Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Joe Dickinson sent some photos of elephant seals; his notes are indented.

Here are some photos of northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) taken in late December at the Año Nuevo rookery about 20 miles up the coast from Santa Cruz.  This was early in the birthing and mating season and included my first ever sightings of newborn pups.

First, an iconic mature male with the characteristic proboscis.

Another battle-scarred veteran rests on a bed of seaweed.  The scars and lacerations on the neck are from territorial battles with other males.

Here is a juvenile male with only the beginning of a proboscis.  That is a newborn pup (more below) in front.

This female is too young, I think, to be mating this season.

Docents constantly monitor the rookery and stated with certainty that this pup was less than a day old.

The pups squeal a lot and can scoot along the beach about as well as their elders.

What can I say besides “awwww”?

Here it is trying to figure out how (and where) to nurse.  Hint: about a yard further south.

For comparison, here is a pup about two months older (from last year down at Piedras Blancas, the other large mainland rookery)

Also at Piedras Blancas, this is a pile-o-pups left on the beach when the mothers, pregnant with next year’s pup, returned to sea.  They have really put on the pounds.  For size comparison, that is a young adult male upper left.  The fasting females, correspondingly, lose about a third of their body weight while nursing.

Back to Año Nuevo, this is the setting. The rookery was established first on the island where one can see the remains of an abandoned light house station and spread to the mainland around 1980.

The sandy beaches favored by the seals are backed in some places by low cliffs and elsewhere by dunes.  The latter are favored by the females giving birth (and mating just a few days later), so those are mostly non-dominant males sprawled along that beach.



  1. rickflick
    Posted February 4, 2018 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    The male seals seem to have it pretty rough in life (chewing on the gristle, as they say). First, they may never rise up the hierarchy far enough to mate. Then, if they challenge another male, they will have to endure deep gashes. An altogether unpleasant life if you ask me.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 4, 2018 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Some fine photos and one of the finest areas of the country as well.

  3. Posted February 4, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Nice pictures! It must have been quite a thrill to see the young pups.

  4. Posted February 4, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Alas, my hope was to send the Professor an image that might have entertained him. However, the WordPress return email bounced it back and presented me instead with this Useful Comment Window. My apologies for not commenting on the beautiful sea lion images. What have I done wrong in my attempt to send an image?

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 4, 2018 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      You should email Jerry directly and not via WordPress. The address is pretty easy to find via Google.

  5. Posted February 4, 2018 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    How fantastic to see them. Excellent thank you

  6. cruzrad
    Posted February 4, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Great pics of an amazing animal. Thanks!

    • Glenda Palmer
      Posted February 4, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink


  7. ploubere
    Posted February 4, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Good pics. You managed to catch a little personality of individual animals, well done. That stretch between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay is a wonderful drive.

  8. Posted February 4, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink


  9. Karen E Bartelt
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful shots!

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