Caly’s Ellie’s~

Juvenile northern elephant seal Big Sur California. This little guy seemed happy to see me and vocalized and spun around, watched me and entertained the heck out me. Of course I fell head over heels for these guys.
Male northern elephant seal in full battle call. Their trumpeting battle calls can be heard from far away.
Heavy hunting reduced northern elephant seal populations to a worldwide low of less than fifty. Protection implemented by the US and Mexico have restored current populations to approximately 175,000. Although most northern elephant seals mate and give birth on offshore islands, 20,000 return annually to the Big Sur area on California’s coast.
In December mating season male’s battle violently for control of beaches and females, and gather harems.
Their battles definitely grab your attention and take place both on land and in the water.
Males weigh up to 5000 pounds and are up to 15 feet long.
The juveniles are adorable and curious little guys.
Mating agression is not the norm. Elephant seals are usually mellow creatures.
Please stay tuned for more photos of these remarkable colonies of fascinating animals that were nearly poached to extinction.
Cheers to you from the Caly’s magnificent ellies~

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186 thoughts on “Caly’s Ellie’s~

    1. Ano Nuevo has a colony but it is regulated in terms of visiting since it is nearer to civilization, you need reservations and guides. Big Sur you can pull your car off the road and walk over to a colony. LJ Cove has seals, sea lions, and some great whites.
      Note to readers: read up on this before you do this. This are BIG wild animals.

  1. These are magnificent photos Cindy. Those young pups are so adorable. Makes you want to just walk up and hug one. Great photography. I’m looking very forward to more photos. I’ve really enjoyed the red tail hawks also… several times. Thank you so very much for sharing these pictures… some of us never have the opportunity to see them with our own eyes and it is wonderful of you to provide us with the opportunity to see them through yours.
    Have a wonderful night.

    1. Oh, you are the sort of person that got me into blogging in the first place, and keeps me blogging now. My first post, I thought, no one will be interested. And then one or two people were, and they cared about content.
      I blog for the people who care about content, and I care for the bloggers whose content I care about.
      Thank you for such an encouraging comment & cheers to you~

  2. Seals have been my favorite animal since I was a little kid. I had a seal pup stuffed animal and he was my constant companion. I love these pictures. I have never been this close to any of them, not even at a zoo. Thanks for sharing these gorgeous pictures. πŸ™‚

    1. I am really happy you enjoyed them and know how one bonds with a special stuffed friend. I am posting more pics in a few days so take a peek and see which one looks most like your childhood friend~

    1. If you get away from the carefully patroled main beach and just stop at random beaches, or when you hear the males bellow, you can literally walk upon them. One must exercise caution. There are thousands of them, strewn along miles of beaches.

  3. Great photos! Here on the east coast I usually only see seals from a distance so it’s hard to get a good picture. These are all great. In fact, you look to be closer to fighting males than I’d care to get!

  4. I am in love – those big brown eyes have won my heart πŸ™‚ Never made it to Big Sur – that one high bridge stopped me dead in my tracks. Even with Gene driving… Stayed at the Tickle Pink Hotel – beautiful condo with two views of the ocean πŸ™‚

  5. I’m glad you found what you were looking for on your journey. They’re all great shots but the first one I’m not sure what emotion to land on. It’s funny and poignant and peaceful….

  6. Your skill as a photographer who can capture the most fascinating expressions and scenes never ceases to amaze me, Cindy. Thank you for sharing these touching photos and information about these wonderful elephant seals.

  7. Oh Cindy – they are MAGNIFICENT – both the seals and your photos – absolutely STUNNING! What an incredible sight to witness, so big yet so cute – thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

  8. Hi Cuz … You da bomb !!! The pics are fantastic, Cindy. The first two had me smiling, then further down the “male chorus” had me laughing! And that you have even more pics is incredible. Been to La Jolla a few years ago and saw the gang at the cove and I thought that was great but wasn’t able to get close for any good pics. You obviously enjoyed your trip ! πŸ™‚

      1. Hard to find animals more photogenic. And I love their antics. We’ve only been to Peidras Blancas a couple of times but there is also an elephant seal beach near San Francisco. –Curt

  9. The best elephant seal photos I have ever seen, Cindy! I thought I was watch the Nature program on PBS! How did you do it ?! Love the first one to death…

    1. It is because you are so good hearted Amy. It was painful for me to edit these down to 8 photos. That first little guy performed a sequential ballet for me. First belly busting vocal warnings, then spinnings, then head moving. I took photos of all of this of course. When I finally started to walk away because my hubby was getting bored, he vocalized again, so I walked back, and he continued the water ballet. You have heard of love at first sight? This was it for me! <3

      1. Yep, love at first sight for sure! I’d want to jump into the water and hug this little guy. πŸ™‚ Are you going to post the sequential ballet photos? Love this post so much! Thank you, Cindy! <3

      2. I am going to post more on the seals, not sure if the ballet will make it because I want to reflect the diversity without boring people with too many pics. If I don’t post, I am happy to email them to you if you would like. They are sooooo cute!

    1. Oh I missed your comment. So sorry. No not Ano Nuevo, which is more monitored. These photos were taken in southern Big Sur, only a few in Piedras Blancas. There are streches of beaches that are not monitored, not as frequently visited by people, where humans and ellies can interact more naturally. If humans don’t screw this interaction up, it could actually remain this way. Imagine that!

      1. Yes you can! There should stll be births occurring and after the births, there is mating before the females head back out to sea. Check out this organization re: Piedras Blanca. There is a 24/7 web cam so you can monitor what is occurring on the beach prior to your visit:

        Be sure and visit other beaches in addition to Piedras Blancas where you can have a solitary and more interactive experience. I hope you post on this, I would love to see the goings on in Feb!

    1. I am terrible at estimating measurement. We found them on several beaches and got considerably closer at the beaches where there were no other people. The seals were also much more interested in us at the beaches that had no humans. We were always at least 10 feet above the seals and probably another 10 feet or so away horizontially. We stayed further away from the bulls. The females gave a warning, wide open mouth, various vocalizations and then I would stop and take pics from there. Then they went back to sleep or watched me with open curiousity and I could move a bit closer and they didn’t mind. I imagine they could be quite lethal if a person was very stupid and approached them quickly or too closely. But clearly they are curious about us and enjoy us, at a reasonable distance.

    1. You probably already know to go beyond Piedras Blancas then, they are on other beaches with no people and you can get closer (with caution) and they are far more interactive with you, a much better experience!

  10. Wow, amazing shots, Cindy! What an exciting treat to view this annual spectacle in person. I didn’t realize that they were previously so perilously endangered. Glad steps were taken to right that wrong.

    1. The estimated numbers of remaining northerns varied at the low point from less than fifty to twenty. The Smithsonian went on an expedition to find them when they were almost extinct, found eight on an island and killed seven of them for specimens. Makes one wonder about human beings who are in decision making positions……
      The southern elephant seal is currently not doing so well.

      1. Yes, I am not at all surprised that you do and I think it does help. Really elephant seals are a conservation success story in that the nothern’s have been successfully brought back from the brink of extinction, due both to decreasing use of their oil for lighting and the passage of The Marine Mammal Act. I have seen in my lifetime the increase in marine mammal populations in Caly waters due to the passage of this act. Otters and all seal species are far more prevalent. That said, due to the near extinction of the northern’s, their gene pool is too limited, there is a lack of genetic diversity that makes them vulnerable to disease.

  11. To be on a beach alone with these fascinating creatures would be the ultimate wild life experience, to be able to watch them and take these lovely photos would be unforgettable. Thank you for sharing them with us, and I look forward to more….

      1. I do have a love for living which I have learned to nuture as I know you do too. It is so important to accept the hard and still find the good before you die or you will only realize what you didn’t appreciate when it is too late. I had a near death experience with my children and this was made very clear to me. I realized I was going to die and hadn’t really lived.

  12. Incredible images.

    The aggression at mating, like most animals, is highly structured and ritualized. That’s not to say no one ever gets hurt — they do — but there are social limits to the violence.

    1. Yes, my next post will document the hurt part. I didn’t want to emphasize the aggression or injury since there is so much more to their behavior, and this is only one small aspect. I wanted to balance it out. I also didn’t want to address the coerzion during mating issue so I have no idea why I am mentioning it to you now. I am going to try and go see who you are…..

    1. I think wild animals often are curious by a human with a camera plastered to their face. Maybe they see it as a large eye and think photographers are a different sort of human. Maybe they are right in that most wildlfe photographers only like to shoot animals with a camera!

  13. They really have very adorable little faces, and those big eyes are too irresistible. I can see how they would put you under their spell. For years there’s been very vocalized controversy over sea hunting in Northern Canada. I really can’t fathom how you could kill anything for it’s fur, let alone something so harmless and gentle. Monsterous and unnecessary, as is many things man has done to helpless animals. Thanks for taking us to the beach Cindy!

    1. Yes. It is hard to emphasize the brutality of some humans, while at the same time acknowledging the kindness of others. It is a puzzling dicotomy. I am grateful for the many decades I spent as a therapist, where the kindness of people just bowled me over, while at the same time the cruelty of the often more powerful minority, and the evil they engender, cannot be denied. See. It’s hard to describe.

    1. The stupid cruelty of some humans, compared to the kind words and deeds of others is one of the most frustrating aspects of life on this planet. I heard the Wild Animal Park’s Rhino died, and there are now 5 left in the world. How irresponsible and arrogant we can be! And how wonderful that the WAP and others work so tirelessly to save the planet and it’s inhabitants.

      1. I read that, too, and it broke my heart to know that they’re almost extinct. But you’re right–there are wonderful people working on behalf of Mother Earth and all her creatures.

  14. Sweet and adorable eyes. They are haunting and seem to be worming their way into my heart, Cindy! You shared so much in these photographs that made me go back three times to really look at them.

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