Growing up on an island must bring a special affinity for ferries because, whenever I see them, it brings a spark of interest as to what people are going to or from. I lived on the seafront for a portion of my teenage years and the ferries would pass our window each day as they headed to the mainland. Ferry travel at night was often a thing because it would be either the beginning or end of a longer journey. Something about the lights on a ferry at night seems very welcoming to me.
We had a terrace overlooking Puget Sound that we were able to hang out on in the evenings and the regular ferry traffic across the sound caught my attention. It is dark out on the water but the lights from the passenger decks and the lighting on the open car deck beneath shine out across the water. Seeing it from a slightly elevated position on the shore helps as well. Seeing this just makes me feel good. I guess decades away from living on an island hasn’t changed some things deep inside.
For the last two years I have been to Ano Nuevo for the sunrise photo tour amongst the elephant seals. This year I decided I didn’t need to get there before the sun came up. However, Nancy was interested in seeing them and she wanted to try getting some shots with her new Nikon P900. Therefore, we decided to take one of the other tours that occurs during the mating season, albeit during more sociable hours. We still went for the morning event and it turned out to be a good plan.
Unlike the sunrise tour, the groups are much larger and you are not driven out. Consequently, you have to carry everything you want with you. It makes picking your gear a slightly more careful decision process. The sun was out and it was a very pleasant morning. There were a few locations that the docents took us to and, while the males had picked some good locations right on the paths, we were still able to get to see a lot of the seals.
The weather had been wet which meant there was a lot of water inland and this appeals to the males who come to find a puddle to rest in and, occasionally, practice fighting. This is clearly not serious combat as the whole thing is a bit halfhearted. When you see the real fights, you are left in no doubt they mean it. We did get to see a lot of the colony and enjoy the nice weather. All in all, a pretty good second option.
Aside from the mussels on the rocks at Pescadaro, there were also some anemones. It was slightly surprising to see them so far out of the water. Unlike the mussels that can seal themselves in to stay moist, the anemones were more exposed. They used their own moisture to stay okay during their time out of the water. I imagine they are happy to be back under the surface when the weather is hotter and they are more prone to drying out.
The tide was obviously low when we were at Pescadaro State Beach. The exposed rocks were showing all sorts of signs of what might live under the water. There were large outcrops of mussels attached to the rocks. They were sealed up tight waiting for the tide to come back in when they could open up again to feed.
Nancy and I included a trip to Pescadaro State Beach as part of our weekend in Half Moon Bay. There are a number of lovely looking beaches on this stretch of the coast but the guide books suggested this was a good one so we headed there. It is a lovely location with a lot of rocky outcrops upon which the waves crash. We strolled along the shore and enjoyed the waves thundering into the rocks, sometimes sending plumes of spray way up into the air. I love waves and could watch them for hours.
While most of the attention at Ano Nuevo is on the males as they fight for dominance of each other and the females, there are moments when you get the pups alone or with their mothers. Some of these moments fit the cuteness requirements. After the hulks of the males, here are some more gooey pictures.
Aside from taking pictures of the seals at Ano Nuevo, I also got some video. Having the tripod with me made shooting video at long range practical. Getting the camera on them when they are doing something interesting is not always easy. The do something and then stop as soon as you get the camera on them. I think they know what you are doing. Even so, they still did enough to make some of it worth saving in the edit!
A year ago, Nancy bought me a ticket for a sunrise photo tour of the beaches at Ano Nuevo State Park when the elephant seals were taking over the place. I posted shots of that here if you want to reference back. I was keen to try the whole thing again this year but there was no sign of it on the website. One morning, I happened to look again and not only was it available but all sessions were sold out except one. I clicked on that one and found that only one ticket was left so bought it straight away. As with last year, I found myself up horribly early in the morning outside the gate of the park waiting for the ranger to show up. Unlike last year when the weather was cold, wet and windy, this year the skies were clear and there was no wind. I had actually overdressed after my previous experience.
We got to a series of locations where we were really in amongst the seals. It was predominantly males although there were some females and a few pups scattered in amongst them. Because the weather had been warm, the seals had stayed close to the water. In cooler weather they can often be found well up in the dunes.
The males were not as aggressive as last year. There were a few confrontations while we were there, some of which drew a little blood. However, the ranger said that they had already sized each other up so the hierarchy was quite established. We did see a few scuffles and there were occasions where the males headed for the females causing some evasion tactics and sometimes when they didn’t move fast enough!
The contrast to the previous year was obvious from a photography perspective. This time I had taken a tripod having found the last time that you weren’t constantly on the move and that the early light needed it. We did have far nicer light as well with the sun showing up and providing some great warmth in the shots taken early on. This is a fun thing to do and you are finished by about 9:30. You can then enjoy the rest of the park if you wish. However, part of you will be trying to get the smell out of your nose. Hanging around in amongst elephant seals does introduce you to a fragrance you won’t forget in a hurry.
While all of the activity on the beach was going on with the males and females, there were also a ton of pups lying around. Once the pups have suckled long enough, they are fat and happy and left to their own devices. They don’t have enough strength so, for the next few weeks, they will move about the beach burning down the fat and strengthening themselves up before heading out to sea.
Meanwhile, they look very cute. They are called weaners when they are left to their own devices. Every image you have of a baby seal is met by the weaners. Small, plump with huge eyes. Just what you imagine. In amongst them were some so-called “super-weaners”. These “little” fellas had got a double dose of mother’s milk and they were huge. Normally in young creatures you imagine that getting extra is good for you. For seals, this is not so much the case. Having all of the extra fat means they are very buoyant. When they head out to see, they tend to bob around on the surface and that makes them easy pickings for the sharks offshore. I guess greed isn’t good for you!