THE CLOCK HAS STARTED
A couple of young elephant seal pups nurse in the afternoon sun on the beach near Piedras Blancas. The colony is in the midst of birthing season.The wrinkled little black pups have about 6 weeks to feed when mom cuts them off as she becomes fertile and ready for mating.
Nearby adult males have begun to size up their harem and their corner of the beach. They know instinctively when a female reaches a six week post birth state of readiness. The scene then becomes one of harems.
A bull is surrounded by a ring of females. He will stir periodically to mate, then drop back into a pose such as this. If another male attempts to enter his circle, a battle ensues. In the meantime it is nap time.
After six weeks the pups are called Weaners and they begin to cluster together. Eventually they need to learn to swim, but do so on their own. Mom is long gone. And if it goes well for them they'll know when it is time to go into the sea for a hunting/feeding migration. Elephant seals travel alone as males head to waters off Alaska and females track toward Canada.
Poetically, mating season in this colony reaches it's peak around Valentines day.
Down the beach, another couple has already begun their courting.
See you down the trail.