Sunday, March 11, 2012

Whales, Sea Otters and Elephant Seals

usbackroads destination--Big Sur, San Simeon, California

This trip can be combined with a morning trip to Hearst Castle.  The best way to tour Big Sur is to do the sightseeing on the ocean side.  So in this case we drove all the way up to Kirk Creek Campground.  At this point, we turned toured the campground and then headed south on Highway One stopping along the way to view sea otters and the whales.

 The hardest part of seeing sea otters and whales is actually seeing them.  By this I mean knowing how to look.  Here is a link to a previous posting on the art of seeing.    Everything  in the ocean is basically two dimensional, except for boats and whale spouts.  That is what your looking for a spray of white straight up in the air.  Sort of like a geyser eruption out in the middle of the Pacific.   So keep looking for a spray of white out in the ocean.  Then quickly focus the binoculars on the spot.  Many times you will be rewarded with the whales swimming just along the surface.  Here is a link giving additional information on gray whales along Big Sur.

The California Sea Otter was once a very endangered species.  They are still endangered, but their range has been spreading.  The first sea otters I saw were along the Monterey Bay back in the late 1960's when there were only a few hundred remaining.   Thirty years later they had spread all the way up the coast into Washington state.  Here is the wilki-pedia link on sea otters.

Ok, so how do you spot a sea otter?  If you read the wiki-pedia link you will see that sea otters float very high on their backs.  Then there is that head held high.  So you are looking a high floating log with a bump on one end.  Seals tend to swim.  Sea Otters float.  They also tend to hang around kelp beds.  Find the kelp beds floating in the ocean and look around with binoculars.

If you are fortunate enough to see a sea otter fairly close up.  Stay with it.  It is worth watching them frolic and feed in the ocean.  Entertainment not often found anywhere else.

Remember the advice you get from a professional Forester about the marine environment is worth exactly what you paid for it!!

So spotting sea otters and whales is difficult as they swim along in the ocean.   The other resident of the coast is much easier to spot.  Elephant seals.  Yes, there is no missing them.   A couple of years ago we ran into elephant seal at Pt. Reyes National Seashore.   Well, this time we were driving south along Highway One when I saw a rather large lump on the beach several hundred yards away.  There are many spots to view elephant seals along the California coast.

That big lump is an elephant seal.

Worth the stop.  Even sleeping Elephant seals are dangerous.  Let sleeping Elephant seals sleep.  They can move surprisingly fast for such large animals.

Nap time on the beach.   For us we were headed for dinner after a day of watching whales, otters, and seals under a perfect cloud free sky with warm temperatures.  California does not get better than this.

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