AN AMAZING DAY AT SIMPSON REEF
Saturday, May 25, 2018, was a day of “once in a lifetime” events – two to be exact. Couple this with two other unusual sights, and you have an incredible day for the volunteers and visitors who were there.
The day began with two “unusual” sightings. The tide was high, so the water came up right to the base of the point upon which we set up our scopes. Immediately after I arrived, and almost close enough to hit with a rock, was a sea otter floating on her back munching away at the breakfast she was holding between her paws. Sea otters are pretty rare in Oregon, so seeing one so close was exciting.
A few minutes later, SEA’s resident expert on marine mammals, Bill Binnewies, saw a gray whale surface and blow inside the outer rocks of the reef. Not so unusual as a sea otter, but infrequent enough and close enough to knock our socks off!
Then I heard a dad telling his son, “Look, son, just below us is a harbor seal trying to get her pup into the water.” The seal mom and pup were maybe only 10 feet from the water, but even 10 feet is a long way for a new born seal. And now the tide was beginning to recede, adding some urgency to her efforts. Here’s a video of the patient but somewhat insistent mom gently coaxing her pup into the water.
When they finally made it there (maybe 20 minutes later), the mom dropped her placenta into the sea, a bright red blob that got everyone’s attention – especially the birds in the area. The placenta sank to the bottom – only a couple of feet deep – but neither the gull nor the turkey vultures nor the eagles that arrived could get it up to a rock. Of course, the gull had a mere few seconds to try before the 3 turkey vultures chased him off. The turkey vultures, in turn, had even less time before three immature bald eagles chased them away.
The eagles held for forth for maybe 30 minutes before they gave up and left, unable to get to the placenta, which was still too far under water. Then, for the next little bit of time while the tide continued to recede, the placenta seemed to lay unnoticed by everyone except a few of us up on the point. Finally, an enterprising and eager gull noticed the changing sea and was able to grab the blob as a wave moved it up onto shallower water. Before the wave slipped back into the ocean, she grabbed hold of the placenta and was able to keep it up on the rock. HALLELUJAH!
Her euphoria was short-lived as the papa bald eagle arrived and staked his claim to the meal. His kids arrived quickly and insisted on being included in the feast, and the family made short work of their meal. See the accompanying video of the dad, one of the kids, and a frustrated crow.
So two events – the placenta dropping into the water for all to see and the feeding of the bald eagles on the placenta – were ones that no one on the point that morning had ever seen before. We felt particularly blessed.