February and March on the Northern California Coast
Blubber Wars and Sausage Parties, Fishmash, Blowholes and Shark Bait…
The beaches and coves all along the Northern California coast all of a sudden come to life as the marine mammals begin their annual antics during mating and pupping season. Magnificent Gray Whales migrate north and have to circumvent the outermost point of the historic Point Reyes Light House, not coincidentally the best place to view whale migration from land.
But while you are there you may want to visit the dramatic increase of the Elephant Seal population on Limantour Beach. The old historic and by some accounts haunted (with good spirits) life boat station has now been renovated into a hostel. Ano Nuevo further south near Half Moon Bay is another wonderful destination spot. Learn about these magnificent creatures as they batter themselves in a fight for the harem. They can get to be the size of an SUV and watching two of them go chest to chest is more enticing than watching a crash derby.
Back up north at The Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands just north of Sausalito, volunteers are grinding herring into fish-mash and tubing sick young elephant seals using a funnel and a silicon tube the diameter of your thumb to “milk” the fish mash into the esophagus of these unwilling to eat creatures. But first you have to separate and tackle them into submission using only planks, towels and your body weight. The medications go in the food. Well all except for the breathing treatments. Yes, seals get athsma and pneumonia oddly enough. It may be a stress related immune response. Never the less, dividing and coaxing one into a cage, covering up the holes and nebulizing albuterol and atrovent into the enclosure is a site to see.
But if you have a few hours a week to help volunteer, the true fun is teaching a baby harbor seal how to swim!!! First the preface. Mom harbor seal leaves baby on beach to hunt for food. Unsuspecting humans hear the quite litteral “MA, MA” guttural sounds from the baby, approach it or worse touch it, (they are not born with an immune system they get their immunity from mother’s milk) and now the mom will abandon the baby in fear for her own life. The TMMC will then watch and make sure that the baby is in fact abandoned, capture it and bring it back to a special quarantined unit. Baby harbor seals do not know how to swim. So a docent will submerge the baby in a tub, wait for a stress response and gently bring the baby to the surface. After about three to five times, the baby harbor seal quickly realizes that air is UP there! And tada, you have taught a harbor seal how to swim!
I recommend staying at one of the many hostels in the area. The Point Reyes Hostel is especially primed for groups and two hostels Point Montara near Pacifica and Pidgeon Point are renovated light houses!
Also while you are there... check out the giant redwoods in Muir Woods National Monument, Tidepools, see Drakes Bay Oyster Farm, and don't miss out on the beautiful small towns from Iverness to Fairfax, San Anselmo, Olema, Novato, Mount Tam, etc.
Bring your mountain bikes for the many trails there, or bring your road bikes for a tour in the wine country.
The Marine Mammal Center
org/education/marine-mammal- information/pinnipeds/pacific- harbor-seal/
California Sea Lion
Whale watching and whales
More to come!!!
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