All in Greater Farallones
Driven by hunger, the surviving killer whales ventured into California waters, into Greater Farallones and Monterey Bay national marine sanctuaries. In 2000 researchers in Monterey Bay first documented members of the K and L pods. Subsequent years found them off Bodega Head, Point Arena, the Columbia River and other “new” feeding grounds. Here, at last, lay hope for them.
Humpbacks are denizens of the world’s oceans, from the Arctic to the Antarctic and nearly everywhere in between. Those who have seen humpbacks can understand why they make such outstanding “ambassadors of the sea” – with their size, and elegantly long pectoral fins – their name, Megaptera novaeangliae, actually means “Long-winged of New England.”
Ankle-deep in a sea of blue-eyed grass and poppies, from atop the promontory the watchers peered through binoculars downward, at the dark blue Pacific. Below, just beyond the breakers, a group of gray whales churned up a boil as they milled and rolled, splashing and lurching in a confused tangle, sinking, surfacing and regrouping. Migrating, or mating? But, this isn’t Baja – right?
As the tide receded, the harbor seal’s sleek form nearly blended into the dappled gray mudflats. She was restless, shifting her hindquarters, turning to inspect them. With just one more twitch, she gave a push and a small head emerged from between her hind flippers. The pup’s advent was heralded by the clamor of gulls squabbling over the afterbirth. Calling softly, sniffing and nuzzling her pup, the mother established a pair bond that would last just a few weeks, but which would equip her pup for survival on land and at sea. Welcome to springtime on the coast, to Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.
The cove was a mass of shining fronds of bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) floating languidly atop the swell. Each plant’s long, brown stalk stretched down to a sea floor teeming with myriad creatures. Amid the dim light filtering down from the surface, a leopard shark’s dappled form glided slowly, in search of prey. Small fish sheltered beneath the kelp canopy. Abalone grazed on succulent algae that clothed the rocky bottom. A black seabird dove beneath the surface, darting here and there, propelled by strong wings and feet, picking off fish, one by one. Life in the forest – this Kingdom of Kelp - was good, was balanced...