The Sea Lions are Up to Something

By , January 21, 2011

Lately, our neighbors, the sea lions, are partying hard. Something’s going on in their community. They’ve been around a fair amount lately, but the recent rough weather makes them hard to see. Now that the weather’s calmed for a bit, we can hear them over at Gran Point, and see them in the water just off our beach. They’re cruising up and down in pods of 3 to 5, sometimes more. They spend a lot of time rolling around in the water, watching the homestead, nuzzling each other, engaging in a little half-hearted horseplay. They seem to be waiting for something.

The seagulls seem to share their sense of anticipation. We think we know what’s up. There’s an odd fish moving through the area.

This has happened before at this time of year. A small fish, shaped and colored sort of like an anchovy appears on the beach in winter. Mostly, we see them over on Mud Bay, where they get washed up on the low tide, or frozen into the ice. Their eyes are huge, which makes them look like very young fish. It may be that they usually live closer to the ocean bottom than the surface.

The human neighbors, many of whom are biologists, were puzzled by the beached fish in past years. Eventually they were identified as lamp fish. Apparently they’re passing through again, as the sea lions and gulls have begun to hunt. The sea lions jet through the water at incredible speeds, sometimes leaping clear of the surface. Whatever the reason, whatever they’re doing, it’s great to watch!

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