Category: California Adventures


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What a stellar day we had viewing the Elephant Seals of Ano Nuevo and tidepooling at Davenport Landing! A great group of women from Betty’s List teamed up with Blue Water Ventures for an incredible day.

IMG_0656Mature female elephant seals and juvenilles are returning to the beaches of Ano Nuevo for a catastrophic molt, where patches of both skin and hair flake off their bodies. A shiny new gray coat is revealed.

 

 

 

Juvenille males are around testing their battling skills in the shallows and a few weaned pups or “weaners” remain on the beaches.

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April is truly an outstanding time to hike Ano Nuevo, teachers please join us with your students!

Our day ended with a juvenille gray whale breaching just past the surfers at Davenport Landing.

Check out our next naturalist-led adventure with http://www.bluewaterventures.org!

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Another magical night in Elkhorn Slough with a great group of home schooled seniors with http://www.bluewaterventures.org

On moonless summer ~fall nights as the dusk or crepuscular feeders are finishing up a meal, the light show produced by bioluminescence dinoflagellates is about to unfold. One such algae is Noctiluca scintilllians and our plankton tow from last night may reveal this species or others. Noctiluca is a bioluminescent dinoflagellate capable of generating light. A variety of marine species exhibit bioluminescent properties, a chemical reaction between the compound luciferin and the enzyme luciferase. Bacteria within the species may also produce cold light.

Marine species have bioluminescence qualities for a variety of reasons. They may flash a particular pattern of light to attract a mate or to startle a predator. Other species may have bioluminescence to lure a curious yet unsuspecting prey towards them providing an easy meal. While a single dinoflagellate may only have a diameter of .5mm, collectively they can produce an impressive amount of “sea sparkle” in the water column.

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A budding shark enthusiast, a mere 10 years of age and part of my Marine Science Camp excitedly shared a memorable factoid with me a few years ago. “Ya know Kim, you are more likely to die from a toilet seat whirling through the air than a shark”.
I suppose this fact may be true if you reside in Kansas but not if you kayak the open coast of Central California from Davenport to Santa Cruz. Today we set off on such an adventure, part of a staff enrichment paddle with Blue Water Ventures. Armed with a marine radio, compass, extra fleece and a cell phone, 3 of my seasoned guides and a Blue Water fan set off on a 15 mile paddle along the rugged California Coast.

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The coastal scenery was spectacular. Sea caves, arches and rocky pour overs dotted the coastline. Paddling a mile or so offshore we admired the scenery from a far keeping a safe distance from a menacing surf zone. We hoped to encounter a few California Gray Whales as they make their perilous journey from the calving lagoons of Baja to their rich feeding grounds of Alaska. While several whales surfaced at close range, our real focus was to keep upright as falling seas lunged us forward and chaotic wind swell hit our kayaks broad side. We were slightly gripped, thirsty yet unquenched as we made our steady path down the coast. Four women focused and alert engulfed in blue seas.

Then a stealthy shape silently appeared slicing across the chaotic seas gliding along side us for a few seconds then disappearing. The Man in the Gray Suit, a real buzz kill, an uninvited guest and an apex predator, The great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias decided to crash our training. Our guess is that our little friend sporting the gray suit just cruised by mildly curious. Like most white shark encounters with humans, our visitor directed its attention elsewhere. An excited sea lion porpoised moments later, perhaps escaping the jaws of the shark or providing a meal.
DSC01789Admittedly, there was a sigh of relief as we tucked around Seal Rock and enjoyed a relaxing observation of a sea otter mom and her pup wrapped up in kelp.

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From the birth of elephant Seal pups to the ritual of mating, our viewing  at Piedras Blancas south of Big Sur was  outstanding this past weekend. The video reveals some details of the mating strategies of  the Northern Elephant Seal, Mirounga angustirostris.

 aaDSC01417Be it by land or by water, a male elephant seal with make the trumpeting sound that is their signature, an erie noise  that resonates out through their strange proboscis (nose appendage).

 

 

 

Male elephant seals may simply raise their mighty proboscis upward bellowing out a cry that has been described as a Harley Davis motorcycle in need of a tune up.

aDSC01279Other times they may engage in  a bloody battle which ends more typically by the  retreat of the less dominant male rather than death.

 

 

 

 

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Launching our  yearly Elephant Seal program south of Big Sur today. Already we’ve had incredible views! During the breeding and pupping season, male elephant seals go to battle. Since most of their time now is spent on land to mate, this in water battle offered some incredible viewing.
DSC01307The thick skin around the neck referred to as the “chest shield” offers some protection to the head colliding and bites from other males. Join our naturalist-led adventures at httpa//www.bluewaterventures.org/:::www.bluewaterventures.org

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Many memorable moments on our Big Sur Seals and Morro Bay by Kayak program this past weekend. However, I will never forget walking up to the excitement of a newly born elephant seal. Imagine coming out of the shoot surrounded by trumpeting seals, massive males near by, females bickering and sea gulls eager to carry off your placenta!

DSC01393Wrinkled and wet, this newborn seal will soon start nursing as mom’s weight is transferred over. By the time a seal is weaned a mere 30 days later, the plump seal has quadrupled its weight enjoying the richest milk on earth, 53% fat. The consistency of mayonnaise.

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Our next Elephant Seal program is April 11th to feature the weaned pups, known as the wearers who gather in large weaner pods at Ano Nuevo with http://www.bluewaterventures.org

ADSC00723Once again, “pinheads” what the local fisherman call immature anchovies, have moved close into the Bay attracting an array of predators from brown pelicans to humpback whales.

 

DSC00739We thought that perhaps the whales were on their way to the coast of Mainland Mexico where they will give birth and care for their calves before making the journey back to our coast to feed. With these tasty anchovies still around, so are the whales. Enjoy the frenzy while it lasts! http://www.bluewaterventures.org.DSC00709

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The Creature Featured today is the Monterey Stalked Tunicate (Styela montereyensis).  Also known as sea squirts,  the tunicates are  more linked to humans than those octopus with clever thoughts,  crabs with their fancy  jointed appendages or  sea hares with their  joy of sex (mass orgies).   In fact, they belong to a group of  animals known as the Urochordates, a subphylum of  phylum  Chordata, animals with backbones.  In their larval form tunicates have  a primitive spinal cord, stomach and heart .  As  free swimming youngsters,  they sport  an appearance resembling  a  tiny  tadpole or human embryo.  As adults, Styela montereyensis claim a sedentary life attached to a surge channel or the  ocean floor filtering plankton through their dual siphons.  Check out http://www.bluewaterventures.org for our next naturalist-led adventure.DSCF36282

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Here’s an unusual find, the internal shell structure of a sea butterfly, Corolla spectabilis. As the name implies this pelagic gelatinous snail can swim rapidly through the water as it escapes its predators. To feed, it oozes a muscus snare to capture its planktonic prey. We found this while exploring Greyhound Rock. Winter offers excellent tides that may reveal unusual sea creatures.
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To learn more about this interesting species found in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary check out: http://jellieszone.com/corolla.htm

Thanks to Margo Dean Productions for this video!

Our  Women’s Kayak Camping Adventure at Loon Lake is offered each summer,
from a Thursday  through Sunday). On the western edge of Desolation
Wilderness near Lake Tahoe,  Loon Lake is a beautiful destination to explore
by sea kayak.

Join us for this great  weekend with women!  Snow capped peaks,
easy paddling, yummy food, cool swims and warm granite rocks
to bask on afterwards!

Cost $425  includes:  4 days of sea kayaking, instruction in kayaking
and low impact camping,  permits and  food (3 breakfasts,  4 lunches, 3
dinners). We throw in a great bunch of women too!

Open to all women including those who have never kayaked or
camped….let our guides take care of the camping details!

This is a very popular trip and space is limited so please email Kim
Powell at: bluewaterventuressc@gmail.com for more details