Our visit to the aquarium in Monterey was mainly indoors but we did step out onto the deck area to see what was out there in the rain. I didn’t have a camera with me other than my phone but I did borrow Nancy’s P900 because a Sea Otter had moved in to the pool to take it easy. Someone told us that she was pregnant and liked the shelter the pool afforded. She certainly seemed to be relaxing comfortably while we were there. Maybe Tyson can update us on how she has been doing.
While watching the waves come rushing in to the Santa Cruz shore, I saw something floating on the surface just a little way out. It appeared to be seaweed but that wasn’t all that was there. A look through the longer lens confirmed that a sea otter was sitting out there enjoying the ride. The clump of weed was drifting closer in so, when the waves started to break over the top, the otter would dive underneath and pop back up once the turmoil had passed. The current was taking him along the shoreline over time so we lost track of where he ended up but he seemed to be enjoying the ride quite a lot!
The focus of a trip like the one we took with Monterey Bay Whale Watch is to see the whales. However, you can always come across some other creatures as you go on your way. Heading back in to the marina, we passed a Sea Otter mother and her pup. She was diving on food and leaving the pup to bob up on the surface. She would bring some food and then dive down. I was up at the front of the boat when we saw them. The early evening light looked great on them. Of course, as we passed them, our shadow took the good light off them just when they were in the best location to get a shot. I did head to the back of the boat as we stopped to see if I could get some other shots. We soon left them to their thing, though.
I have posted plenty of pictures of Monterey and the surrounding area in the past. As you head along the shore, you actually move from Monterey in to Pacific Grove. It is quite strange how you go from the tourist center of Monterey onto some beautiful shoreline in a very short space of time and the number of people plummets. That is not to say Pacific Grove is deserted but it is a far more tranquil spot to be. The path along the top of the cliffs is great for wandering along and seeing what the sea is doing and what wildlife is out.
The birds are a constant presence as you walk but looking down to the water you get to see whatever the abundant sea life of Monterey Bay has to offer. On this trip a few seals were resting on the rocks and some Sea Otters were going about their business close in to the ricks despite the waves crashing around them. Must be good food near there.
The other “marine life” we saw was a group of people swimming out into the bay. I assume it was a club of some sort since it seemed very organized. A lot of people of varying age and ability were swimming out to a marker buoy and back. They seemed to have a lot of fun although some seemed noticeably tired once they were out of the water. Since I would have had a very hard time doing what they were doing, I can certainly sympathize!
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!
In a previous trip to Monterey, I saw some sea otters out in the bay near the aquarium. I was interested in heading back to try and get something a bit better than last time and that included taking along a lens that was a bit more up to the task. I had done a little research online about places where he sea otters are regularly seen and decided to go to Moss Landing which is further up the bay from Monterey itself. There is a marina there which was supposed to be popular with the otters. I had no idea whether this meant they were always there or it was just a good chance that they might show up. Imagine my surprise, then, to pull up and see two otters in the water right next to the road.
We weren’t the only ones paying them a visit. There were a few people around with some long lenses on display. One of the otters was pretty subdued and seemed to be focused on grooming while the other was a lot more active. Lots of twisting and diving was going on and the constant movement made tracking for a good shot a little harder than might have been expected. They aren’t the hardest target by any stretch of the imagination but when they are active, they really don’t stay still for long. If they are lying on their back and grooming, things are a little easier.
I didn’t just pay attention to the otters near the road. There were a bunch of them out in the entrance to the harbor feeding on the local shellfish. It was fun to watch them come back to the surface, start to feed and attract the attention of the seagulls that saw a meal for the taking and decided to have a go. Of course, sea otters have some pretty healthy claws and teeth so were not an easy mark for the gulls. They seemed to keep their prize but it didn’t stop the gulls having a go. Sometimes, they just seemed to sit and watch. Maybe they were just envious.
Getting a good shot of the otters was harder than I expected. With them constantly on the move, they always seemed to be lined up in the wrong direction. The back of the head does not make a good shot and they seem to blink a lot so, without the eye, the image looks less interesting. A bit of patience was in order. Also, using the long lens in close meant that the depth of field was shallow so a sharp eye meant a blurred nose and vice versa. I looked at both types of shot to see if it mattered and, while when looking at normal size, it didn’t make a big difference, the shots with the eye sharp did appear better. I guess that rule is not a bad one!