Our local sloughs (pronounced slews) are precious coastal wetlands (once extensive along the California coast, now about only 10% remain). The largest is Elkhorn Slough (officially the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve). With partners, the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and other local individuals, groups and agencies, the Reserve protects about 1,700 acres (687 ha) of oak woodlands, tidal creeks and freshwater marshes.
Elkhorn Slough’s trails are great to walk, but I especially enjoy kayaking its waters. Each trip is amazing and unique, with varied weather, tidal changes and the comings and goings of wild residents and visitors.
I recently received as a birthday present a special “We Paddle, You Photo” tour with Kayak Connection, Brian, my guide, did the kayaking work, while I focused on the wildlife. The day was perfect — clear sky, calm water, low tide, no wind. I had a wonderfully lazy (for me) view of the slough.
Here are shots of the harbor seals and sea otters we spotted. (Note: I used a telephoto to take the shots. Kayakers and other boaters are required to stay far enough away from these protected marine mammals so that the animals don’t change their behaviors. That’s tough when a friendly joins the tour and disregards the regulations, as this young sea otter did.)
And check out the cute curls on this harbor seal’s whiskers. I’ve never seen that before.
Next the birds will get to show off.
The elegant terns are back. For the past couple of weeks I’ve spotted them resting in the Monterey Harbor and feeding in the waters off Fisherman’s Wharf #2 and Del Monte Beach. They’re migrants, visiting us after nesting in Southern California and Mexico. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, approximately 90-97% of all elegant terns nest in one colony on Isla Rasa in the Gulf of California — a seabird sanctuary since 1964. (Heermann’s gulls breed there, too, and are also back in the Monterey area.)
Elegant terns (Thalasseus elegans) are fairly easy to find. Just zero in on the midair squeeky-gate-hinge sound. It’s a medium-sized tern with a yellow-orange bill, short forked tail, and a full black cap (during breeding season). Right now, the forehead is more whitish and the cap looks like a slipping black toupee.
BIG BLUE LIVE, a production of PBS and BBC, with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and others, has been in town this past week exploring and filming our beloved Monterey Bay. The focus is on the fine shape the bay is in today versus 50 years ago. It’s not pristine, but it is amazing (as you know if you’ve been following this blog).
Bay life has been busy during the filming (putting on a great show) with feeding and breaching humpback whales and orcas hunting seals. But there’s so much more to see, which I’m sure they’ll share.
The production has already started playing in Europe. It begins showing in the U.S. on Monday evening, Aug. 31, and plays for three consecutive nights on PBS stations. Tune in and enjoy BIG BLUE LIVE.