Readers’ wildlife photographs (and videos)

There’s a small road just north of Moss Landing, California that runs beside a small estuary that’s terrifically rich in wildlife: birds, otters, sea lions, and so on. It’s been called “The Serengeti of the Pacific”, and we spent quite a bit of time there. Here are some photographs of what you can see.

A long-billed curlew (Numenius americanus), which makes its living by probing sand and mud for crabs and other invertebrates.

Fluffing its feathers:

A long-billed curlew foraging on the beach:

Three sanderlings (Calidris alba). As ecologist Bruce Lyon wrote me, “These are arctic (tundra) breeders and they have an interesting mating system if I recall correctly. The breed as pairs but the female lays two clutches, one that she incubates and one that her mate incubates.”

Here’s a sanderling foraging on the beach. It’s hard to take photos and videos of these birds because they skitter around so rapidly:

Curlews, brown pelicans and willets (Tringa semipalmata), the ones with straight beaks):

A common murre (Uria aalge):


A brown pelican (Pelicanus occidentalis)flying through the fog, its wings barely grazing the ocean:

Kelp and seaweed:

One of the most appealing of sea mammals is the sea otter(Enhydra lutris). These gorgeous furballs were nearly driven to extinction by the fur trade, as their lovely coats can have up to a million hairs per square inch. At the beginning of the last century, it’s estimated that only 1,000-2,000 animals remained, but hunting became forbiddien and recovery efforts have brought the species back, though it’s still listed as endangered.

They’re voracious eaters, consuming between 25% and 38% of their body weight in food each day. (A large male can weigh 45 kg, or nearly 100 pounds.) They eat clams, abalones, crustaceans, urchins, and other seafood, procuring them on short dives to the bottom in shallow water (they usually stay underwater for less than a minute). Seeing them pounding open a clam using a stone on their chests (yes, a tool!), or watching a mother cradle her adorable baby on her stomach, rank as some of the great sights in nature.

Sea otters often congregate in “rafts” of up to several thousand individuals. Here’s one raft we saw near Moss Landing:

And a video of the raft:

Finally, a “watch for otters” sign in Moss Landing; they do occasionally get hit by cars, though they don’t often come on land:



  1. Joe Dickinson
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    The Elkhorn Slough “Safari” that runs out of Moss Landing is another excellent way to see those critters.

  2. enl
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Well, if they don’t want to get hit by a car, they otter not cross the highway

    (ducking to avoid the rotten fruit, flying)

  3. Posted September 23, 2018 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    “It’s hard to take photos and videos of these birds because they skitter around so rapidly”

    Sanderling are very busy birds and look like little clockwork toys as they chase the waves in and out on the tide edge. On the other hand, compared to most shorebird species they are very confiding and allow observers to approach very closely before they fly up and move a short distance further along the beach.

  4. CAS
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Nice photos! We will head to Moss Landing to see the otters!

  5. Derek Freyberg
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    You can often see otters just in the Moss Landing Harbor (though I’ve never seen quite as many as in that vide); but, as Joe Dickinson says, on a “safari” up the slough you’re likely to get otters – and birds.

  6. Michael Fisher
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink


  7. rickflick
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Well documented. Quite a menagerie.

  8. Posted September 23, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  9. Posted September 23, 2018 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for another excellent post, Jerry! The photos/videos are wonderful.

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