Shoreline Education for Awareness (SEA) volunteers are a privileged group of people. We are taught by wildlife experts about the lives and behaviors of a wide range of shoreline creatures – from birds and pinnipeds to whales and tide pool creatures. Then, we observe and verify; we watch mating rituals and nesting habits; see newborns cared for by devoted parents; and rejoice when the young go off on their own.
Yesterday my partner, Susan, and I were doing our shift at Simpson Reef watching pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) through our telescopes. If you’ve been to Simpson Reef with one of our volunteers, you know that these pinnipeds that are pulled out on Shell Island and the surrounding rocks are not doing much performing for the adoring crowds. Mostly, they’re lying around, sleeping or climbing over each other. If we are lucky, we get to watch one or two climb up on a rock island for some “alone time.” For nearly 4 hours there is not much activity for visitors to see.
And then, boom!! Something happens and the whole herd of sea lions (California and Stellar), as if in one well-rehearsed dance, react to something in the water that sends part of the herd scurrying away while another section in unison heads in the direction of the intrusion. It was puzzling and exciting at the same time. What made them do this? We’ll never know, but our “time served” paid off in an instant.
It reminded me once again that “hanging out” with pinnipeds, as with birds, takes patience and perseverance. And to those who endure the waiting, some wondrous scenes play out before our eyes and we go home glowing from what we’ve seen this day. What a privilege!!
Perhaps just as much of a privilege is our getting to share what we know and what we see with thousands of people visiting our cliffside perches in Bandon and Charleston. Yesterday we interacted with folk from as far away as Germany and as close as Coos Bay. Many of the 167 visitors that day have never had a chance to view marine life in its natural habitat. Both young and old were genuinely thrilled to see our pinniped friends and left the reef with a mental (as well as photographic) image of sea life that is strange and wondrous to them. And to us, seeing their response to the discovery of marine life was as much of a joy as viewing these fascinating creatures through our scopes.
Today was a great day at Simpson Reef. The weather was beautiful, and 152 visitors from all over the world were delighted by the harbor seals, Northern elephant seals, California sea lions and Stellar sea lions. Families from Amsterdam, Switzerland, and New Zealand joined others from Alberta, Canada as well as New York, Minnesota, Colorado, Washington, Hawaii, Utah and Oregon – 152 in all – to watch these pinnipeds lounging around on Shell Island and the surrounding rocks.
To add to the glory of the day, between 15 to 20 pelicans delighted us with their dramatic fly-by. They look so majestic as they skim the surface of the ocean in formation, resembling something out of the imagination of George Lucas – only real and regal.
Come enjoy the show any Friday, Saturday, or Sunday between 11 AM and 3 PM at Simpson Reef. You won’t be disappointed (unless the fog rolls in and erases the canvas of Shell Island’s artistic expressions!!!).
Face Rock was sunny and rocking today! In addition to seeing hundreds of common murres at the top of Face Rock, we were treated to about an hour-long “courtship” by 2 tufted puffins. After strolling about near the top for 20 or 30 minutes, they spent 20 or 30 minutes more knocking beaks together in an act of courtship before walking off together into a burrow that I suspect became their love nest.
Only 20 or 30 feet from this display sat a peregrine falcon on its nest beneath a boulder, presumably with an egg beneath its sculpted chest. Shifting positions often, sometimes with its head facing outward, sometimes with it tail feathers gracing our scope, the peregrine thrilled viewers every time it moved.
Amazingly, a third tufted puffin sat on the very same
boulder immediately about the peregrine’s shaded nest, apparently content to simply watch all of the activity around it, perhaps unaware of the falcon only a few feet below. I personally think that this puffin was relishing the attention it was getting from the gaggle of humans in the parking lot that were constantly pointing at it and jumping around in the funny way that only humans do.
Pigeon guillemots – a baker’s dozen resting at the surf line for over an hour – later parted company with one another with 5 of them flying to the top of Face Rock to what looked to be potential nest sites.
And, of course, we were in almost constant sight of the two black oystercatchers on their nest atop the first rock island north of Face Rock.
It was a great day for SEA volunteers and all of the visitors we thrilled with our scopes.