Thursday, April 7, 2011

hot mammal party 2011

morning ferry ride

I did some mulching today for The Old Farmer on the Other Side of the Island. It was supposed to be a two-hour job, picking up the branches that fell in storms over the winter. But Old Farmer felled two giant trees yesterday, so I have to go back and mulch all the branches from those trees as well.

Imagine packing a large bedroom floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall with huge branches, twigs and bark. Then imagine feeding each individual branch through a flowerpot-sized hole lined with ultra-loud dull metal blades that spin and squeal and rip and bang and whine. It kinda sucks. But it's nice to be outside, I guess.

I went for a sunset skinny-dip tonight, and after I crawled out of the water I heard a long low belching sound around the edge of the cove. I thought it had to be the sea lions, so I put my clothes on and snuck quietly around the rocks to check it out.

I didn't see anything, but the water at the head of the cove was really pushing around in the tide. That kind of current means a lot of nutrients moving, which means lots of plankton, which means lots of fish. You could just feel the life underneath.

So I waited a few minutes, and a sealion surfaced. Then another. Then a mass of them approached from further down the coast. In the next half hour I saw a total of at least a dozen sea lions! Probably more. They were surfacing at high speeds, smashing out of the water together and spreading their fins, then pounding back down again with a huge splash. Some would come up some slowly and give out ultra-low belching groans. I think there must have been a lot of fish-eating, but it felt like some kind of mating action was happening too.

Solo sea lions were passing closer to shore, right in front of me, watching the big hubbub from a distance. The real party was about 60m offshore - I think there was between three and seven sealions out there. Then another raucous sealion party approached and made several loud farty noises at the first party as they passed by. It was quite the scene.

I climbed the bank to head home and looked back at the darkening sea. The whole coastline was pockmarked with the heads of sealions. I think I was very lucky to have decided on a quick skinny-dip instead of a long-distance wetsuit swim tonight.

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