Tag Archive: kayaking


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The Mola Mola Ocean Sunfish

Imagine an irregularly shaped disk with exaggerated fins, bulging eyes and a tiny mouth below a bulbous flat head flopping around at the surface of Monterey Bay and you have discovered the ocean sunfish, Mola mola!  As you approach this mystical creature, it suddenly dives out of sight undulating its dorsal and ventral fins as it disappear into the depths. The Mola mola is the heaviest   bony fish known to exist in the ocean realm.   It sustains itself on a diet of gelatinous creatures such as the egg yolk sea jelly among other planktonic jellies found in Monterey Bay. Beginning life as a tiny minuscule drifting egg, an ocean sunfish will begin to grow increasing its size by over 50 million times until it reaches the size of a minivan. To put this into perspective, imagine a fully-grown marine toad, Bufo marinus weighing over 120,000 pounds that began its journey though life as a tiny tadpole, weighing less than a gram. Mola mola are acknowledged in the Guinness Book of World Records as producing the largest number of eggs of any fish ever recorded. A single female ocean sunfish held 300 million eggs. The ocean sunfish thrives in temperate and tropical oceans including the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea and on rare occasions, the Bering Sea. While their preferred habitat is open ocean, they may sometimes wander into kelp forests and deep coral reefs.

Natural History Notes

Its is intriguing to note that adult ocean sunfish lack a swim bladder, the organ in fishes that gives them the ability to control their buoyancy.  Ichthyologist once assumed that ocean sunfish traveled at the whim of prevailing currents drifting along with other planktonic forms of life. However, studies have revealed that the Mola mola can reach speeds of over 3 kilometers per hour and cover over 25 kilometers per day. While often appearing lethargic and slow moving near the surface, they are quite capable of speed and swimming to depth.aaScreen Shot 2017-07-01 at 8.42.11 PM

 

However, since ocean sunfish are often drifting at a pelagic snail’s pace, they are subject to a high degree of parasitism. Seeking slow moving creatures such as sea turtles basking in the sun, whales in breeding lagoons and meandering ocean sunfishes, a variety of parasites will climb aboard for an easily obtained and predictable meal.

 

Another interesting story can be woven between Mola mola and Bufo marinus, the lethargic marine toads of Tropical America. Oozing from the paratoid glands of these impressively large toads is a milky substance which contains bufotoxin, a strong neurotoxin. The ocean sunfish is classified among the Tetraodontiformes, an order of marine fish which contain a powerful neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin. Unlike their cousin the pufferfish, ocean sunfish probably lack the deadly toxin.  However, the toxins derived from both the marine toad and the Mola’s cousin, a Caribbean pufferfish have been used in the Haitian traditional practice of zombism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wildlife viewing is outstanding right now in Elkhorn Slough! Mother sea otters are extremely attentive to their pups who may remain with her for 6 to 8 months and longer if needed. Clearly this mother gives her pup ample time to accomplish the task of crawling back onto the beach but eventually comes to its rescue.

As she raises up on her hind legs, she resembles the movement of her terrestrial relatives, weasels, minks and badgers, all members of the family Mustelidaes.

Our next kayaking tour will combine baby sea otter viewing with fine culinary cuisine, an Elkhorn Slough tour on May 7th at http://www.bluewaterventures.org.

Prehensile Manatees!

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So many incredible and memorable moments during our Springs and Manatee adventure. On our final day, our group was mesmerized watching the prehensile lips and fleshy region of a manatee known as the oral disc.

Slowing down the video, you can see the stiff thick bristles edging either side of the mouth that actually help grab vegetation moving it towards the mouth. To my knowledge, no other mammal uses stiff whiskers in a prehensile manner.

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-2-31-20-pmHighly sensitive, these thick whiskers as well as the 3000 tactile hairs that cover their tough hide aid manatees as they explore a murky world.

 

 

Check out our upcoming adventures at http://www.bluewaterventures.org

http://www.bluewaterventures.org

Blue Water Ventures offers naturalist-ledadventures world wide. We lead kayaking trips in Central California, The Sierras, Baja, Belize, British Virgin Islands and Tonga where we snorkel with humpback whales.

Working with all ages, we specialize in school field trips and private family groups. Our youngest audience are 5th gradersnd we take schools of all ages to the university level.

We also have a very demand for naturalist-led programming for our blue water women followers.

Join us!
Kim Powell, MRPA
Owner, Operator & Naturalist
Blue Water Ventures
phone & fax: (831) 459 8548
email: bluewaterventuressc@gmail.com
website: http://www.bluewaterventures.org
127 Mason St, Santa Cruz CA 95060

follow us on Facebook! or our Nature News Blog Site

http://www.bluewaterventures.org

During our naturalist-led kayaking trips in Elkhorn Slough, we discuss what lives both above and below this rich ecological wetland area. The eelgrass beds are expanding due to an interplay among three Slough species.

A fascinating relationship has developed among the Taylor sea hare, their crab predator and the charismatic coastal marine mammal, the southern sea otter, Enhydra lutris nereis. During the early 1980’s, Elkhorn Slough and its associated eelgrass beds experienced a recruitment of the southern sea otter. As the otter’s range expanded into the slough, the population of Phyllaplisai taylori expanded correspondingly since otters started keeping a check on several crab species, which prey on the slug.

Not only did Phyllaplisai taylori expand in numbers but also they tended to live longer and grow larger with fewer pressures from crab predation.560220_871548582889436_8191899317797331968_n-1

As the slugs flourished in the Elkhorn Slough, the eelgrass beds became notably healthier. The slugs grazed upon many of the encrusting algae forms that would otherwise compete with eelgrass for sunlight. Acting as a nursery arena for a variety of marine fauna, healthy beds of Zostera marina is a highly desirable trend.

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During certain times of the year, we observe a high density of certain sea jellies such as the Red Eye Sea Jelly caught on video here.

Join our next naturalist-led adventure with
http://www.bluewaterventures.org
Kim Powell, MRPA
Owner, Operator & Naturalist
Blue Water Ventures
phone & fax: (831) 459 8548
email: bluewaterventuressc@gmail.com
website: http://www.bluewaterventures.org
127 Mason St, Santa Cruz CA 95060

follow us on Facebook! or our Nature News Blog Site

http://www.bluewaterventures.org

Elkhorn Slough is a fantastic location for a corporate team building event and our professional naturalists are ready to assist you! Our programs always include incredible wildlife viewing that helps to build a sense of unity among colleagues. Birding is fantastic and there are plenty of marine mammals to view.

We can do a variety of team building activities such as “walking the plank” problem solving and kayak races.

Some corporate groups choose to do an evening paddle with us. Night kayaking is magical and when conditions are favorable, we may witness the extraordinary light show produced by bioluminescent plankton. During the summer and early fall, bioluminescent algal blooms may light up the dark night water with every stoke of our paddle blade.

Leaving from Moss Landing, we’ll have a leisurely paddle through Elkhorn Slough before full darkness is upon us. Our trip will begin with a quiet observation of 20-30 sea otters that reside in Moss Landing Harbor. Beginners welcomed.

The Protected harbor of Pillar Point near Halp5070389f Moon Bay is another great destination to enjoy a team building event.

Hope you can join us!

 

 

 

 

Kim Powell, MRPA
Owner, Operator & Naturalist
Blue Water Ventures
phone & fax: (831) 459 8548
email: bluewaterventuressc@gmail.com
website: http://www.bluewaterventures.org
127 Mason St, Santa Cruz CA 95060

follow us on Facebook! or our Nature News Blog Site

http://www.bluewaterventures.org

Blue Water Ventures offers customized naturalist-led field trips in California, Central America and the Caribbean. As environmental educators, we believe in hands on learning experiences using the outdoors as our classroom.

When teachers call to inquire about field trips, I speak with them personally to discuss curriculum and the particular themes they would like covered during a program.

Many Bay Area area schools choose the calm protected water of Elkhorn Slough for a day of sea kayaking. Harbor seals, sea otters, cormorants and pelicans are easily observed from the quiet perspective of a kayak. For fifth graders and above, no previous kayaking experience is necessary.

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Our Elkhorn Slough curriculum includes: wetlands ecology, endangered species, natural history of sea otters, harbor seals, sea birds. Etc and cultural history. Leadership and teamwork are key components of your field trip. After lunch, students are introduced to several sampling techniques including a large seine net to pull and plankton tow with field microscopes to use.

We offer a leisurely paced, full day in Elkhorn Slough (9:30-2:00) for only $38 per person with a complimentary trip for teachers. Closer to San Francisco and the is Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay where a similar curriculum can be offered for $48 per person.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As a professional educator with over 30 years in the field with students, I am committed to providing quality outdoor programs. I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you regarding potential field trips for your students.
Kim Powell, MRPA
Owner, Operator & Naturalist
Blue Water Ventures
phone & fax: (831) 459 8548
email: bluewaterventuressc@gmail.com
website: http://www.bluewaterventures.org
127 Mason St, Santa Cruz CA 95060

follow us on Facebook! or our Nature News Blog Site

 

follow us on Facebook! or our Nature News Blog Site

Man In the Gray Suit

Man in the Gray Suit
Also known as the Landlord……love being home paddling among our humpback whales of Monterey Bay and a few more elusive species.
Rebecca and I paddled out about 3 miles from Moss Landing Harbor. Beautiful sea conditions, ideal for whale and wildlife sightings. We were hopeful and eventually in awe when 1/2 dozen humpback whales were sighted.

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Smelling a slight stench, we noticed a massive slick of dead anchovies which stirred up a feeding frenzy of birds and a few overly anxious sea lions…..off in the distance several humpback whales surfaced.
Glancing back towards the fish slick, a large dark dorsal fin approximately 2-3 feet high suddenly emerged among the fish goo. My thoughts instantly raced through a series of possibilities. Within seconds I realized we were kayaking with a truly impressive apex predator, a great white shark!
Bill Pullen who was with us confirmed my thoughts and said, “Yeah, that’s a big one” based on his recent sightings of juvenile white sharks while surfing around Santa Cruz county. How Big is Big? Large female white sharks may exceed 20 feet in length which would dwarf our tandem kayak but who knows….we just saw the impressive dorsal fin.
I have paddled Monterey Bay for over 20 years and today was my first good look at the stealthy predator, the Landlord of the Sea! Love the wonders of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Join us on a naturalist-led adventure at http://www.bluewaterventures.org. Our next whales and wildlife paddle leaving from Moss Landing is October 1st.

Last night our bioluminescence paddle was so incredible that we added more dates for September! Water was glowing and sparkling with each stroke of the kayak blade…erie, cool and memorable with marine mammals coming in close for a better look at us! Join us at http://www.bluewaterventures.org!

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