Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The last post of 2011

On December 23rd I got to see something that I have been wanting to see for years. It was at the top of my "to see" list. I saw an attack on gray whales by a pod of orcas. There were 4 orcas (and one was a calf) and 2 adult gray whales. The numbers were certainly in favor of the grays and they did win the battle.

I was working at the North end of our study range at Sea Lion Cove and waiting for a sleeping otter to show me her flipper tags. She was dead asleep and I figured I would be there a while so I pulled my camera out to take some hummingbird photos. (previous posts have photos of hummingbirds from this very spot!) While looking offshore I was thinking to myself, this feels like and orca kind of day. The ocean was flat and you could see for miles. About 5 minutes after I thought about the orcas I saw some splashing close to shore. I looked down and saw 2 gray whales on their backs. I thought maybe they were mating. Although most grey whale mating behavior happens far south of us in Baja Mexico, I have seen mating along their travel route a few times.
I started taking some photos of them and then realized there was a dolphin dorsal fin right by the gray's head. I looked a little closer and saw the white saddle patch (a telling characteristic of orcas). I kept taking photos, but was so excited that I was jumping up and down and actually for once, hoping that tourists would stop and I could tell them what was going on. The encounter only lasted about 7 minutes and the orca pod started swimming south and offshore. The grays were underwater for a long time and appeared to 'wrangle up' some more whales that were on their way south. Soon there were 5 grays all swimming together within 200 meters of shore- often through the kelp. Just south of their current location is a deep canyon and this is where it would be easiest for orcas to attack. Often when the mothers and calves are traveling north there are attacks in the deep canyons off Monterey and Carmel.

After the orcas swam offshore, I believe they got a sea lion (a little easier breakfast option that a 40 foot long gray whale) and I took some photos but at this point they were about a mile offshore so the quality is not as good.

Gray whale on its back with orcas swimming underneath.
Mom and calf orca on the left side, one orca underwater and the gray whale coming up for air.
Mom and calf orca on the left, two gray whales up for air.

gray whale spouting

gray whale fluke.
After the attack the grays started back south but were swimming very close to one another and close to shore.
Orca breaching (about a mile offshore)

Orca slapping her tail.

Orca- Possibly with a sea lion, they were about a mile offshore of Torre canyon.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The sunset on my birthday...

These photos were taken at Hole in the Wall beach (aptly named for the big hole you see below!) about 7 miles north of Santa Cruz on December 9th. I took my birthday to catch up on errands and take a bunch of photos. It was not the "perfect sunset day" but I am really happy with the two photos below.

Hole in the wall at 'hole in the wall' beach

The sun setting with Nicole roaming the beach and Venus shining in the sky. (I am not talking about myself in the 3rd person, different Nicole!)

December: cold and sunny!

With very few exceptions this month, I haven't had a lot of time to go out and take photos. Yesterday UI got some great photos while working, but they will be posted on monday... gotta space them out a bit!

The combination of travel, work and bad weather have given me very few opportunities over the past few months to get out with my camera. Today there will be a few birds from Big Sur and a few otters from Monterey along with a landscape shot of the wonderful fall sunsets here in California.

These are both photos of a female Anna's hummingbird at Sea Lion Cove in Big Sur.

These are two female buffleheads taking off at Jetty Road in Moss Landing on December 9th.

These photos were also taken on December 9th at the harbor in Monterey. It is a mom and small pup eating fat innkeeper worms.

And last, I leave you with a sunset that made me remember why I absolutely love living along the coast in California. This was taken October 16th at Monastery beach in Carmel. There was an annoying moment that went along with this photo, but I prefer to just look at the pretty colors and forget the stupid teenagers that I encountered that day!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A little here, A little there

This is a blog post that sadly got overlooked. It should have been posted in October.

First, I will start with the wonderful Big Sur fog. This was taken on Nacimiento Road just after sunrise on September 15th (I know, I am way behind on posting photos!). The ocean is under that big fog blanket.

Next are a few terrestrial creatures.  These photos are from the same day, but farther inland near Lake Nacimiento.

 The next photo is of a juvenile white-tailed kite on a power line along Jolon Road. (Near King City, CA)

Next are a few yellow-billed magpies also along Jolon Road.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A little sun in the afternoon

I haven't been out taking photos mostly because it has been pretty foggy (as it always is in summer in Coastal California) and I haven't really had the time to travel to other, non-foggy places. Last week I got a nice sunny day (and it happened to be a day off) so what better way to spend it? Right, taking photos of otters, the little critters I look at day in and day out. Sea otters never get boring because they are constantly eating different things. For me, and many of my coworkers, there is this constant sense of excitement while watching an otter forage. Sometimes they are reliable, coming up with the same thing time after time, but you never know when they will bring up something new and different. For me, this is what makes my job interesting, but it also makes photographing otters very interesting and always different.
I think of my photos like trading cards. I don't have any otters eating ____ yet. Or I have one, but I want a better one! Wednesday (Sept 7th) I went to the coast guard jetty in Monterey and found an otter who was eating sand dollars. This behavior is not new for me, but it is one prey item I have not gotten on film (well, not really on film anymore....) yet so I was excited. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoy taking them! It isn't my fault if it makes you want some cookies after viewing :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

No really, that mom is NOT eating her chick!

Today I am posting some nesting Brandts cormorants (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) photos. The chicks still have some down but are almost the same size as the adults at this point. Cormorants nest on rocky areas and one really popular one in this region is the Breakwater jetty next to the Monterey Harbor. 

The name of this post is what it is because while the parents are feeding the chicks, it really looks like the parent is eating the baby! (As you will see below). 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Glacier Bay, Alaska: Part 5- The final part

Here are the rest of the photos from my Glacier Bay trip. I have not begun on the rest of my Southeast journey, so this is just the end of the beginning.

I saw this black bear (who is mearly brown in color, NOT a grizzly bear!) at Bartlett Cove on my last day in Glacier Bay.

Ravens chasing a bald eagle

The sun through the clouds while I was waiting for otters to start foraging.
The following photos are from the last day I collected foraging data. I was on Francis island and had the fortune of many close foragers right before Ben and Ken came to pick me up. Although I was standing in the same place and all of these photos were taken within 20 minutes of each other, the color and quality is all over the place because some otters were facing into the sun and others were nicer and went around the corner.

First, A little mom and pup series:


Mom feeding her pup some urchins.

Female otter eating Mya clams

Mom eating Saxidomus clams (butter clams)

Mom eating Saxidomus clams

Otter eating green urchins

Mom and pup with Modilous mussels (horse mussels). She is banging one on another to get them open.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Glacier Bay, Alaska: Part 4

Today there are a lot of photos. (I spent all night editing last night!) First I will start with an oystercatcher who was trying his best to lead me away from the chicks. This was on an island off Point Carolus at the mouth of Glacier Bay.

 Next, I bring you the cutest part of the trip. Jess and I were cracking up at this little baby porcupine who was trying to climb the tree next to our hotel at the Glacier Bay Lodge. I missed the best part when the baby fell up-side-down and was hanging by his feet because I was setting up my tripod. These photos were taken at 10:30pm- right about sunset time so it was dark in the forest.
I never knew a porcupine could steal my heart.

The baby gave up and went back to the bottom of the tree and waited for its mom.

Mom porcupine.
I am now bouncing back to Point Carolus with a wide array of species.
Pelagic cormorants (Phalacrocorax pelagicus).

A male and female sea otter consorting. The female is resting on an emergent rock. Later in the day, I got foraging on both the female and male. The male mostly stole the female's food.

The female grooming.

A humpback whale very close to shore.

An otter with some common mergansers (Mergus merganser) flying by.

A humpback whale slapping its tail and startling some sea otters.

A red squirrel at Bartlett Cove.
The rest of the photos were all taken in the west arm. We climbed around Reid glacier in the upper arm and stopped at Gloomy Knob which is known for mountain goats and nesting birds.
A bald eagle with its chick.

An old male mountain goat.

Nesting tufted puffins (Fratercula cirrhata).

Nesting tufted puffins.

Nesting tufted puffins.
Reid glacier from Reid inlet.

Under the edge of the glacier.

Glacial ice.

Water dripping off the glacier.

Under the edge of the glacier.

Looking  at Reid inlet from the glacier.

The south side of Reid inlet.

Rocks on the glacier.

Water pouring off the glacier.

The mountains are smooth and bowl-like because the glaciers move through quickly and carve out the land.
The snow-covered peak is Mount Fairweather, the tallest peak in Glacier Bay. It is over 15,000 feet high.