A mother and a new-born Harbor Seal recognize each other by the unique smell of each other’s breath…but it has to be learned and you can observe mother and child nose to nose soon after birth and repeatedly over the first few hours of life exchanging breaths. Later, when the pups are in the water and crying for their mothers, you will see adults approach the pup and check the breath to see if it is theirs. Adult females can be quite aggressive when approached by a pup that does not have the right smell. I always enjoy these nose to nose shots. This was taken on the outside of the seawall at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla Cove, in La Jolla, California. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my birds in flight and action modifications. 1/1000 @ f4 @ ISO 250. Processed in Polarr.
Dropping back a few weeks to my time in San Diego for the San Diego Birding Festival, here is collage of three shots of the same Harbor Seal pup from Children’s Pool Beach in La Joya California. The pup is probably a few days old, and was enjoying the beach.
Nikon P900 at 1500mm equivalent field of view. 1/500th @ ISO 100 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom. Assembled in Phototastic.
Harbor seals can give birth on land, on floating ice, or in the water. This is, I think, a new-born Harbor Seal, making contact with its mother for the first time out of the water. They identify each other by sniffing each other’s breath. I was in San Diego at the height of the pupping season for Harbor Seals, and saw many new-borns on the beach at Children’s Pool in La Joya just up the coast. I have never seen an actual birth. One of these years I will be there at just the right time.
Nikon P900 at 1600mm equivalent field of view. 1/500th @ ISO 320 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom.
When you have an itch you just have to scratch it. Which is what I assume this sea pup, a few months old, is doing with its flipper/paw. Notice how flat that flipper is, and how well equipped with sharp nails! 🙂 For the first time this visit to La Jolla California and The Children’s Pool, I was able to go down the stairs and closer to the seals on the beach. This one was directly below the landing half way down, and was actively grooming while I was there. Note that this seal is only months old, and already has a wound (upper left corner of the image). Almost all the seals on the beach who were old enough to have brown fur coming in had wounds…most likely from nips and tussels with other seals, or a blessedly brief encounter with a Sea Lion. An unsuccessful encounter from the Sea Lion’s point of view. 🙂
Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom. 600mm equivalent. Shutter preferred. 1/1000th @ ISO 1250 @ f7.1. Processed in Snapseed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
Seals spend a good deal of their lives on land, especially when giving birth and nursing…but they are only really at home in the water. In the sea they are sleek and elegant, fast and graceful. On land they waddle and crawl, ungainly at best, awkward most of the time…when they are not sprawled out any old which way asleep. Seal pups, before they put on the layers of fat that will insulate them the rest of their lives, are slimmer and more agile. In fact, they get into the most impossible shapes. I am not sure what they are doing, but I saw, and photographed, many pups attempting to turn back on their own tails on my last visit to the Children’s Pool at La Jolla…like this one. His mother is not impressed 🙂
Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom. 200mm equivalent. Shutter preferred. ISO 1600 @ 1/1000th @ f5.1. Processed in Snapseed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
We drove up to the Scripps Park area of La Jolla yesterday in the pouring rain. It had let up by the time we found parking and started walking up the coast to the rocks where the Sea Lions congregate…and it stayed more or less dry as we walked back down to Children’s Pool where the Harbor Seals are birthing and feeding young on the beach. It was not the best light for photography, but with Brant’s Cormorant and Brown Pelicans in breeding plumage, and many Anna’s Hummingbirds and Song Sparrows working the bushes along the cliff-top, as well as the Sea Lions and Seals, I brought back enough images so it took me every spare moment all afternoon and into the evening to process them. 🙂
The weather did keep the numbers of Sunday Morning tourists down, so I was able, for the first time, to go down the stairs at the Children’s Pool and get this close-up portrait of a Harbor Seal. It was taken at just under 500mm equivalent with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 and the 75-300mm zoom. ISO 1600 @ 1/1000th @ f6.4. I would rather of used a lower ISO, but I am still practicing hand-holding the long zoom and needed the shutter speed.
Processed in Snapseed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
Seals look so sleek when they are wet that it is easy to forget that what we are seeing is fine fur covering their bodies. This seal has been out of the water long enough for the fur to dry. This is, perhaps, a particularly light colored seal, and quite striking among its fellows.
Taken at The Children’s Pool in La Jolla California. When I visit in early March, the Children’s Pool beach is always closed to humans while hundreds of seals use the sheltered cove and the beach to pup.
Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3 EV exposure compensation. 1) 1150mm equivalent field of view, f5.8 @ 1/400th @ ISO 100. 2) 60mm equivalent, f4 @ 1/1250th @ ISO 100. 3) 1150mm equivalent, f5.8 @ 1/320th @ ISO 100. 4) 840mm equivalent, f5.8 @ 1/250th @ ISO 100.
Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
I spent a few morning hours yesterday at Scripps Park in La Jolla California. In a relatively short stretch of spectacular coastline, you have breeding plumage Brown Pelicans, Cormorants, Sea Lions, and Seals. Oh, and of course gulls. Lots of gulls. For the patient, scanning the sea from the heights of the cliffs often turns up pelagic species, or a passing pod of Gray Whales. Since my time was limited, I concentrated on the easy stuff…Pelicans, Sea Lions, and Seals.
At the south end of Scripps Park (just beyond the south end of park proper in fact) is a sheltered beach with a massive curving sea wall that is known locally as Children’s Beach. In March it is closed to humans, since the Harbor Seals have begun to use it as a pupping beach. Yesterday there were probably 50 adult female seals lolling on the beach or swimming in the sheltered cove, and at least that many pups of various ages. Many of the pups were in the water with their mothers…but the mother’s seemed intent on herding them up onto the beach. Not an easy task with the very active pups, who seemed equally intent on getting by their mothers and into the water again. Kids. What can you do?
Other pups were nursing. If you look closely here you can see the mother’s teat were the pup is attached.
Observing (and photographing) the seals from the top of the cliff that forms the inland side of the cove, it is impossible not to get an impression of affection between the mother’s and the pups. Much of what they do looks speciously like play or cuddling. I know we are not supposed to project human emotions onto other species, but until someone proves otherwise, I am going to remain convinced that what I was seeing on Children’s Beach in La Jolla was seal love…a mother’s love for her pup…and a pup’s love for its mother.
I have some video of the seal pups at play in the water that I will post when I get it processed.
One last shot. Note that the pup’s head is resting on it’s mother’s spread flipper.
All shots with the Canon SX40HS out near the long end of the zoom (840mm equivalent). The nursing close-up with 2x digital tel-extender added for 1680mm equivalent. All hand held.
Processed in Lightroom for Intensity, clarity, and sharpness.