Monday, June 16, 2008

Lazy Days In The San Juan Islands

Sunday actually felt like the tides were turning as the temperature "soared" the high sixties in Friday Harbor, Washington. So we packed up the camera gear and headed off in search of photo opportunities- the sun was shining and the weather was gorgeous! First stop was the southern tip of the island, where I had word there was a juvenile elephant seal hauled out on one of the beaches. Arriving at the shoreline, I was greeted by a red tailed hawk- usually an elusive creature- but he was boasting a large green snake in his talon and I suspect was trying to keep me from scavenging his kill...

Heading down the beach, Bogey in tow, we finally happened upon the elephant seal- clearly taking advantage of the warm beaches and fragrant blooms.

Elephant seals take their name from the great size of their bodies and bull's large proboscis, which resembles an elephant's trunk. The proboscis is used in producing extraordinarily loud roaring noises, especially during the mating season, but it also allows the elephant seal to re-moisturize itself while hauled out. Adult males weigh in at about 4,500 pounds while female elephant seals are much smaller. The skin on top of their blubber molts periodically. It has to be re-grown by blood vessels reaching through the blubber. When molting occurs, as this photo depicts, the seal rests on land- and the skin on top of his blubber  has to be re-grown by blood vessels reaching through the blubber to create the new layers. For an elephant seal, this is called a catastrophic molt which occurs every year.

Elephant seals, like all true seals (phocids), lack external ear flaps and crawl on land with rhythmic belly flops. The Northern elephant seal is protected in Mexico and the USA.

We left the seal to spend the rest of the day watching several groups of fox pups on the south side of the island...

San Juan Island is a treasure in the Pacific Northwest...from the pebbled beaches to the grassy side roads, the Island teams with life at every turn. And we cannot forget about those whales...J pod made a beautiful pass close to the shores this morning around 6:00am...and life is good.

And there's more fun stuff at Zazzle- today featuring all things Science!

DNA is LIFE Shirt shirt

GEOLOGY ROCKS shirt shirt

Fun Science Shirt shirt

Have great day!

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