Friday, January 9, 2009

New Schmap Sydney Guide Includes Good Acres Photos

Two of my photos are included in the newly released sixth edition of the Schmap Sydney Guide to Sydney, Australia:

Manly to Shelly Beach Walk
Balmoral Beach

If you use an iPhone or iPod touch, then these same links will take you directly to my photos in the iPhone version of the guide:

Manly to Shelly Beach Walk
Balmoral BeachTweet This

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A New Year (Año Nuevo) with the Northern Elephant Seals

Four hundred and six years ago today, on January 3, 1603, Father Antonio de la Ascension, chaplain for the Spanish explorer Don Sebastian Vizcaino, who was charged with mapping the California coastline for Spain, named Año Nuevo Point (New Year Point). Apparently, Vizcaino did not land his ship due to the visible presence of Grizzly Bears. Today, Año Nuevo Point is part of Año Nuevo State Park and Reserve which is on the coast about 55 miles South of San Francisco, California. In a fitting beginning to 2009, we took a naturalist-guided tour at Año Nuevo with our friends, Ray and Jim, to see the Northern Elephant Seals on New Year's Day. We were fortunate that it was not raining or gusting and that there was no fog out on the Point (although a lot of fog hugging the coastline).

Año Nuevo Island
Año Nuevo Island and Point with an Abandoned House and Northern Elephant Seals

Since 1955, Northern Elephant Seals (Mirounga angustirostris) have established a rookery at Año Nuevo and arrive each winter to have their pups and to mate. They inhabit the Eastern Pacific Ocean from Canada and the United States to Mexico. Males grow to weigh up to 5,000 pounds and reach fourteen to sixteen feet long while females grow to weigh 1,200 to 2,000 pounds and reach ten to twelve feet long.

Elephant Seals are so named because of the large proboscis of the adult males which resemble an elephant's trunk and produce loud guttural noises. The proboscis also is filled with cavities designed to reabsorb moisture from the males' breathing which conserves moisture during the multi-month mating season when the males rarely leave the beach to feed. Males fight each other in battles characterized by bellowing for the ability to mate with female harems on the beaches.

Male Northern Elephant Seal
Male Northern Elephant Seal with Neck Scars from Battle Injuries

Male Northern Elephant Seal Vocalizing
Male Northern Elephant Seal Vocalizing

The pups weigh approximately 75 pounds at birth and are almost black in color. They reach 250 to 300 pounds in less than a month from feeding on their mothers' rich milk that is 55% fat. Most pups nurse from their mothers but some pups nurse from several females.

Mother and Pup
Mother and Her Nursing Days-Old Pup

Female Northern Elephant Seal Vocalizes at Pup
Neighboring Mother Vocalizes at Pup

It is incredible to see the small new borns next to their large mothers and the even larger males. Here, the relative sizes of pup, mother and adult male can be seen next to a seagull.

Northern Elephant Seal Family
Mother, Pup and Male Northern Elephant Seal

For more information on the Northern Elephant Seal click here and here.Tweet This