Friday, May 11, 2012 – The Florida Tech Biological Oceanography students are observing that the daily low tides are slowly advancing and getting later in the day. When we first arrived, the tides were at dawn or a little earlier.
Now the low tide is not until late morning. For this reason, we went seal and sea lion watching first thing today before heading out for our fourth rocky intertidal field trip.
Simpson’s Reef and Shell Island at Cape Arago host a large and diverse colony of pinnipeds (paddled-footed marine mammals), some of which are here year round, and others of which visit annually for “pupping” (birthing of their young).
We used the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology’s spotting scopes – they were excellent for seeing them all and we were even able to take some pictures and video through the scope lens. Florida Tech Biological Oceanography students were able to observe Harbor Seals and their pups, California Sea Lions, Stellar’s Sea Lions, and two Northern Elephant Seals.
The Stellar’s and Elephant Seals, the behemoths of the beach, dominated the upper shore, with California Sea Lions down lower.
The Harbor Seals were scattered on kelp-covered intertidal boulders all around Shell Island, and many of the mothers had tiny baby seal pups by their side (see two pups above, silver in color next to the adult). The Florida Tech Biological Oceanography students got a very close-up view of a Harbor Seal pup while crabbing, and that may be the favorite marine mammal siting of the trip. Later in the day some Florida Tech students photographed a California Sea Lion in the marina, close to the OIMB lab (see featured image at top of post).