Tag Archive: wildlife

The Octopus and the Pufferfish

During our recent expedition to Belize, we were able to observe Caribbean Reef Octopus nightly as we explored the intertidal near our water huts on the edge of Glover’s Atoll.
We watched in fascination as the octopus fished under coral rubble by elongating their arms  ladened with sensory suckers which can taste their food once captured. Their beak/mouth is positioned at the base of their 8 arms and as Erica Berg keenly observed, their mouth is in their armpits!
We noticed a small sharpnose pufferfish become momentarily trapped by a sucker then quickly released as the octopus likely detected the unfavorable catch. Puffers contain tetrodotoxin, a powerful neurotoxin which protects the puffer from predation. Bobbing to the surface, the tiny puffer inflated it’s body and wobbled away.
Our group of women were such keen observers! We learned from each other sharing our daily observations during our 12 day blue water adventure! Join a natuarlist-led adventure at http://www.bluewaterventures.org!

The Story of the Pipe Fish where males do the birthin!




We watched an Eared Grebe wrestle a spindly pipe fish down the hatch in Elkhorn Slough yesterday. More to the Story!

Spring has arrived to the mudflats and eelgrass beds of Elkhorn Slough and the pheromones are floating! Male cormorants are flaring their feathers, female sea otters are sporting red noses and male pipefish are pregnant! One of our more liberated Ostecichthyes, the male bay pipefish carries the load of pregnancy.

A slightly bulbous brood pouch is located on the ventral side of the male, which receives a package of unfertilized eggs from the female pipefish. Like clockwork, sperm fertilizes the eggs. Once properly tucked into the male’s receptacle, skin flaps adhere over the eggs sealing them in for a 2-week journey with Dad at the helm.

As the tiny embryos develop, the male pipefish provides life’s essentials: nutrients, oxygen, water and shelter from the storms. Two weeks later the magic happens. With a few twists and turns, the male pipefish delivers a posy of youngster that split out of the brood pouch and are spitting images of their most liberated parents.



Prehensile Manatees!

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

Macro Life in Baja




There are so many WOW moments while exploring the wonders of Baja….gliding alongside a whale shark, the world’s largest fish, bracing as a massive mama gray whale gently nudges our tiny ponga boat or a 90 foot blue whale emerges next to us with an explosive breath.



However, I am always fascinated by the intricate details of life as we explore Baja….the grains of sand on a newwborn sea turtle’s back, a tiny shrimp mimicing the tube feet of a sea star, the vibrant hues of a pufferfish eye.

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Our next Baja adventure is February 2017, join us at http://www.bluewaterventures.org!




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



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.




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



Flocks of White Pelicans stole the show today on our Kirby to the Coast kayaking exploration of Elkhorn Slough. Conditions were ideal as an ebb tide carried us effortlessly to the coast winding through an intricate maze of tidal creeks. Unlike the Western Brown Pelicans which are plunge divers, White Pelicans feed by scooping fish with their bIlls.


aDSC00843They are known to work cooperatively together herding fish using their large bodies to form a net. Concentrating the fish within a “net of birds”, they then take turns scooping up a meal. With a wing span of nine feet, they are an impressive sight. Join us as we paddle throughout the winter in Elkhorn Slough and beyond at http://www.bluewaterventures.org.


There are those teachable moments be it in a traditional classroom or in an outdoor setting, that both student and teacher will never forget. On the final day of Coastal Kayak Explorer’s Camp we shared one of those moments.

Each summer Blue Water Ventures  based in Santa Cruz, CA  offers a variety of marine science camps. Kim Powell, owner of Blue Water Ventures leads our summer camps.  Kim has been conducting wilderness expeditions for students since 1985. She is a certified sea kayaking instructor through the American Canoe Association and Wilderness First Responder.  Kim loves sharing her knowledge of the marine world through a fun and informative approach. She has been the Director of Marine Science Camps in several  Caribbean locations in addition to Central California.

Here we go down under in Search of Sea Creatures.


Our Baja adventure 2013 had so many incredible moments. On our final day in Baja, it was suggested by our boat captain that we skip our last whale watching session as high winds were making the seas rough. A few of us so deeply yearned for a final goodbye to the whales that we bundled up and ventured out. Our Mexican based outfitter, Mar Y Aventuras is fantastic and agreed to take us out on that windy early morning in Magdalena Bay. As we watched a gray whale repeatedly breach off in the distance, we reflected upon our profound whale encounters in the breeding lagoons of Baja. I think each of us were quietly accepting that a final friendly visit by a California gray whale was unlikely.

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I had just mentioned to my group that it was Jean Peterson’s memorial service and we collectively sent love and light to Jean, her partner Mary and daughter Lucy. Jean yearned to be close to whales. Before she died, Jean gave me the book Grayson, a true story about a young swimmer who encounters a baby gray whale off of southern California.

Moments later, Frieda a California gray whale, a so called “friendly whale”, one that intentionally seeks human contact paid us a final visit. We recognized her by the distinctive scar on her barnacle laden rostrum. Moved beyond words, we watched her leave titling her head upward catching a final glimpse of us. Slowly and with intention she made her way to the only other boat in the vicinity.

As we drove off we watched a group of excited strangers thrilled by a visit from a whale named Freida. Though we will never meet the members of that small vessel, we share a common thread, a sublime encounter that will not be forgotten.

Kim Powell is owner, operator and head naturalist at Blue Water Ventures in Santa Cruz, CA. Each winter she travels to Baja, Mexico leading a 10 day eco-adventure, from desert to sea.

Blue Water Ventures Offers naturalist-led field trips for students and adventurous vacations for adults designed to be relaxing with an educational component. Kim has been organizing single and multiple day excursions to extraordinarily beautiful places since 1985. Find out more at http://www.bluewaterventures.org


Elkhorn Slough offers an incredible location to kayak among sea otters, harbor seals sea lions and an array of migratory birds. We encourage teachers to get your students on a naturalist-led field trip to Elkhorn Slough.

We offer a unique program that includes activities both in the water and on land to reinforce our outdoor curriculum. Most outfitters only spend a few hours on the water. We feel we offer something special.

Our Elkhorn Slough program includes: wetlands ecology, endangered species, natural history of sea otters, harbor seals, sea birds and cultural history. Leadership and teamwork are key components of your field trip.

After lunch, we pull a large seine net to examine our catch and discuss the theme of animal adaptations further.

We offer a leisurely paced, full day in Elkhorn Slough from 9:30-2:00 for only $38 per person. This includes time on the beach for lunch and activities.

Contact Kim Powell,Owner at: bluewaterventures@sbcglobal.net or 831 459 8548