Travel Northern California | Coastal Marine Mammals

Harbor Seals Wildlife Photography [Kelley Elizabeth Photography] 2 photo

click images to enlarge

This was our last day on the golden coast and I had us visiting the Golden Gate Park, the Japanese Tea Gardens, the SF Botanical Gardens, and then practically every beach south of San Francisco within an hour’s drive. I’m a little bummed that our schedule (& internal clocks) were off so much so that we never caught a sun rise or sun set, but I am glad we managed to see some coastal marine mammals before flying back to NY.

Harbor Seals Wildlife Photography [Kelley Elizabeth Photography] 3 photo

 

This first group we got to see was a gaggle of lazy harbor seals. Harbor Seals Wildlife Photography [Kelley Elizabeth Photography] 4 photo

Harbor Seals Wildlife Photography [Kelley Elizabeth Photography] 5 photo

Harbor Seals Wildlife Photography [Kelley Elizabeth Photography] 7 photo

Harbor Seals Wildlife Photography [Kelley Elizabeth Photography] photo

 

They were actually pretty boring to watch because it was siesta time. And anyone who’s met me knows I don’t have a lot of sit-&-wait patience. Especially when the clock is ticking down for west coast departure.

So off we went to Ano Nuevo State Park because Google told me that would be a keen spot for elephant seals.

What I didn’t spend the time to read about Ano Nuevo was that it was a decent 4 mile hike, partially through sand dunes. And I was sorta-kinda rocking a pretty sundress. So that was a fun trek.

This was the view of the hidden cove the elephant seals were all hanging out in. Crazy thing is you don’t see this until the very end of the hike but the whole time you are heading to this spot you can hear them barking and bellowing at each other as if you are about to stumble on them at any moment. It is amazing how much their sound carries, especially over the waves and winds.
Ano Nuevo State Park Elephant Seals 2 Photo

 

They get their name from the large proboscis on the bull males (which aides them in making that ridiculously loud noise and helps them conserve moisture during mating season where they spend extended periods on the beach).

By the way, they are MUCH bigger in person than what these pictures leave an impression of. 16 feet long and averaging over 6,000lbs.

You can understand why I preferred to not get close and just use a telephoto lens.
Ano Nuevo State Park Elephant Seals 3 Photo

Ano Nuevo State Park Elephant Seals 7 Photo

Ano Nuevo State Park Elephant Seals 4 Photo

Ano Nuevo State Park Elephant Seals 6 Photo

Ano Nuevo State Park Elephant Seals 8 Photo

Ano Nuevo State Park Elephant Seals 5 Photo

 

I knew it when I saw it, I figured this was an abandoned National Park Service property (pictured below). A local park service attendant confirmed and he made it sound like they were practically run off the place because all of the cormorants and pelicans roost there. Enlarge the picture, you will see what I am talking about–all those black dots are birds. Additionally, the seals and sea lions use those beaches and feed around the island…which happens to make it prime Great White Shark hunting grounds.

Between the Hancock-ian bird drama and great whites patrolling- that would be enough to keep me on this side of the channel.

Ano Nuevo State Park Elephant Seals Photo

 

If you have been following along on the trip notes, we flew into San Francisco and made our way to the edge of Yosemite. We explored Yosemite National Park and have a ton of pictures between  here and here. Then we drove many-a-mile up the central valley and arrived in Eureka, exploring some of the local redwoods. Then we spent a day checking out Humboldt Bay area and Redwood National Forest.

In the last day we squeezed in the Botanical Gardens in the morning and finished the day with our marine mammal scouting.

And just like that – it was over. 1,600 road miles covered in CA in just a couple days.

This is the last of the blog posts for this series – but not the last of the pictures I will share, I am sure.

K

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