best shots but they can work as animated GIFs. Once or twice they came a bit closer to us and then it was just a case of hoping that I didn’t miss it while watching something else and that the light was on a good side. That and crossing my fingers that I didn’t screw it up!
We took a great trip to do a little wildlife spotting. Nancy found out about a tour operation in Moss landing on the coast of Monterey Bay. They are called Elkhorn Slough Safari and you can find out more about them at http://www.elkhornslough.com/ if you are interested. Elkhorn Slough is an estuary area that comes out at Moss Landing. It is absolutely packed with wildlife (so expect a few more posts). The company operates a pontoon boat that takes you through the marina and up into the slough. On the day we went, the boat was reasonably full but there was a bit of space. The captain was very helpful when he saw me carrying camera gear and cleared out space for me at the back of the boat which allowed me to move from side to side as anything came up. He constantly pointed out anything that could be of interest.
I won’t tell you too much more about the tour other than to say that the two people taking care of us were great, very friendly, helpful at spotting things and they provided some great cookies which I wouldn’t have minded chomping the lot!
First in the posts will be the subject that probably attracts a lot of the visitors and that is Sea Otters. This part of the coastline has a very dense population of Sea otters. In fact, we probably got to see a substantial chunk of the California population on this trip. There are obviously lots more of them along the coast but here they are gathered close together. As we motored along the water, we saw a steady stream of them diving for food, eating their catch, playing around with each other or in one particularly impressive area, about 30 of them formed up in a large group just hanging out.
We also came across a mother with a pretty fresh looking baby. She was floating on her back with the baby resting on her stomach. Apparently the babies float right away so she can go hunting and leave them to bob on the surface although other otters may hijack the kid until the mother hands over her catch. Sweet creatures!