Life in the Reserve archives

We hope you enjoy these stories of what docents have seen and heard at the Reserve

The legacy of Sister Anna Voss   January 2, by Vicki Odello
A former student of Sister Anna Voss came to the Reserve on December 31. She and her husband had just finished a wonderful walk with a docent. She chatted with another docent and me at the Info Station afterwards and told us this story: the visitor had been an under-privileged child and attended an inner-city school in Los Angeles many years ago. Sister Anna Voss was her teacher, then mentor. Anna Voss brought the kids up to Point Lobos for a field trip which the visitor recalled fondly. She said Sister Anna was largely responsible for bringing her up to northern California with a scholarship to college! The visitor was very happy to share her story with fondness and gratitude to her mentor. We encouraged her to join the Point Lobos Foundation and she was happy to learn how revered we hold her mentor still, and of the Sister Anna Voss Memorial Fund. We enjoyed listening to her story and to see how thrilled she was to have an opportunity to share it. She was beaming.

See more about this remarkable woman and the Sister Anna Voss Fund.

"This is Something Special": Release of Two Sea Lions at Weston Beach October 27, by Mary Conway
I was on the northern flat table-like rocks of Weston Beach for the LiMPETS citizen science transect study when the Marine Mammal Rescue Group released two Sea Lions who were ready to go back to their natural environment.
Video: T
he sea lions and the sea with background voices of two docents captivated by the wonder of the sea lion release.

Otter Mom communicates with admiring humans  November 2 by Robert Grace
Walking back to the car after our Whalers Cabin shift, a small crowd of guests were commenting on something in the kelp 20 feet or so off shore - "It's a log.  No, it's an otter!  What is that it is eating?"  I returned with my camera and telephoto lens.  "It's not eating, it's a Mom feeding her baby."  Lots of "ohs" and "ahs" from the appropriately excited guests.

        

I know we should not anthropomorphize other animal behavior, but at this point Mom sent a clear message - "Please be quiet, your noise might disturb my baby!"  Our guests hushed themselves without me saying a word, and Mom returned to sharing a maternal moment with the admiring humans.

Swarming Sea Lions  August 28, by Fred Brown
A frenzy of sea lions, pelicans, gulls and whales cornered a large school of anchovies in Sea Lion Cove today and pretty much had their collective way with them.  As previously reported, this was quite a show for everyone who stopped by the bluff above to see five or six humpbacks transversing just outside the cove while the free-for-all went on right below.  Quick video:

Ed. note: I had not seen anything like it in my 16 years as a docent, nor had someone who has been a docent since 1981!  When I was there later in the afternoon, I heard a few sea lions gagging on inhaled anchovies.

Longest, greatest whale show we have ever seen. August, by Stan Dryden, Trudy Reeves, Tom Clifton, Chuck Bancroft
The humpback whales have been crazy for over a week.  They have been spotted close to the shore every day from several places in the Reserve and nearby Carmel River State Beach.  And they have been doing all the things that we homo sapiens love to watch -- blowing spouts close enough to hear from shore, showing tail flukes, breaching, tail slapping, lunge feeding, and one visitor even reported seeing -- and even hearing -- bubble netting.  (See video at pointlobos.org/nature/marine-mammals/whales-dolphins-and-porpoises/humpback-whales).  One visitor quipped "You have too many whales."

Here is what some docents have reported:

"I walked the Cypress Grove loop in search of whales and was richly rewarded.  I stood on a rock, and along with at least a dozen awed visitors, watched whales feeding directly below us.  We could hear their whale sounds -  snorts and blows -  and feel their spray, as we watched them surface and glide through the waves."  (Trudy Reeves)

"I was walking up Whalers Knoll the other day and heard a repeating "boom". I was wondering what it was (initially I thought it might be coming from distant construction, but realized the sound was too close). When I got to the overlook at the top of the Knoll, there was a whale "standing" vertically in water, with its tail out of the water repeatedly slapping the surface. It had been going on for at least 15 minutes."  (Tom Clifton)

"I was out yesterday with PLF donors and their friends from Switzerland taking in all the whales from Bird Island, then Whalers Cove, and finally Cypress Grove.  The breathing sounds were like cannons, the aroma was interesting, the breaching and lunging and flukes were endless. We spent four hours ooohhhing and aaaaahhhing at the sights."  (Chuck Bancroft)

Photos by Chuck Bancroft:
                 

Communicating the hazards of poison oak to Chinese students.  August 10, Manus Donahue
Docents showed up in force for an unusual Friday afternoon school walk.  We hosted about 40 Chinese exchange students who were spending their summer in California.  I had  7 of the Chinese students - all teenage girls. I quickly realized that their English was about as good as my Chinese, but I was sure that the magic of the tide pools would translate without words.  On the way to the ocean, I pointed out poison oak, and using my Oscar-not winning skills, I tried to convey the danger along with the warning, “Don’t touch This!”  The walk progressed and as we were going up the hill to Seal Lion Point, the girls started singing and dancing, “U Can’t Touch This.”  I was so proud of my communication skills until later when a much more “with it” friend pointed out this is a very famous rap video by M.C. Hammer.  I now have my first rap video on the ipad and a new way to inform visitors of the poison oak menace.

A "pacific" morning at Sea Lion Point.  August 9, Rick Pettit
Morning at Sea Lion Cove, with the ocean as silently pacific as it can be only in summer. Smooth from shore to horizon. At vision's edge, sooty shearwaters stream northwards. A bit closer in, amidst the outer kelp beds, otters groom, spin slowly, doze. Blending into their rocks, sea lions repose quietly.  Below, a brighter note,  as pigeon guillemots trill while scurrying across the water.  And off the trail just to the south, hungry pelicans pierce the surface, and dark spines of humpbacks suddenly appear and disappear. A scattering of onlookers line the shore, mute, listening to the discrete crashes of the pelicans, and to the solemn whoosh of the great whales' exhalations.

Condor at Point Lobos -- a Miracle!  August 1, Dave Evans
Well, it's official.  Condor 538 has landed!!!  Point Lobos now has photographic evidence of condors in the Reserve.  See the photos below.  Most of the visitors on the trail above were staring in wonder at the humpbacks, cormorants, sea otters and all the other "usual suspects".  Oh yeah, and a condor!!!

(Editor's notes: You may be able to read the tag as "38" in the photos.  The black color of this tag indicates that the first digit of the "studbook number" is a 5, thus 538.  The "small" black bird in the second photo is a Turkey Vulture!)

According to docent Tom Clifton: the condor seen was given the name "Miracle", the first completely wild chick hatched in Big Sur in over a century.  Her parents laid, hatched, reared, and fledged her without management intervention.  How cool is that ... our own little Miracle at Point Lobos.

Here is the bio on Condor 538, courtesy the Ventana Wildlife Society: Condor 538

    

Visitors love our volunteer docents  July 17, Randy Warren
This was a first for me: While scoping at Sea Lion Point, a family from Utah enjoyed looking close-up at sea lions, harbor seals, and a raft of 22 otters Tuesday afternoon.   After interpreting about the three species we were viewing, the family wanted to take a photo with me. They said, "We want to share with friends how wonderful it is that people volunteer to interpret what's going on here in the reserve."   Then after that the young man dictated everything I had explained to him.  He must have had a photographic brain, because he dictated all the facts into his IPhone, with gusto, and excitement.  It was a great day again at Point Lobos.

New accessible trail from the entrance to Sea Lion Point  by Stan Dryden
Nature put on a dazzling display of great weather for the "un-grand" opening of the Lace Lichen Trail, which now gives visitors a complete, wheelchair and stroller accessible, off-road path from the entrance to Sea Lion Point..  I walked it from the docent center area all the way out to the Sea Lion Point parking lot.  The sunlight dappling through the trees gave it a grand look despite the low-key opening.  It's beautiful!  

Delightful springtime sightings: fawns and humpback whales  by Mary Conway
Visitors reported to me both on Monday and this Friday afternoon of 2-3 fawns at the Pinnacle Point end of Cypress Grove trail AND both afternoons also reported gleefully that whales were breaching off of North Point. 2 times in one week might mean good odds to see them some more in the next few days.

Update on our otter twins, and new bunnies!  by Paul Reps
Well, today was an update for our otter 696"b"; (as Dave Evans has so aptly named our pup); and a new little addition at the Pelican Point platform lookout! You will find the little bunny near the lookout often, if all is quiet! And as for our otter twin, it's almost a given that between 1-3PM she brings her pup to show off to visitors right by the road at Whalers Cove, just up from the rescue boat sheds. She likes the kelp near the road, where she anchors, sleeps and then nurtures her little one.  ( I think she is showing it off to visitors). I often wonder what she would imagine if she knew what her son, otter 696 was doing and growing at the Aquarium; given the updates we receive from the staff there?

But then, I'm  anthropomophizing, aren't I! Sorry, just caring for the wee ones!

(Editor note:  Due to a miracle of timing and decisive action by docent Paul Reps, it is quite possible that the first sea otter twins ever born in the wild have an excellent chance of surviving to maturity.  See the back story of twins born at Point Lobos on Febuary 26.  Mother otters are unable to support two babies at a time, and it is thought that one always dies.  But Paul, after hearing from a visitor who had an undeniable photo, was convinced and sprang into action.  He called the Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program, and its team collected one pup to take to its facility at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  That pup (Otter 696) has now been placed with a surrogate mother who will teach it what it needs to know to survive.  The other pup can be seen in Paul's photo to be thriving with its mother at Point Lobos, and it will also get that education.)

                                                                            

Docent gets schooled, and thoroughly enjoys it.  by Stan Dryden
Every once in a while a docent has an experience that makes him even happier to be a docent.  Friday the 13th of March was just one of those days.  My monthly walk group included a charming young woman (3rd or 4th grader, with her parents) who blurted out "a rock!" as we approached the large granodiorite boulder in the Cypress Grove trail above Headland Cove.  She was clearly impressed by this rock.  I asked if she had studied geology at school and she replied that she had.  Testing time!  When asked the three major types of rock, she named all three (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic), and also correctly identified the boulder as igneous and the nearby sedimentary rocks correctly as well.  Then it was her turn.  She asked me whether it was extrusive or intrusive igneous rock.  She immediately could tell by the dumb look on my face that I hadn't a clue what she was asking about.  She kindly explained that this classification depends upon whether the rock solidified underground (intrusive) or after it came to the surface (extrusive).  

Later in the walk I asked if she knew about photosynthesis. Time to turn the tables again!  She asked me if I knew the chemical formula for photosynthesis, then proceeded to rattle it off for me.  Never has an old coot been happier to be schooled by a young whippersnapper. (photo by Mia's mother)

Rare otter twins born in Whalers Cove, and the dramatic aftermath!  by Paul Reps
Visitors alerted us to the birth of twin otter  pups today! Mom was straining to handle the two pups and we could see that she was overtaxed! A diver's boat was coming in after a dive and caused her to panic and she grabbed one pup, leaving the other on a rock where she had hauled out to care for her two new little ones! The one that was left to fend for himself fell off the rock and into the crevisses and was being beaten by the incoming high tide! I called Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) and they sent a team out for the rescue, a Zodiak, kayak, two SORAC members and someone to document the rescue.

Below: Otter with two pups.   Otter apparently trying to shield pups from wave.   Pup left behind in a crevice.

             

The good news, the less-than-a-day-old male pup was saved, but mom was hearing her second pup and started to "freak out" over hearing him. She was trying to approach the boat to get him back, but once he was on land she tended to the pup she choose to "save"!

After a quick exam, we were told by the rescuers that it was a confirmed male, born sometime today, and was in need of immediate support as neither pup was receiving 100% of Mom's resources and support for food and care.

Pup 696 is now at the Aquarium receiving immediate care, Mom is now in Whaler's Cove taking close care of the other pup, and here are my photos of Mom tending to the two pups, the rescue, the quick exam of the rescued pup, and the happy ending.

Many visitors cheered, cried tears of joy, one couple said it was their first time at the Reserve and asked, "is it always like this"?  After a hardy laugh, I advised them to by a lottery ticket; as this was a once in a lifetime event!

Below: Otter pup retrieved!   Rescued pup on boat.   Mom and pup she saved resting in cove.
                                                                                 Fred Brown's video of them on March 1.

             

 

Fred Brown posted this observation on the docent website on January 24:

With space on their eponymous rocks at a premium, due to very large waves coupled with a high tide,  the big guys forced the younger and smaller sea lions to find a new haul-out area.  With lower Sea Lion Point Trail closed, they invaded their namesake, Sea Lion Cove.  Around 60 - 75 sea lions took advantage of no humans on the lower trail to find refuge from the churning seas.  A rare occurrence, which elicited the familiar question, "How did they get up there?"  The secret is in the hip joint which allows them to "walk" up the steep cliff-side and relax in the warm January sun.

 

But that was only the beginning; Larry Rychener posted this report of growing numbers on January 31:

Here was the situation at Sea Lion Cove yesterday afternoon.  Any theories as to why they keep coming  or when they will return to their usual haunts out on Sea Lion Rocks?

Reminds me of the situation some years ago when sea lions took over the small cove next to Fishermans Wharf.

 

 

Editor's note: The numbers are now estimated to be in the hundreds.  Two docents have photographed stillborn sea lion pups on the same beach.  We have been told for years that all of the sea lions at Point Lobos are males, but now we have evidence of females in this group.  Is this a temporary phenomenon, or are we now seeing the beginning of a new breeding colony north of the Santa Barbara area?  Nobody seems to know -- only time will tell.

 

"Docent News" item by Ed Clifton:

I arrived at Whalers Cove a few minutes before 11:00 on the morning of January 13, ready to take my place in Whalers Cabin.  It was a beautiful morning, cool, but not cold, a hint of a breeze, everything bathed in the golden light of the winter sun. As I left the car, a loud splash close to shore near the end of the parking lot drew my attention, followed by another and still a third.  Pelicans were diving for their breakfast!  A flock wheeled above the water while harbor seals cruised back and forth near the shoreline.  An awesome sight!

The pelicans remained in the Cove most of the morning, circling and sporadically going into a feeding mode.  Watching them fold their wings and plunge into the water was breathtaking!  And it looked like porpoises or dolphins may have joined the show., although I could not be sure.  Perhaps they were harbor seals but I have never seen seals porpoising through the water that way. 

While watching this show, I noted our pergrin falcon gliding landward just above the cypress tress, then a few minutes later, retreating back across the cove with a crow in hot pursuit.  A monarch butterfly flirted briefly with the sea cliff before fluttering to the safety of the shore.

Another magical moment at Point Lobos!

And a follow-up comment by docent Paul Reps:
And this perfectly describes the wonders of the Reserve and why we do what we do!

If only the "crowds" on holidays could take the time, pocket their phones, sit for a minute, and experience the heart tugs we sometimes take for granted.

Today, the whales put on a show so close to shore that people were running out on the Cypress Trail to see them within 50' from the sea palms near the pinnacle!

It was a special day, and the Reserve was so tame today it was almost like I wish it would be every day of the year! Not many people, all friendly and in love with their experience, and everyone stopped me with questions about multiple topics. This day was a day to be a Docent, so much so, I missed feeding my dogs and they got a late dinner, sorry guys!

Visitor fish bombed at Sea Lion Point  January 2, Nelson Balcar
I was scoping on the saddle point near the start of the descent to lower Sea Lion Pt.   Sea otters to the right, in Headland Cove; to the left, seals and sea lions with people immensely enjoying both views (two scopes next time, I was thinking).  Soon, a visitor climbing from below approached me.  In (approximately) his own words:

"OK, so I'm the lad who was fish bombed on Monday December 22nd at Pt. Lobos.  I was standing looking through my binocs at the sea lions when my wife yelled "Fish!" and I didn't pay attention to the fact that two gulls were fighting over a fish overhead and they dropped it.  I was wearing a wide brimmed hat and couldn't see overhead.  I had just lowered the binocs when I was slapped hard on the chest and yelled "Hey, that hurt", and looked around at the kids to see who had hit me.  Everyone in our party was laughing and pointing at the fish laying on the ground about 8 feet away, maybe a 9 incher, looking like a big sardine.  They had to explain what had happened to me and I was wiping most of the scales off my shirt when my wife took the attached photo.  The fish was thrown back to the gulls over the cliff but John's picture of it didn't come out, unfortunately.  I got all the scales off but noticed a bit of fishy aroma at dinner in a restaurant that night.  I will never live this down and need to buy a rubber fish to hang around my neck the next time the extended family gets together for the holidays."

Mountain lion seen in Point Lobos!  December 25, Paul Reps
I was at the Information Station today with docent Jacolyn Harmer and the reserve was absolutely crazy! I had a visitor come to me and ask if I'd walk back on the Cypress Grove trail to identify a paw print she found in the mud on the trail. About five minutes into our trek, she showed me the puddle and the print. Sure enough, it was there, one big old paw print of a ... Mountain Lion!!!

As we were bent over looking we both looked to our left to the rocks that are at the stairway down to Cypress Cove, and we saw the cat taking shelter in the rocks out of sight of everyone, to stay "out of trouble"!

We both gasped, and our visitor's eyes were the size of silver dollars! Not being able to see my own eyes, I'm not sure how large mine were, but my heart was really racing hard. We left, smiles on our faces and we both agreed to not let others know, as who knew what would have happened. I did tell ranger Dan about our finding as he was on the trail mending things, and he said he keep an eye out, but agreed, not letting others know was the right call.

I'm sure when the Reserve closes and it gets dark, it will head out of there to find some peace and quiet, as I did after the clock struck 3PM and my shift was over. I too, couldn't wait to get home to some peace and quiet, too!

Winter Solstice beauty GREAT and small  December 22, Mary Conway
Enjoyed leading a tide pool public walk; took some photos of the sunset; walked to the car and met a visitor who had come from the other side of the bay to watch the sunset from her tailgate at Weston Beach for the winter solstice...then I realized that it wasn't "just" any sunset at Weston that I'd photographed, but the 2014 Weston Winter Solstice.  Also added a photo of bubbles on a feather that tickles me.

            

The rains return to Point Lobos, the good news and a caution  December 16, Stan Dryden
Point Lobos has been very parched throughout 2014 due to the lack of any significant rain early in the year.  But the rains have returned in abundance, and December has been one of the wetter months in the past several years.  The good news is that fire danger should be down and the onshore habitats will look a lot healthier in 2015.  And we anticipate an excellent wildflower season in the spring.

The not-so-good news is that the Reserve had to be closed several days due to the danger of falling trees and limbs and to clean up storm damage, and further closures may be necessary if the storms continue. Some trails may be closed at times and many trails will be very muddy for a few months -- some even impassable.  Wear sturdy/waterproof boots and be prepared to turn back on some of the inland trails.  If you must skirt the puddles, please avoid creating new trails.  Let's keep the Reserve's looking beautiful and preserve the habitat for plants and animals.

Musings on a gray, veiled morning  November 23, Rick Pettit
A gray, veiled morning along the north shore. The trail, softened, bears the imprints of its passersby. The cypresses are dark and dry below, their tightly woven foliage taking in the gently slanting rain. Although the parking lot is almost empty, not all are deterred: white-crowned sparrows flit from shrub to shrub, a hermit thrush investigates the leaf mulch, and from the scrub below Whalers Knoll comes the distinct call of the wrentit. Bright growth springs from wood mint and blackberry.  Image-filled droplets bead the sagebrush. Ceanothus buds have begun to swell. A lone wild rose blossom graces the trailside, close enough to yield its delicate scent. And down on the shingled shore at Sea Lion Cove, the rise-and-fall rhythms of the surge fill the air with clattery bursts and deep rumbles from tossed pebbles and tumbling cobbles.
See original blog for afternoon photos by Fred Brown

School walks were a blast this week  November 7, Ferhando Elizondo
School walks were a blast this week..... The 4th graders were their usual chatty and inquisitive . One of the highlights was 'live streaming' ( a first for me) of our manly sea lions off Sea Lion Point ----- real-time views from a spotting scope shown on a tablet. it was a show stopper as the kiddos wandered up and peeked into the IPad .

One day we had three different scopes set up along the trail focusing on sea lions,sea otters and a group of follicking seal lions.

Then there was a moment in time when as we walked along and pointed out the wonders of Point Lobos and/or how it was named when a young lady,'Yolanda' who was leading the group tugged at my sleeve and shared..'Fernando ..you have me thinking"...WOW..that comment just made my week!  
Fernando Elizondo, November 7

A Whale of a Show in Carmel Bay  September 14, Fred Brown
Yep, as Stan related (in his posting on the docent website), there was a (humpback whale) show all day Sunday in Carmel Bay.  Photos below were taken from Carmel Point, (take a look at that guy in the kayak in the second photo), and if you want more, see the short video here:    ➥ WHALES

(This entry is from Fred Brown's posting on the docent website, edited for clarity.  Five-minute video is highly recommended. This show was enjoyed from the north shore of Point Lobos (including Whalers Cove) as well. -- ed.)
          

Let your mind take a journey to Point Lobos on a beautiful Sunday.  August 17, Randy Warren

   A brilliant patchy blue gray light glistened through the trees 
   Otters and harbor seals frolicking in the rising tide
   A Great blue perched upon a rock sheltered from the breeze
   A nature loving joyful friend walking by my side

   The scent of pines and ocean blend in the forest air
   Scurrying squirrels jumping from tree to tree
   Like minded spirits walking softly on trails with care
   These days of reflection on natures wonders sets the spirit free

   Walking along the trail taking in the jade green colors of China Cove
   Cormorants and Brown Pelicans soaring through rocky shorelines
   Whale spouts, flukes, fin slapping, look look now they dove
   Honey suckle flowers and berries hanging from long slender vines

   A final stroll through Cypress Grove, a zen pathway of sights untold
   We stop to gaze upon another ocean scape two otters floating and swimming
   Hiking over granite paths, we see limbs and stone adorned with reddish gold
   While leaving we reflect on what we've seen, leaving our head spinning.

Humpbacks, back for another big show.  August 13, Paul Reps
I got out to Point Lobos early given today's perfect weather, to scope at Sea Lion Point. Three pods of Humpbacks were visible ALL DAY...FROM 9AM-3PM.  Non-stop feeding, breaching, flukes galore, and people just going nuts! Oh, the large raft of otters were out there too, but with the whales so close I could actually scope them, I told visitors that this wasn't normal, and for me, it really was like shooting fish is a barrel, Thank goodness they were big "fish" to aim the scope at! I'd see a blow, sight the scope and then just listen to people scream "OMG!" "I can't believe this!" "Look,look,look!"

Deer on China Cove beach, and a memorable anniversary. August 7, Stan Dryden
An eventful half-hour or so as I was heading back from Pelican Point.  Looking down along the China Cove stairs, I espied a deer in the water, then another.  By the time I reached a better vantage point, the doe had walked up onto the beach and the fawn had walked further back into the cave in which it is circled in the first photo -- far enough that it couldn't be seen at all from the trail.  It finally wandered out, with wet hair up to the neck, and stood on the beach with mom.  Lot's of excitement for visitors, and lots of questions for the docent (How did they get down there?  Why?  etc.)  Fortunately they slowly walked separately up the stairs before disappearing into the brush, and I was able to show them to visitors though my scope.

My puny photographic equipment didn't provide great pictures, but you get the idea.


 
Then as I walked on a middle-aged couple was sitting on the bench overlooking the cove.  The man asked if I would take several photos of them.  Happy to do it, or course, I inquired if the bench had special meaning for them.  He had proposed to her 10 years ago, on her first visit to Point Lobos.  Sitting on the best seat in Point Lobos, how could she say no?

Docent pay is lousy, but with compensation like this, who needs pay?


Kids love Point Lobos too.  July 29, Jon and Donna Jennings, 
Such a beautiful day today at Point Lobos. On a walk with 2 sets of twins 7 and 8 years olds and their Mothers. While walking on the Cypress Grove trail and then on to the Sea Lion Point Trail the girls were more and more excited as we viewed Otters in the Cypress cove, Harbor seals out on rocks and Sea Lions on their special rock. One of the twins said, "Is this a dream or are we really here?" So sweet, it just melted our hearts.  

Whales Blue and Humpback. July 17, Bill Miles
In abundance today,,,again. thrilling us all.  Not one of the excited vistors realized that the Blues are 200 tons+ and the largest animal on the planet. The visitors really grooved on the aerobatic Humpbacks though.

Video: Trials and tribulations of baby birds, and their parents. July 5, Fred Brown
I spent a few hours at the Pelican Point overlook on the 4th of July watching the entertaining reality show taking place across on the islands and sharing observations with the many visitors.  A glimpse of what we watched is recorded in the link below, showing hungry Gulls, Cormorants, and a lonely Night-heron with some unsolicted visitor narrative as well. See video on original posting . 

Sea Lions, fairy lanterns... and whales!  Breaching!  And delighted German visitors. June 21, Rick Pettit
This past Saturday, as I was about to do a public walk, three young German fellows approached and asked where they should go to see whales. I complied, pointing them towards the Sea Lion Cove overlook, but made sure they understood that seeing a whale was very far from a sure thing.  Then I started off on the Cypress Grove Trail, heading up an eager crowd. Amongst them, surprisingly, were the trio of hopeful whale-seekers....had they misunderstood my directions? Had I discouraged them about seeing whales? Well, at least they would see sea lions, fairy lanterns, and our cypresses, with their fascinating epiphytes.

Within a few minutes we were above Headland Cove, where I scanned unsuccessfully for otters, and equally in vain for harbor seals, though the tide was low enough for them to be at their usual haul-out spot east of the beach. But of course the view alone is more than enough. Then, as I turned to move on, lo, thar she blows! So again we all faced west, expectantly, staring at the spot, focusing our wills on the spouter to kindly resurface. A minute later, finally, a blow...and then one more...and then, omigosh, not far from Seal Lion Rocks, a huge humpback breach. Stunned, I may have been the most excited one in the group. Recovering a bit from the thrill, I looked back down the line of enchanted visitors, and there were our three German friends, so far from home, their hopes fulfilled, beaming with joy.

An historic family reunion at Whalers Cabin,  Oh, and dolphins too. June 20, Sandy Hale
Today (June 20) at Whalers, a double treat.  Ted Asaki, grandson of Gennoske Kodani*, visited the Reserve for the first time in six years.  He grew up in Monterey and was a park aid during the summer in the 70s.  He now is pastor of a church in Irving, CA.  He was invited up to his old home church on El Estero to lead the memorial service for a nisei who recently died at age 90.  As we talked outside the Cabin, Eugenie Kodani came up and joined us; she and her husband were taking one of their usual Point Lobos hikes and didn’t expect to see Ted.  The other treat was to see two Risso's dolphins cruise around the cove all morning - the first time I had seen dolphins in Whalers Cove. 
* Founder and manager of the abalone diving operation, in partnership with A.M. Allan, at Point Lobos circa 1900 -- ed.

A docent's family connection with abalone-shell button-making in New Jersey  May 13, June Banks
I know it’s a cliché to say “it’s a small world” but on a visit to my 93 year old father in New Jersey, I learned how very true this is. As always, I brought copies of the latest Point Lobos magazines , which had some mention of abalone in them. This led my father to tell me a story which I’d never heard before.

I knew my fraternal grandmother’s family immigrated from Austria in 1907. Her father had been an apprentice button-maker in Europe and soon set up a shop in New Jersey. Here’s the part I’d never heard before : he received shipments of very large crates full of abalone shells from California .

The huge shells were cut to make rounds, and drilled and polished for buttons . (picture the buttons in the Cabin ).  Even though this was done using some water, my great-grandfather eventually developed silicosis in his lungs from exposure to the dust . This led to tuberculosis and his death .

My father says that the crates were valuable wood for the family and everything was used - for kindling, in kitchen stoves, making small items, etc. Later on we shared a summer home with my grandparents so perhaps some of the items that were on the workbench and elsewhere were made from the crates .  I remember a lot of things looking “homemade” rather than store-bought. If my grandfather or father needed a tool for a specific task, generally they fashioned it themselves.

I would never have imagined a connection between my family and the abalone fishing in the early 1900’s here in California. Small world, I would say.

A whale of an anniversary present  April 30, Carol Rychener
On Friday afternoon April 30,  I preceded my husband Larry toward the  overlook on Sea Lion Point Trail.  A young couple came frolicking down the trail toward me.  I asked if they had seen the whales blowing as I gestured toward the ocean.  They stopped and made an abrupt about-face toward the overlook.  When I joined them,  I pointed to the blows.  A small group began to form.  Then the whales began to breach.  We were all delighted  but  Larry's cooler demeanor prevailed .  He called to alert the folks at the Info Station of our good fortune so they could direct other visitors our way.  And that they did.  A large group of on-lookers gathered to o-o-o and a-a-ah with us.  This was a great opportunity to inject  whale-watching terminology , e.g. fluke, breach, blow ,etc. , which some visitors repeated in their own observations.  This pod of humpbacks was most demonstative and provided approximately six breaches in a period of about half an hour. 

Finally, the blows retreated farther and farther out to sea.  We all remained in hopeful anticipation of another demonstation, but that was not to be.  As the crowd began to disperse, the couple I had initially met on the trail came over to tell me that this was their first wedding anniversary, that they were so grateful that  I had alerted them to the whales which they had never before seen, and then they each gave me a hug of appreciation.  I wished them a happy anniversary and hoped that the picture they took would serve as a future reminder of how and where they spent their first anniversary.

I cannot express how much this young couple touched my heart.  I sincerely hope that their future will hold as much good fortune for them as their first anniversary at Pt. Lobos.

Where's my baby?  April 25, Rick Pettit
Last Saturday I headed out to the Sea Lion Cove overlook to see what I could see. The pelagic cormorants were refurbishing their cliffside nests with seaweed, the sea lions were talking loudly about whatever it is they find to talk about, and the guillemots were showing off their resplendent feet.  Down by the left front edge of the big flat rock there was a mother and pup pair of harbor seals lounging.  Then another pair appeared just below them, with that mom apparently thinking the other mom up on top had had a good idea. So on the next little swell she half floated, half wriggled up, et voila: there she was. But when she looked around for junior...whoa, where was he? So swoosh, back into the water she goes. But he wasn't where she left him, so she dashed left for about twenty feet, then back right about forty, then left 60, then back 80. And then I lost sight of her. I don't know how she felt, but I was getting a bit panicky. A seal pup couldn't be lost so easily, could he? But whew: on the third pass of her systematic coursing, there by the rock's far-western end - finally! - was the wayward little guy. Then they headed off, after their little demo as to one reason Phoca vitulina is so successfully widespread.  by Rick Pettit

A boy scout's good deed  story told on April 19 by Carrieanna Hess, docent trainee
On a bird walk for docent trainees, Carrieanna Hess, a trainee who uses a wheelchair told a heartwarming story as we started up the ADA trail from the Bird Island parking lot.  In early April she had been starting up the same section of trail toward the restroom, moving slowly and working hard to roll in her manual wheelchair up the incline.  Some grandparents with their three grandchildren  were enjoying a picnic at a nearby table, when the 12-year-old, a Boy Scout from Livermore, came over to ask if he could help her.  She accepted with enthusiastic gratitude, and asked if he knew people in wheelchairs where he lived.  He said that he did not, and just thought she could use some help.  Carrieanna later found out that the young man had taken the initiative on his own without any suggestion from his grandparents. He also indicated that he hoped to be able to bring his Boy Scout troop to Point Lobos some day. Just shows that we have the finest visitors at Point Lobos.

Otters, otters, and more otters   April 11, Stan Dryden
My public walk group, which consisted of one couple from Grass Valley and three trainee "shadows", had no idea what was in store for them when we set out on the Cypress Grove Trail on Friday.  It started slowly enough with two otters in Headland Cove; they were a bit difficult to see but good enough to avoid giving the visitors a full refund for the tour.  Then we saw a mom and pup and another individual not far from South Point, and a raft of about a dozen further out.  Next we saw three more otters motoring along near the Pinnacle.  Quite a few more (who's counting, by now?) were seen from North Point.  Then we got to the "Treasure Island" overlook into Cypress Cove, and yep, you guessed it, still more otters just beyond the mouth of the cove.  About 25 otters seen on one public walk -- a record?

A docent trainee’s favorite things  April 6, Jack Olver
As part of my Docent training I’ve been attending topical guided walks, station openings and closings and just walking the trails. There are many wonderful things to see at Point Lobos but my favorite images are the smiles that stretch the faces of so many visitors. The beauty of the Reserve is almost irresistible and very few folks can spend a few hours walking the trails and not leave the cares of their daily lives behind. The same is true for me and that’s why I look forward to the hours I spend at Point Lobos. 

Great white shark sighting  March 30, Dave Evans
Ranger Dan forwarded a diver's Flicker postings of a dive to Marco's Pinnacle (just outside Bluefish Cove).  Check out this photo, and this video.  The video where the diver comes up over a rock and the Great White swims by is breathtaking (and the diver's breathing on the video never changes!)  It looks like the diver even had the presence of mind to click the shutter on the video to get a still shot (the video seems to stop after a shutter click about 60 seconds in).  Not what I would have been doing!

Four otters seen on island  March 23, Deborah Ju
I had a great time scoping at Bird Island this morning.  I have previously seen otters hauled out here and there at Point Lobos before, but was amazed this morning to see FOUR otters hauled out together on a rock just north of Bird Island.  There were two moms and their pups!  They were on the rock for quite a while before a pesky Western Gull pestered them past their tolerance level, and they headed into the water.  The white faces of the moms are clearly evident in the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Precious moment at Point Lobos  March 11, Randy Warren
A memorable experience happened when a six year old Japanese boy shyly walked up the trail where had a scope set up during an Easy Access adventure. With the scope adjusted to its lowest height, I got down on one knee to get face to face with this young man. I told him this scope is set up just for people his size, and then asked him if he could say harbor seal, the child looked up at his Dad and his father said go ahead. "Harbor seal" he said with a smile on his face, his parents gleaming. Glued to the scope for a number of minutes, the little boy looked up with a “Whoooow”!