California: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Author Photographing Sardines at Open Seas. “The sea is as near as we come to another world.”

Sea Pen Display

Chambered Nautilus (cousin of the octopus)

Green Moray Eels

Bigfin Reef Squid

Lookdown Fish

Stone Scorpionfish (looking left)

Orange Cup Coral

Southern Sea Otter

Avocet (at least 26 years old)

Marbled Godwit (at least 21 years old)

Black Oystercatcher ( at least 24 years old)

Semipalmated Sandpiper (at least 20 years old)

Beautiful California Coast South of Monterey

We visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium at the end of February.  It is always a delight – one of the best aquariums we’ve ever seen!  It is extra special because of its beautiful location on the central California coast.  Although temporarily closed now because of the pandemic, you can visit virtually through these live cams:  https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams

Some of the birds at the aquarium are quite old  (https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/stories/the-aviarys-amazing-senior-citizens).  Each one was found injured and unable to be released back into the wild.  They have been happily living their lives in the aviary ever since.  I read that birdwatching and nature is good for the soul and health – agreed!  https://www.healthfitnessrevolution.com/top-10-health-benefits-of-bird-watching/

California: Pink Beach!

Short Walk to Pfeiffer Beach through Monterey Cypress Trees

Walk North on Beach

Pink Diamond Patterns in Sand

Pink Sand Around Rocks

Seaweed at Water’s Edge

Sea Stack with Keyhole Arch

Pfeiffer Beach is a real gem tucked away at the end of Sycamore Canyon Road at Big Sur, California (south of Monterey).  This spectacular beach is famous for its pink sand, formed by manganese garnet crystals that have washed down from the cliffs above. Look for ever-changing patterns of increasing pink sand as you walk north along the beach.  A bonus to your walk is the rocky sea arch offshore – watch for the waves to come roaring through its keyhole arch.  Don’t miss this hidden secret!  Learn more at:   https://www.hikespeak.com/trails/pfeiffer-beach-big-sur/  

A previous post about Pfeiffer Beach is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/big-sur-stunning-pink-sand-beach/

California: Long Beach Aquarium

Bicolor Anthias

California Moray Eel

Clown Fish

Clown Triggerfish

Rockmover or Dragon Wrasse

Leafy Sea Dragon

Giant Green Anemones

Strawberry Anemones

Moon Jellies

Spotted Lagoon Jellies

Zebra Shark

Fin Whale

Pacific White-Sided Dolphins

The Aquarium of the Pacific is a gem in Long Beach, California.  The displays are wall to ceiling and cover a variety of habitats.  You can also go out on whale watching excursions by aquarium naturalists from the dock outside.  An exciting expansion of the aquarium is currently underway.  We definitely will return again!  More info is at:  http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/

Monterey Bay Aquarium is Great!

Striped Pyjama Squid

Scrawled Filefish

Sea Gooseberry

Orange Sea Nettles

Baja Tropical Reef Tank

Orange Garibaldi

Sea Otters Sleeping on Beach Nearby at Moss Landing

Sea Otters Returning to Water

Sea Otter and Sea Gull

Raft of Sea Otters

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a wonderful place to visit – it is one of the top aquariums in the country!  It is located on the beautiful California coast south of San Francisco.  Up to 2,000 gallons per minute of fresh sea water constantly flows through the exhibits.  

We especially enjoyed seeing a recent display featuring the striped pyjama squid.  These shy cuttlefish have never been shown in the United States before now.  More info is at:  https://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/138692614238/were-geeking-out-over-the-newest-addition-to-our

Animators from Pixar Studios visited the aquarium before animation began on the movie “Finding Dory”.  They studied octopus, sea otters, and shorebirds in detail.  That attention to detail shines through in the film, and hopefully inspires a new generation of children to love the ocean too!

San Diego: Cabrillo National Monument and Point Loma Lighthouse

Rocky Tide Pool Area on Coast

Rocky Tide Pool Area on Coast

Beautiful View of San Diego from  Cabrillo National Monument

Beautiful View of San Diego from
Cabrillo National Monument

Statue of Cabrillo

Statue of Cabrillo

Point Loma Lighthouse

Point Loma Lighthouse

3rd Order Fresnel Lens In Lighthouse Museum

3rd Order Fresnel Lens In Lighthouse Museum

Prismatic Colors of Fresnel Lens

Prismatic Colors of Fresnel Lens

Overlook of Gray Whale "Highway"

Overlook of Gray Whale “Highway”

A popular place to visit near San Diego is Cabrillo National Monument.   At the park’s southern end are some of the most accessible tidepools in southern California.  The rocky trails there overlooking the Pacific Ocean are very scenic.  Nearby stands a statue of Juan Cabrillo overlooking beautiful San Diego Bay.  It commemorates his landing there in 1542.  At the top of Point Loma Peninsula stands the old Point Loma Lighthouse.  It was in active service from 1855-1891, but was retired because the light was often above the fog line and was thus invisible.  A short stroll from the lighthouse leads to the Gray Whale Overlook.  It is an excellent place to watch for whale spouts in winter. 

Emma Minter, who lived at the lighthouse as a child in 1878, said:  “What had I for playthings?  The nicest in the world!  Pretty shells, colored stones, kelp babies.  It seems to me that I can remember every day of my young life there.”  

Information on visiting Cabrillo National Monument is at:  https://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm

Catalina Island: Beautiful Tile Pottery

Orange Garibaldi Fish

Orange Garibaldi Fish Tile

Seal in Kelp Forest Tile

Seal in Kelp Forest Tile

Boat Spotting Flying Fish Tile

Boat Spotting Flying Fish Tile

Flying Fish Tile

Flying Fish Tile

Sea Lions Tile

Sea Lions Tile

Humpback Whales Tile

Humpback Whales Tile

Pelican at Sunset Tile

Pelican at Sunset Tile

Yellow Birds Tile

Yellow Birds Tile

Catalina Casino Tile

Catalina Casino Tile

Avalon, California, is famous for its historic Catalina tile. Pottery and tiles from 1927-1937 were made in Avalon from the island’s red clay and then glazed with local minerals. Vintage Catalina tiles are now a hot collector’s item. Tiles were decorated in four primary colors: Catalina blue, Descanso green, Toyon red, and Manchu yellow. Tiles often feature island scenes and animals, along with patterns and geometric shapes. Beautiful historic tiles and murals can be viewed throughout town, and reproductions are available in gift shops. In 2013 the City of Avalon celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Catalina Island: Flying Fish!

Historic Catalina Flying Fish Tour Boat Blanche W

Historic Catalina Flying Fish Tour Boat Blanche W

Vintage Spotlights

Vintage Spotlights

Vintage Flying Fish Spotting Postcard

Vintage Flying Fish Spotting Postcard

Vintage Catalina Flying Fish Postcard

Vintage Catalina Flying Fish Postcard

Summer Flying Fish Festival Logo

Summer Flying Fish Festival Logo

1915 Postcard Featuring Child Feeding Old Ben the Sea Lion at Dock

1915 Postcard Featuring Child Feeding Old Ben the Sea Lion at Dock

The waters offshore Catalina Island deliver a special treat to visitors in summer – the chance to view flying fish at night. We went out on the historic wooden boat Blanche W. built in 1924. The boat was named after chewing gum magnate William Wrigley’s first granddaughter, and features open air mahogany benches in the back. Spotlights (vintage World War One, 40-million candle-power) mounted on the front of the boat were used to scan the water for fish. At one point we watched a pelican join in the fun by diving for fish when they jumped out of the water. What a memorable night! A wonderful TV show about Catalina’s flying fish by Huell Howser of “California’s Gold” is at:  https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/1999/08/01/flying-fish-californias-gold-1009/

Catalina Island: Underwater Tour

Semi-Submersible Tour

Semi-Submersible Tour

Underwater Viewing

Underwater Viewing

Abundant Fish by Windows

Abundant Fish by Windows

Kelp Bass

Kelp Bass

Bright Orange Garibaldi

Bright Orange Garibaldi

Santa Catalina Island Kelp Forest Creatures Identification Guide

Santa Catalina Island Kelp Forest Creatures Identification Guide

When we visited Catalina Island, we went on an underwater semi-submersible tour (other ways to view sea life include snorkeling, diving, and glass bottom kayaking). Numerous marine preserves surround the island and protect vast numbers of fish. Our favorite fish was the orange garibaldi – they are very feisty and often approach divers (learn more at http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/fishes/garibaldi). The fun part of the tour was never knowing what we’d see next!

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Wild Baby Sea Otter Born in Outdoor Tidepool

Holiday e-Card by Monterey Bay Aquarium

Holiday e-Card by Monterey Bay Aquarium

A wild baby sea otter was born in the outdoor tidepool at Monterey Bay Aquarium, California, on December 20, 2015.  The cutest present to the Aquarium ever!  The mother and pup have direct access to the ocean and are free to come and go as they please.  Links and adorable pictures are at:

http://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/135606363553/the-squee-heard-round-the-world

http://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/135726438723/wild-otter-mom-and-pup-update

The picture above was posted online by the Aquarium on Christmas Day:  http://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/135916080178/may-your-holiday-season-be-warm-and-bright-thank

UPDATE March 5, 2016:  Another wild mother sea otter gave birth in the Monterey Bay Aquarium tidepool!  Read about it and watch video at:  https://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/140578637168/welcome-to-the-world-little-otter

Long Beach, California, Scenery: Real and Fake

Point Fermin Lighthouse

Point Fermin Lighthouse

Point Vicente Lighthouse

Point Vicente Lighthouse

Lions Lighthouse for Sight

Lions Lighthouse for Sight

Lions Lighthouse for Sight at Night

Lions Lighthouse for Sight at Night

Parker Lighthouse Restaurant

Parker Lighthouse Restaurant

Whale Mural on Long Beach Arena

Whale Mural on Long Beach Arena

Fake Oil Island

Fake Oil Island

Oil Island "Condo" Tower to Conceal Rigging

Oil Island “Condo” Tower to Conceal Rigging

We enjoyed our visit to Long Beach, California, in August.  Some of the scenery was real, and some of it wasn’t what it appeared to be.  All of it was fun to see!

The Point Fermin Lighthouse is located 9 miles north of Long Beach.  This Victorian home is one of the oldest lighthouses on the West coast.  It was restored in 2002, and the house and colorful garden are open for tours.  Eight miles north, the Point Vicente Lighthouse sits on a cliff edge on the Pacific Ocean.  This now-automated and functioning light station was built in 1926.

At Long Beach Harbor are two unofficial lighthouses.  The scenic tower of the Lions Lighthouse for Sight is a symbol for fundraising activities for the blind.  It is lit up with colorful floodlights at night.  Another unofficial light sits in a tower at the top of Parker’s Lighthouse Restaurant.   Both functioning lights act as private aids to navigation.

Not to be missed nearby is the whale mural (Wyland Whaling Wall) on the Long Beach Arena.  It stands 10 stories tall, and was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest mural when it was painted in 1992.  The whales on it are life-size.

Long Beach is famously known as one of the top five oil fields in the nation.  Fake “islands” were created there in 1965 to conceal offshore oil drilling rigs and to enhance the natural beauty of the area.  The closest THUMS island (Texaco, Humble, Union, Mobil, and Shell) is located ½ mile offshore.  These unique islands were designed by Disneyland architect Joseph Linesch.  Each one contains fake buildings to conceal oil rigging machinery and real flowing waterfalls to obscure sound.  Each island contains about 300 palm trees and 300 oil wells, and a wealth of marine life surrounds it underwater.  The overall effect is so convincing that visitors regularly ask how they can stay there. The islands were named after the four astronauts who died in a capsule fire on a NASA launch pad in 1968 (Grissom, White, Freeman, and Chaffee).  The islands celebrated their 50th anniversary of operation in October 2015.  You can watch an interesting television show about the islands by Huell Howser of California’s Gold at: https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/2008/01/10/oil-islands-californias-gold-10002/

California: Blue Whales!

Blue Whale Surfacing (click any pictures to enlarge)

Blue Whale Surfacing (click any pictures to enlarge)

Notice Two Small Dark Remora Fish Hanging On Near Blue Whale's Small Dorsal Fin

Notice Two Small Dark Remora Fish Hanging On Near Blue Whale’s Small Dorsal Fin

Blue Whale Blowhole and Back

Blue Whale Blowhole and Back

Close-up of Blue Whale Blowhole for Breathing

Close-up of Blue Whale Blowhole for Breathing

"Footprint" of Smooth Water Left Behind When Blue Whale Dives

“Footprint” of Smooth Water Left Behind When Blue Whale Dives

Hammerhead Shark Fins

Hammerhead Shark Fins

Sea Lions on Dana Point Marina Buoy

Sea Lions on Dana Point Marina Buoy

Red Breasted Merganser

Red Breasted Merganser

Double Crested Cormorant

Double Crested Cormorant

Our Welcome Back Sign

Our Welcome Back Sign

Recently we visited southern California.  We wanted to see blue whales – the largest creature to ever live on Earth!  Blue whales are bigger than the largest dinosaur.  They can reach up to 100 feet long and weigh up to 200 tons.  Their heart is the size of a small car, and their largest blood vessel (the aorta) is large enough for a person to crawl through.  Blue whales eat 2-4 tons of tiny shrimp-like krill per day during feeding season.  They are the loudest animal on the planet – their songs can be heard over 1,000 miles away!  Baby blue whales weigh 2-3 tons at birth, and gain 200 pounds per day for the first year.  Their life span is 80-110 years.  

Blue whales are endangered – only 10,000-25,000 remain.  The California coast in summer has the highest concentration of blue whales in the world.  Best places to see them are the Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, and the Farallon Islands off San Francisco.  We went on a whale watching tour with Captain Dave at Dana Point (his Dolphin Safari whale watching tours are the best, and he is a leader in whale rescues).  We were thrilled to see two blue whales!  Awesome!    Included below is a 28-second timelapse video of the Dana Point Marina at Dusk.  A previous post about Captain Dave’s Whale Watching Tours is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/southern-california-best-whale-and-dolphin-watching-at-dana-point/

California Beach Treasures

California Coast South of San Francisco

California Coast South of San Francisco

Long Exposure of Rocky Coast

Long Exposure of Rocky Coast

Long Exposure of Ocean Waves

Long Exposure of Ocean Waves

Rocky Ledge on San Mateo Coast

San Mateo Coast: “Pig” Rock

San Mateo Coast: Tafoni Rock

Sea Foam on a Windy Day

Sea Foam on a Windy Day

Tafoni Rocks

Tafoni Rocks

Interesting Rock Patterns

Interesting Rock Patterns

Colorful Pebbles and Orange Turban Shell

Colorful Pebbles and Orange Turban Shell

Abalone Shell on Pebble Beach

Close-up of Abalone Shell

Japanese Fishing Float

Japanese Fishing Float

Acorn Barnacles and Red Algae (Nori)

Acorn Barnacles and Red Algae (Nori)

Clear Spiky Gelatinous Shells of Corolla Sea Butterflies and Seaweed

By the Wind Sailor with Green and Blue Sea Glass

By the Wind Sailor with Green and Blue Sea Glass

Green Anemone in Tidepool

Green Anemone in Tidepool

6 Armed Purple Sea Star

6 Armed Purple Sea Star

Agates Collected on Beach

Agates Collected on Beach

Agates Glowing under UV Blacklight

Agates Glowing under UV Blacklight

Agates after Polishing in Rock Tumbler

Agates after Polishing in Rock Tumbler

The California coastline south of San Francisco is very rocky and scenic. At low tide there are all sorts of interesting things to see on the beach and in the tidepools.  Surprisingly turban snails can live up to 30 years! Sometimes you find jellyfish, salp, and pyrosomes washed in from Monterey Bay.  A day at the ocean is always fun!  (Click on the pictures above for additional stories and links.)  Great info with amazing pics of jellies and salp/siphophores is at: 

https://www.jellywatch.org/

https://roaring.earth/giant-deep-sea-worm-discovered/

Monterey Bay Aquarium is the Best!

Leopard Shark in Kelp Forest

Leopard Shark in Kelp Forest

Rockfish in Kelp Forest

Rockfish in Kelp Forest

Pink Fish-Eating Anemones

Pink Fish-Eating Anemones

Pink-Tipped Green Elegant Anemone

Pink-Tipped Green Elegant Anemone

Sand Dollar Bubble Tank

Sand Dollar Bubble Tank

Open Sea Exhibit with Sea Turtle

Open Sea Exhibit with Sea Turtle

Sea Turtle Swimming

Sea Turtle Swimming

Spotted Comb Jelly

Spotted Comb Jelly

Transparent Moon Jelly

Transparent Moon Jelly

Stinging Sea Nettle Jellyfish

Stinging Sea Nettle Jellyfish

Fluorescent Coral

Fluorescent Coral

Monterey Bay Aquarium in California has the best exhibits!  It has been rated best in the nation for kids.  Ocean life is rich and diverse, and the creatures that live there are utterly fascinating.  I can never get enough!  All of our posts featuring Monterey Bay Aquarium are at:   https://naturetime.wordpress.com/category/california/northern-california/monterey-bay-area/monterey-bay-aquarium/

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Fantastic Tentacles Exhibit!

 

Tentacles Entrance Sign

Tentacles Entrance Sign

Tentacles Exhibit Sign

Tentacles Exhibit Sign

Tentacles "Myths Prevailed" Display

Tentacles “Myths Prevailed” Display

Octopus Attacking Golden Gate Bridge in 1955 Movie "It Came from Beneath the Sea"

Octopus Attacking Golden Gate Bridge in 1955 Movie “It Came from Beneath the Sea”

Tentacles "Early Influences" Display

Tentacles “Early Influences” Display

Octopus Petroglyph, Easter Island, Chile

Octopus Petroglyph, Easter Island, Chile

"Night of the Ammonites", Ray Troll, 1998

“Night of the Ammonites”, Ray Troll, 1998

"Colossal Octopus" Pen and Wash Drawing, 1803

“Colossal Octopus” Pen and Wash Drawing, 1803

"Gamochonia" Octopus Scientific Illustration by Ernst Haeckel

“Gamochonia” Octopus Scientific Illustration by Ernst Haeckel

Minoan Vessel with Octopus Motif, Crete, 9th Century BC

Minoan Vessel with Octopus Motif, Crete, 9th Century BC

Giant Pacific Octopus 1

Giant Pacific Octopus 1

Giant Pacific Octopus 2

Giant Pacific Octopus 2

Giant Pacific Octopus 3

Giant Pacific Octopus 3

Mechanical Octopus Display

Mechanical Octopus Display

Bigfin Reef Squid

Bigfin Reef Squid

Broadclub Cuttlefish

Broadclub Cuttlefish

Stumpy Cuttlefish

Stumpy Cuttlefish

Purple and Yellow Australian Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Purple and Yellow Australian Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Chambered Nautilus

Chambered Nautilus

Squid Eggs

Squid Eggs

Richard's Cephalopod Selfie Video taken at Tentacles Exhibit

Richard’s Cephalopod Selfie Video taken at Tentacles Exhibit

We just got back from a visit to California, and tremendously enjoyed seeing the new Tentacles Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  The exhibit features animals in the cephalopod family, including octopus, cuttlefish, squid, and nautilus.  They are masters of disguise and quick color change artists – it has to be seen to be believed!(http://ocean.si.edu/ocean-news/how-octopuses-and-squids-change-color)

Octopus are known for their intelligence (https://orionmagazine.org/article/deep-intellect/), and are said to be as smart as cats.  Each one has its own unique personality.  Octopus recognize and greet their favorite people (and sometimes they deliberately squirt people they do not like).  A link to one of my favorite pictures posted last year by the aquarium is at:  http://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/17955182992/why-were-so-attached-to-the-giant-pacific 

A few years ago one of the night watchmen at the Monterey Bay Aquarium saw an octopus crawling on the floor.  Apparently at night it would leave its tank and travel to other tanks for a midnight snack!  That solved the mystery of the missing fish.  More info about the Giant Pacific Octopus is at:  http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/octopus-and-kin/giant-pacific-octopus 

The Tentacles Exhibit is the best!  More info about these amazing animals is at:  http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals-and-experiences/exhibits/tentacles  As usual, click on any of the pictures in the post to enlarge and get more detailed information.

UPDATE:  An amazing video and pictures of squid egg cases are at this link:  http://deepseanews.com/2015/03/whats-this-viral-video-mystery-blob-hint-its-not-a-pyrosome/

An outstanding book to read is by Sy Montgomery – “The Soul of an Octopus:  A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness”, 2016.

Southern California: Best Whale and Dolphin Watching at Dana Point!

Gray Whale Close to Beach

Gray Whale Close to Beach

Gray Whale Spout

Gray Whale Spout

 

Back Bumps (knuckles) of Gray Whale

Back Bumps (knuckles) of Gray Whale

Group of Mother, Baby, and Adult Escort Whales

Group of Mother, Baby, and Adult Escort Whales

Dolphin (left) and Gray Whale (right) Playing Together

Dolphin (left) and Gray Whale (right) Playing Together

Sea Lions on Buoy

Sea Lions on Buoy

Common Dolphin Jumping

Common Dolphin Jumping

Dolphins Swimming

Dolphins Swimming

We recently returned from a trip to Southern California. Our favorite day was spent whale watching off Dana Point (between Los Angeles and San Diego).  We went out on Captain Dave’s special catamaran named Manute’a that has 2 glassed-in underwater viewing pods.  I can’t say enough about his whale and dolphin watching tours – they are the BEST!

The weather on April 21 was perfect – sunny, warm, and the seas were calm. Dana Point is a landmark for the gray whales during their annual migration between Alaska in summer and Mexico in winter (where mother whales give birth in Baja’s calm lagoons). In spring mother whales hug the coast with their new babies as they travel north, thus making them easy to spot. As a bonus during the trip, Captain Dave released a drone to film unique behavior he had never seen before – mother whales were teaching their babies how to sift mud off the bottom for food.  We ended up seeing 7 gray whales, 1 fin whale, and over 200 common dolphins.  It was especially sweet watching the dolphins playing with the whales!

More info about Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari is at:  http://www.dolphinsafari.com/    His beautiful 5 minute viral video is at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bo_f8mV5khg&feature=youtu.be&hd=1  (you can skid the ad).  Not only is Captain Dave an award-winning filmmaker, he is also licensed to rescue whales that are in trouble. This trip was so amazing that we hope to return again sometime in summer to see the blue whales – the largest living creatures on Earth.  Life in the ocean is incredible!  Below is our one minute cell phone video of dolphins – footage was taken both above deck and below (in the underwater viewing pod).

 

Beautiful White Pelicans

White Pelican Swimming

White Pelican Swimming

White Pelican Wing Stretch

White Pelican Wing Stretch

White Pelican Pouch and Knob on  Bill

White Pelican Pouch and Knob on Bill

White Pelican Flying

White Pelican Flying

Flock of White Pelicans Soaring

Flock of White Pelicans Soaring

White pelicans are one of North America’s largest birds.  Their 9 foot wingspan is second only to the American Condor.  They are true snow birds – they spend winter along our southern coasts and head inland and north in summer.  During nesting season, they grow temporary knobs on their bills and have bright yellow around their eyes.  They feed by dipping their pouches into the water, and sometimes work together to corral and scoop up fish.  It is always a treat to see these magnificent birds!

Point Lobos: Sea Lion Point and Cypress Grove Trails

Sea Lions on Rocks Below (bottom right)

Sea Lions on Rocks Below (bottom right)

Wildflower Meadow on Bluff Overlooking Ocean

Wildflower Meadow on Bluff Overlooking Ocean

Natural Stone Staircase to Sea Lion Point

Natural Stone Staircase to Sea Lion Point

Lizard-Tail Wildflowers along Trail

Lizard-Tail Wildflowers along Trail

Sedimentary Rock Pair among Wildflowers

Sedimentary Rock Pair among Wildflowers

Round Sedimentary Rock along Trail

Round Sedimentary Rock along Trail

Powdery Live-Forever or Bluff Lettuce

Powdery Live-Forever or Bluff Lettuce

Solid Rock "Beach" at End of Sea Lion Point Trail

Solid Rock “Beach” at End of Sea Lion Point Trail

Cypress Point Trail in Fog

Cypress Point Trail in Fog

Black-Tailed Mule Deer among Monterey Pine

Black-Tailed Mule Deer among Monterey Pine

Sea Lion Point Trail is one of the most popular places to walk at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve near Monterey, California.  The trail follows a natural stone staircase down to the Pacific Ocean.  Sea lions can often be heard barking on the rocks offshore.  And if it’s not too foggy, you might even see them too!  Sedimentary rocks along the trail are part of the Carmelo Formation and are over 60 million years old.  

Cypress Grove Trail heads north from the Sea Lion Point parking area.  This trail is famous for its extremely rare Monterey cypress trees.  Their striking appearance is the result of constant buffeting by the wind and salt spray.  These trees grow naturally along Monterey Bay at Point Lobos and 17-Mile Drive’s Cypress Point.  More info about Point Lobos is at: https://www.pointlobos.org/

California: Scenic Jalama Beach

Jalama Beach

Jalama Beach

Travertine Onyx Sedimentary Rock

Travertine Onyx Sedimentary Rock

Beautiful Rock Patterns

Beautiful Rock Patterns

Pacific Sea Star

Pacific Sea Star

Orange Club Sea Squirts and Old Growth Kelp

Orange Club Sea Squirts and Old Growth Kelp

Feather Boa Kelp, Giant Kelp, and Surf Grass

Feather Boa Kelp, Giant Kelp, and Surf Grass

Vineyard Entrance Sign and Agave with Massive Flower Stalks

Vineyard Entrance Sign and Agave with Massive Flower Stalks

Mercedes-Benz Car Commercial Being Filmed

Recently we visited Jalama Beach (north of Santa Barbara, California).  The geology of the area is very interesting.  Walking along the beach it is possible to see sandstone, travertine onyx, and agates.  On a super lucky day you might even see petrified whale bone or fossilized fish.  Naturally-occurring black tar coats a few of the rocks on the beach.  It seeps from oil–bearing rocks along fault lines of the Miocene Monterey Formation.  The seeps can be both onshore (La Brea Tar Pits) and offshore, and are a source for oil and gas production in Southern California.  In the past, native Chumash people used the tar to waterproof their boats.  We saw lots of sea life on the beach, including dozens of starfish, a clump of orange club sea squirts, and several kinds of seaweed.  The road to Jalama Beach (west of Solvang) winds through rolling hills past several wineries.  The landscape is so beautiful that we were momentarily delayed while a Mercedes-Benz C250 car commercial was being filmed in the area!

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Closeup of Ocean Sunfish

Closeup of Ocean Sunfish

Monterey Bay Aquarium occasionally has an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) on display in the Open Sea Exhibit.  These fantastic fish have fins at the top and bottom, and a flattened tail at the back.  They can get up to 10 feet long and weigh over 5,000 pounds.  They increase their weight by 60 million times over their lifetime!  Fast growth means that each ocean sunfish at the aquarium is only on display for about a year.  At that point the fish must be airlifted out of the tank by helicopter to its freedom in Monterey Bay.  Adult females can produce over one million eggs per spawning season!

Ocean sunfish are related to pufferfish, and feast on jellyfish in the deep ocean.  After diving they like to float sideways at the surface, basking in the warmth of the sun. They are famous for being very curious and approaching divers, and are found in temperate and tropical waters worldwide.  More info is at: http://www.oceansunfish.org/index.php

California Sea Glass – History in Your Hands

Overall Ceramic and Pottery Shards

Overall Ceramic and Pottery Shards

Overall Colorful Sea Glass Pieces

Overall Colorful Sea Glass Pieces

This ceramic piece says 1945 – the year World War II ended.

This ceramic piece says 1945 – the year World War II ended.

This ceramic piece says Japan and includes a rising sun and Japanese characters, which dates it to the late 1940s. One of the characters on the bottom line refers to water, and it may be part of the name of the manufacturer.

This ceramic piece says Japan and includes a rising sun and Japanese characters, which dates it to the late 1940s. One of the characters on the bottom line refers to water, and it may be part of the name of the manufacturer.

This ceramic piece has a beautiful blue willow pattern – the most popular pattern in the history of dinnerware.

This ceramic piece has a beautiful blue willow pattern – the most popular pattern in the history of dinnerware.

The writing on this piece ends in “erey” – perhaps it is part of the word “Monterey”.

The writing on this piece ends in “erey” – perhaps it is part of the word “Monterey”.

This unique piece is chicken wire embedded in textured striated glass (used for reinforcement and safety glass in cabinets, plus windows at schools and fire stations). This is a hot new vintage glass being recreated for current products. A piece of sea glass half this size was recently posted for sale on eBay with a starting bid of $69.99.

This must-have piece of glass is Jadite – opaque green glassware dating to the 1930s. It was so favored by Martha Stewart that she reintroduced this glass to modern times.

This must-have piece of glass is Jadite – opaque green glassware dating to the 1930s. It was so favored by Martha Stewart that she reintroduced this glass to modern times.

This ceramic piece is decorated with a beautiful pink pattern - perhaps flowers.

This ceramic piece is decorated with a beautiful pink pattern – perhaps flowers.

This ceramic piece is a bright green chartreuse color – perhaps Fiestaware from the 1950s.

This ceramic piece is a bright green chartreuse color – perhaps Fiestaware from the 1950s.

This clear glass piece is a bottle top ring. It was so highly prized by Calvin Klein that he dressed his best models in sea glass rings.

This clear glass piece is a bottle top ring. It was so highly prized by Calvin Klein that he dressed his best models in sea glass rings.

This piece is part of a striped ceramic plate.

This piece is part of a striped ceramic plate.

Sea Glass Collected in February 2020.

Misc Sea Glass Finds including Hand Painted Ceramic Piece with Orange Poppies, Baby Blue Piece of Tile, and Others.

This round bottom was made by Glass Containers Inc. between 1933-1960s. It may have been from a decorative liquor bottle. On the upper left are what looks like two interlocking diamonds, which are actually the initials GC.

This Mission Dry Corp Round Glass Bottom is from a Mission Royal Punch Cola Bottle from the 1940s/1950s.

Advertisement for Mission Royal Punch Cola in the 1940s/1950s. Matches the Mission Dry Corp Round Glass Bottom.

Recently we found amazing sea glass at Seaside Beach, California (near Monterey). We found some of the pieces on the beach, but Richard noticed that the best pieces were out at the surf line. After I saw a piece I just HAD to have, I took off my shoes and socks and went into the 50 degree ocean water – brrrrrrrr! Although I got soaked, it was worth it. Each piece of glass tells a story – it is like holding a piece of history in your hand. All of the sea glass is worn smooth and pitted by ocean weathering, so it is at least 50 years old. If you recognize or know more about any of these pieces of glass, please let me know.

UPDATE:  We returned to collect sea glass at Seaside in February 2020.  Still lots to find!  Our new favorites include the hand painted ceramic piece with orange poppies, baby blue piece of tile, the GC round glass bottom from an ornate liquor bottle, and the Mission Royal Punch Cola bottle bottom (the camel advertisement from the time is fantastic!).  

Point Lobos: Nesting Brandt’s Cormorants

Brandt's Cormorants Nesting on Clifftop

Brandt’s Cormorants Nesting on Clifftop

Male Brandt's Cormorant Carrying Flowers as Nesting Material

Male Brandt’s Cormorant Carrying Flowers as Nesting Material

Brandt's Cormorants Sitting on Seaweed Nests

Brandt’s Cormorants Sitting on Seaweed Nests

Brandt's Cormorant Mating Display

Brandt’s Cormorant Mating Display

Pair of Brandt's Cormorants Showing Blue Throat Pouches

Pair of Brandt’s Cormorants Showing Blue Throat Pouches

Brandt's Cormorant and Western Gull

Brandt’s Cormorant and Western Gull

Brandt's Cormorant Nesting Colony on Bird Island

Brandt’s Cormorant Nesting Colony on Bird Island

View of Bird Island (background left) from China Cove Trail

View of Bird Island (background left) from China Cove Trail

Brandt’s cormorants are nesting now along the China Cove Trail at Point Lobos State Park near Monterey, California. These sea birds have spectacular blue throat pouches and turquoise eyes during breeding season. The nesting material consists of seaweed and plants collected by the males. This year some of the birds decided to nest right beside the trail, so it is a real treat for photographers!

Monterey: Scenic Lover’s Point

Scenic Lover's Point

Scenic Lover’s Point

Field of Pink Trailing Carpet Ice Plants

Field of Pink Trailing Carpet Ice Plants

Brewer's Blackbird and Ice Plants

Brewer’s Blackbird and Ice Plants

Heart on Rock Wall at Lover's Point

Heart on Rock Wall at Lover’s Point

We’ve just returned from a trip celebrating our anniversary along the California coast. One of the most scenic places we visited was Lover’s Point at Monterey, California. The pink ice plants are particularly stunning this time of year!

California: Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

Piedras Blancas Light Station

Piedras Blancas Light Station

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Tower with Beacon

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Tower with Beacon

The Piedras Blancas Lighthouse was built in 1875. The top of the tower was sheared off during a fierce storm in 1949. Afterward an automated beacon was placed on top of the shortened tower and it was returned to service. Currently the lighthouse is undergoing restoration. Visitors can only access the lighthouse grounds by guided tour. Especially popular is the “Sunset and Whale Watching Tour” every March.

Elephant Seals are Fun to Watch!

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

Alpha Male Elephant Seal

Alpha Male Elephant Seal

Mock Battles among Young Male Elephant Seals

Mock Battles among Young Male Elephant Seals

Scuffle among Young Male Elephant Seals

Scuffle among Young Male Elephant Seals

Female Elephant Seal Face

Female Elephant Seal Face

Elephant Seal Family

Elephant Seal Family

Mother and Baby Elephant Seals

Mother and Baby Elephant Seals

Very Young "Weaner" Elephant Seals Playing

Very Young “Weaner” Elephant Seals Playing

Elephant Seal's Big Eyes

Elephant Seal’s Big Eyes

Trio of Sleeping Elephant Seals

Trio of Sleeping Elephant Seals

Backs of Sleeping Elephant Seals

Backs of Sleeping Elephant Seals

Elephant Seal Flipping Sand to Cool Down

Elephant Seal Flipping Sand to Cool Down

Elephant Seal Watching an Oystercatcher

Elephant Seal Watching an Oystercatcher

Silhouette of Young Male Elephant Seals

Silhouette of Young Male Elephant Seals

Piedras Blancas is Named after White Rocks Offshore

Piedras Blancas is Named after White Rocks Offshore

Beautiful Piedras Blancas Coastline

Beautiful Piedras Blancas Coastline

Advice from an Elephant Seal

Elephant seals are fun to watch! They are one of our favorite animals. Ano Nuevo and Piedras Blancas in California are the only two places in the world where elephant seals come onto the mainland to have pups (elsewhere they breed on islands). The pupping season runs from December until March. The Piedras Blancas colony began in November 1990 when a dozen northern elephant seals came ashore near San Simeon (at the south end of Big Sur near the Hearst Castle).  As of 2018 the Piedras Blancas elephant seal colony had grown to over 25,000 seals!

Elephant seals can grow up to 16 feet long and weigh up to 2 tons each. Males have trunk-like noses that grow up to 2 feet long. Their vocalization sounds like an outboard motor trying to start. Alpha males battle for dominance and gather up harems of females on the beach.

The babies are born with black wrinkled coats of fur. The black fur allows them to absorb warmth from the sun, and the wrinkled coat gives them room to gain weight quickly. Mother elephant seals lose one-third of their body weight while nursing. Their rich milk is as thick as mayonnaise! Babies grow from 80 pounds at birth to 300 pounds in 3 weeks. When the babies are 4 weeks old, mother elephant seals return to the sea to feed. Meanwhile the young “weaners” are left on the beach to play and swim. At 6 weeks of age the babies’ black fur is replaced by a silver coat.

Elephant seals have big round eyes that help them search for prey in the deep ocean. Dives for squid and fish last from 30-60 minutes, with only a 2-3 minute break at the surface. These mile-deep feeding trips go on continuously for months. Elephant seals return to the beach twice a year to either molt or breed. While on land they do not eat, and they often sleep to conserve energy.

Elephant seals maintain a body temperature of 100 degrees, which is quite a feat in the chilly Pacific Ocean. Their blubber keeps them so warm that they quickly overheat in the sun. They flip sand over themselves to cool down.

Elephant seals have one of the longest animal migrations in the world. Tracking devices have revealed that California elephant seals travel in a big loop that extends far west into the Pacific, north to Alaska, and then south back to the beaches they were born on.

The Piedras Blancas and Ano Nuevo elephant seal rookeries are well worth a visit. The animals are entertaining, and the scenery is fantastic! An excellent website by Friends of the Elephant Seal (including a calendar of activity) is at: http://elephantseal.org/
A live cam of the Piedras Blancas rookery is at: http://www.elephantseal.org/view.htm

California: Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse with Yellow Buttercup Oxalis Flowers in Spring

Pigeon Point Lighthouse with Yellow Buttercup Oxalis Flowers in Spring

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Coastline

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Coastline

Pigeon Point's Perilous Rocky Coast

Pigeon Point’s Perilous Rocky Coast

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Welcome Sign

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Welcome Sign

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower and Flag

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower and Flag

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Front with Starburst

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Front with Starburst

Pigeon Point Back of Lighthouse with Flowers by Fence

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Fresnel Lens

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Fresnel Lens

Pigeon Point's Ocean View

Pigeon Point’s Ocean View

Harbor Seal on Rocks below Pigeon Point

Harbor Seal on Rocks below Pigeon Point

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower in Fog with Sun Halo

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower in Fog with Sun Halo

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Top with Fog Shadow and Rainbow Prism

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Tower Top with Fog Shadow and Rainbow Prism

Fogbow Nearby

Fogbow Nearby

Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Infrared

Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Infrared

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is located along the scenic San Mateo coast south of San Francisco.  The lighthouse was built in 1872, and is named after the clipper ship “Carrier Pigeon” that went down off the point. The ship even had a gilded pigeon as its figurehead.  Pigeon Point’s original name was Whale Point, because whales are frequently seen offshore.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is one of the tallest active lighthouses on the west coast (150 feet above sea level).  Its Fresnel lens flashes a rotating beam of light once every 10 seconds.  The lens has 1,008 glass prisms, and weighs over 4 tons! 

Sometimes light stations use fog horns in addition to light signals to warn ships away from the coast.  Early settlers around Pigeon Point Lighthouse described the fog horn as sounding like “an asthmatic old bovine” or “stuck hog”.  The light station’s dock was used by rumrunners and bootleggers during Prohibition in the 1920’s.  Tens of millions of dollars in whiskey were brought ashore during that period. 

The lighthouse is currently undergoing an $11 million restoration.  The first step (completed) was to remove the Fresnel lens from the tower and put it on temporary display in the Fog Signal Building.  The second step (underway) is to stabilize the tower.  The future third step will be complete restoration of the tower, which will begin once funding is secured.  Progress updates are available at:  http://www.calparks.org/whatwedo/improving/pigeon-point/

California: Pebble Beach/Bean Hollow State Beach

Pebble Beach Overlook

Pebble Beach Overlook

Pebble Beach - Long Exposure

Pebble Beach – Long Exposure

Rainbow Seaweed on Pebble Beach

Rainbow Seaweed on Pebble Beach

Colorful Pebbles on Beach

Colorful Pebbles on Beach

Tafoni Rock Layers

Tafoni Rock Layers

Tafoni Rock with Mushroom Shape

Tafoni Rock with Mushroom Shape

Tafoni Rock Honeycomb Pattern

Tafoni Rock Honeycomb Pattern

Tafoni Rock Filled with Pebbles

Tafoni Rock Filled with Pebbles

Close-Up of Colorful Pebbles

Close-Up of Colorful Pebbles

Pebbles and Sea Glass

Pebbles and Sea Glass

Pebble Beach/Bean Hollow State Beach (south of San Francisco) is famous for its tafoni rock and pebble-covered beach.  The lacework tafoni rock is soft sandstone that has been eroded by the wind and waves.  The colorful pebbles are composed of various rocks including green jade, red chert, white agate, jasper, moonstones, and petrified wood.  The rocks are washed in from an offshore Pleistocene-era gravel bed.  Many geological field trips come to this unique location.  More info is at:   https://www.kqed.org/quest/19198/geological-outings-around-the-bay-pebble-beach

California: Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Farms

Halloween-Theme Painted Horse at Lemos Farm

Arata Pumpkin Farm

Mini Pumpkins

Pumpkin Path at Bob’s Pumpkin Farm

Half Moon Bay is known as the “Pumpkin Capital of the World”.  The area produces more than 3,000 tons of pumpkins every year and ships them worldwide. Every October, Half Moon Bay hosts a popular Art and Pumpkin Festival that includes a pumpkin weigh-off contest.  This year’s winning pumpkin topped the scales at 1,775 pounds!  The Halloween-theme painted horse stands in front of the Lemos Farm in Half Moon Bay.  It is repainted regularly to reflect the seasons.  Pictures of past designs are at the bottom of the page at:  https://www.lemosfarm.com/seasonal

Big Sur: World Class Beauty!

Big Sur Coastline

Rocky Creek Bridge

McWay Falls

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Pink Ice Plants and California Poppies

Fields of Gold and Turquoise Water

Rocky Coast in Mist

Big Sur has been called “The Greatest Meeting of Land and Sea”.  This rugged coastline south of San Francisco is one of the most beautiful in the world.  The scenery is spectacular!

Big Sur: Stunning Pink Sand Beach!

Pfeiffer Beach

Walking North on Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach Rocks and Pink Sand

Closeup of Rocks and Pink Sand

Pfeiffer Beach Sand Patterns

More Colorful Sand Patterns

Pfeiffer Beach Sea Arch

Big Sur’s Pfeiffer Beach (south of Monterey) is famous for its pink and purple sand.  The sand’s gorgeous color comes from manganese garnet particles that wash down the hillside.  The further north you walk, the more colorful the sand.  The photography opportunities are endless and ever-changing.  This unique beach is absolutely stunning!

Point Reyes: Ladybugs at the Beach!

McClure’s Beach

Yellow Bush Lupine

Tule Elk in Fog

Tule Elk at Tomales Point

Isolated Pocket Beach

Ladybugs Covering Driftwood

Hundreds of Ladybugs at Beach

Acorn Weevil Among Ladybugs

Closeup of Ladybug

McClure’s Beach is a wild and remote beach at the northern tip of Point Reyes National Seashore (north of San Francisco).  In spring and early summer the hills are covered with yellow bush lupine flowers.  Tule Elk graze on the bluffs at Tomales Point.  The San Andreas Fault runs through the center of the park.  At the Visitor Center you can see an offset fence that was ripped 20 feet apart by the 1906 earthquake! 

McClure’s Beach is an excellent place for tidepooling.  A narrow trail leads through the rocks at low tide to an isolated pocket beach on the other side.  This pocket beach has a special secret – at times it is swarmed by ladybugs!  In summer ladybugs migrate from California’s hot Central Valley to cooler areas along the coast.  Sometimes they swarm a beach in search of salt and minerals, but there is no predicting where or when.  Many people think that ladybugs bring good luck.  We think it’s true – it was our lucky day at the beach!

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