Sea Otter Eating Crabs

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Crabs are one of the favorite foods of sea otters.  Each individual sea otter specializes in 2-3 types of food that they prefer to eat, and their preferences usually come from their mother!  Researchers at the Elkhorn Slough have recently discovered that sea otters serve an important function in their ecosystem by keeping the crab population in check.  The crab population is so abundant in the Elkhorn Slough that the mud banks were collapsing due to all the crab holes.  Further, the crabs feed on sea bugs/slugs that keep the algae in check, and if there are too many crabs, then they eat all the slugs.  With the crab population under control such that the slugs can eat the excess algae, the eelgrass has become greener and more healthy.  Healthy seagrass is important for the planet, as it soaks up carbon dioxide (a major contributor to global warming) and provides a natural habitat for fish nurseries.  This happy sea otter is doing her part for the ecosystem by feasting on crabs!

Technical Details: Canon 7D, Canon 500L + 1.4x, ISO 400, f 6.3, 1/1600 sec. 

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Humpback Whale Mom and Calf Synchronized Breach

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This humpback whale mom (right) and calf (left) performed a synchronized breach in the Monterey Bay last summer.  Why the mom and calf pair sometimes breach together, or how they communicate to arrange to do so, is a mystery.  I am always eager to photograph the elusive breaching behavior of whales and the boat captain said that he has observed humpbacks breaching more in the afternoons.  I’ve heard from another boat captain that the whales breach more as the wind picks up and the water gets choppy, which is also typically in the afternoons, but choppy water/wind also causes the boat to rock from side to side, making whale photography more challenging.

Technical Details: Canon 7D, Canon 100-400L

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Common dolphins, Monterey Bay, California

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Common dolphins (delphinis) are not seen in the Monterey Bay too often, but last summer (July 2014) they were present as anchovy bait balls were near the shore and the Monterey Bay had warmer currents.  The dolphins, like the humpback whales and sea lions, were enjoying feasting on anchovies.  These dolphins were moving extremely quickly but surfaced to breathe at the same time, creating a cool photo opportunity.

Technical Details:  Canon 7D, Canon 100-400L

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Sea Otter eating a green crab

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This sea otter is eating a green-colored crab.  Sea otters learn from their mothers how to eat crabs without getting pinched by first pulling off and eating the legs.  Sea otters must eat up to 25% of their body weight each day, which is a lot of seafood since the average sea otter weighs 40-60 pounds.  This sea otter brought up two crabs at once for her crab feast.  Crabs are one of the favorite foods of sea otters and it turns out that sea otters keep the crab population in check, which is good for the environment too.  Studies have found that the crab population is so abundant in the Elkhorn Slough that the mud banks were collapsing due to all the crab holes. As a keystone species, sea otters are helping to keep other species populations in check.

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Sea Otter Resting in the Elkhorn Slough

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This sea otter was photographed from a boat on the Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing, California.  Sea otters must eat up to a quarter of their weight every day, such that they spend a lot of time resting between meals to conserve energy.  The afternoon light on this sea otter’s face and the very blue water make this photo more interesting.

Technical details:  Canon 7D, Canon 100-400L, ISO 400, f 6.3, 1/1250 sec. 

 

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Allen’s Hummingbird Landing Sequence

Allen's Hummingbird Landing

Allen’s Hummingbird Landing Sequence

An Allen’s hummingbird lands on a perch in the UCSC Arboretum in early spring.  Allen’s hummingbirds migrate from southern California and Mexico each spring.

Technical details: Canon 7D, Canon 500 + 1.4x (700mm), Gitzo tripod with wimberly

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Allen’s Hummingbird

An Allen’s hummingbird rests atop a plant, surveying the area.  Each spring, in February and early March, Allen’s hummingbirds migrate into our area from southern California and Mexico, where they proceed to compete for territories.  This photograph was taken in the UCSC Arboretum in early March.  This hummingbird would alternate between feeding, resting, and chasing other hummingbirds from his territory.  The blurred green background was achieved by arranging the shot by having a group of green trees directly in the background, such that by using a wide aperture, the trees were blurred achieving the soft, green color.

Technical Details: Canon 7D, Canon 500 + 1.4x (700mm), Gitzo tripod with wimberly

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Baby Hummingbirds in their Nest

Baby Hummingbirds in Nest

Baby Hummingbirds in Nest

This hummingbird nest was concealed within some bushes.  The female hummingbird builds the nest by sitting in the middle as she builds the rim around her.  She uses spider webs to hold the nesting material together, and then she uses lichens and mosses on the outside to help conceal the nest.  Supposedly the nest takes her about a week to build.  It is very small – only about an inch tall.

Anna’s hummingbirds lay two eggs at a time and can have 2-3 broods per year.  The female does all the work raising the young, as the males do not help with nesting.  The incubation period is 16 days and then the nesting period is an additional 20 days.  It appears that these two baby Anna’s hummingbirds will be ready to fledge soon, as they are getting big and the nest is looking a bit crowded.

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Sunset over Rocky Beach, Garrapata, California

Sunset at Rocky Beach in Garrapata

Sunset at Rocky Beach in Garrapata

Waves crash on Rocky Beach in Garrapata State Park, California, at sunset.  Located just south of Carmel, and at the gateway to Big Sur, Garrapata offers 2-miles of coastal hiking, peak hikes, and a rocky beach.  Garrapata State Park is a beautiful place to hike, photograph, and watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.

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Little Sur River in Big Sur, California

Little Sur River, Big Sur, CA

Little Sur River, Big Sur, CA

The Little Sur River flows through the Ventana wilderness and into the Pacific Ocean.  According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Little Sur River is one of the best streams in the U.S. for Steelhead, which is a type of rainbow trout that spawns in freshwater rivers after living in the ocean for a few years.  This scenic view of the Little Sur River can be seen from Highway 1 in Big Sur, CA.

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