San Juan Islands Day1

Our Chinook1trip started Sunday in Seattle at an airport hotel where we gathered for an evening meal and brief orientation. The next morning we were put on a bus to Bellingham where we met our private boat, The Chinook. Our luggage was loaded onto the boat and we were underway by 10:00 am. Our cruise to Friday Harbor had barely begun when our Captain got word of sightings of Transient Orcas nearby and we headed that way and were rewarded with views of the big killer whales by 11 am.

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After a fun hour or so of whale watching we were served a delicious onboard lunch of lasagna and salad only to have another whale sighting reported closer to shore. We hurried through lunch and went out on deck to try and photograph the whales. I took a lot of pictures but only a few turned out with recognizable Orcas. Still it was a thrill to see them.

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ASeagulls we resumed our journey there were also bald eagles to be seen. Not to mention sea gulls and cormorants. There were boats of all shapes and sizes from huge tankers to tugboats to ferrys to sailboats to pleasure craft to whale watching zodiacs.  And just to put a little icing on the cake Mount Baker put in an occasional appearance on the eastern horizon.

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We finally pulled in to Friday Harbor at around 2:30pm, walked the few blocks to our hotel for the week and had a couple of hours to rest and get organized before our catered dinner at the Farmer’s Market building downtown. All in all a great start to our tour of the San Juan Islands.

Bru na Boinne and Causey Farm

Mounds_KnowthAnother fun and full day. We headed out to Bru Na Boinne this morning. This is a megalithic burial complex which includes New Grange, Knowth and Dowth. The tombs here date to 3300 BC. Our group went to Knowth where there was one large mound surroundekerbstone_Knowth1d with numerous smaller ones. This picture shows two of the smaller ones. Around the large tomb are kerbstones with megalithic art inscribed on them. Each one is different and no one knows what they mean okerbstone_Knowth3r whether they are, in fact, just art. Here are a couple of examples.

 

After our tour of the megalithic site we traveled on to Causey Farm where we were served a very fresh farm to table lunch that included some of the most delicious tomatoes I have ever tasted, some hard boiled eggs, lettuce, ham, fresh backed soda bread, and of course a potato salad. I think they might call it cold champ. And for desert strawberry jam and clotted cream on a fresh backed scone. Yum.

PoniesNext up we went out to visit the Connemara Ponies who really just wanted to be fed but let us pet them anyway.

Some of our group learned to dance and everyone got to plaJackie_Susany the bodhran, a sort of Irish drum. Here are my friends Jackie and Susan showing off their new skills.

 

 
Next we mpiget a friendly pig. One of our group chose to kiss it on the nose. Yuck.

 

 

 

And last but certainly not least we got to see a sheepdog stsheepdogrut his stuff. Hard to believe we have only one more day in Ireland but it should be another good one.

Sea Otters

Sea_Otters3Sorry, I had to take a day off from the blog yesterday. I didn’t have many great pictures anyway because it was either pouring rain or we were inside. But today I had a chance to revisit the Sea Otter haunts in Morro Bay with the big girl camera and long lens. Pretty happy with the results. Here is a mama with her baby riding on her sSea_Otters4tomach. I think this one is about ready to solo.

These two were just coming up from a good romp.

 

 

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And this next one is having a nice nap.

 

 

 

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Here are mama and baby floating side by side.

 

 

 

 

ButSea_Otters this one is my hands down favorite. Otter love.

I did go back to the elephant seals as well but it was so windy I decided I had enough elephant seal pictures.

Tomorrow I make my way to Santa Barbara so should have some good things to share. Stay tuned.

Elephant Seals

Today was mainly about Elephant Seals. Though we learned something about Whales and Butterflies as well. It was poElephant_Sealuring down rain when we set out but by the time we arrived at our first destination it was clearing up but too muddy for our bird walk. So we proceeded on up the road to a less muddy place where we found few birds but lots of young male elephant seals separating themselves from the herd to avoid confrontation with the alpha males. This one won the prize for cuteness.

Slumber_PartyAfter a delicious lunch and a talk about whales we proceeded to the main elephant seal rookery where we found mamas and baby’s as well as alpha males and wanna be alpha males.  This first shot looks like a slumber party of females without pups.

But of course the babies are cute as can be too so hereElephant_seal_pup is one to prove it. Life is harsh on the beach though and the survival rate is not high. This fellow had been nursing but stopped to take a nap. We learned that the moms do not feed while nursing and lose 450 lbs before leaving the pups to wean. A newborn pup weighs about 75 lbs and grows to 300 lbs before Mom cuts off the milk supply.

Elephant_Seal_fightBut things got pretty exciting on the beach just as we were about to leave. To Alpha males, also known as Beach Master’s got into a fight over territory. It was still going on when we had to head out to our next appointment at the Natural History Museum in Morro Bay. There we saw a video about Humpback whales before proceeding to the Embarcadero for dinner.

As if we hadn’t had a full enough day we headed back to the motel to see a video on Monarch butterfly migrations.  Tomorrow will be another busy day even though our whale watching trip had to be cancelled due to dangerously high surf conditions.

Birds, Butterflies, and Beach Towns

Ruddy_DuckIt was another full day today starting with a bird walk at a place called Oso Flaco, or Skinny Bear. We saw Scaup, Ruddy ducks, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shovelers, a green heron, juvenile black crowned night herons, and white pelicans as well as some shore birds and a few black phoebes. The Ruddy ducks proved to be the most photogenic Racoonthough. And then there was this marauding mammal that snuck into the picture.

Next we had a real treat with a visit to the Monarch Butterfly grove in Pismo Beach where the Pacific butterflies come to hang out for the winter. We even got to see some mating behavior. I have in mind to do something artsy with Monarchsbutterflies but it isn’t going to happen tonight so this view of the clusters where they hang together will have to do for now though it is awfully hard to see that this is really a tree covered with butterflies and not a bunch of dead leaves.

ShorebirdFinally, we had lunch in downtown Pismo Beach and then strolled out on the Pier and around town looking at the shops and taking pictures of the signs. By this time I was almost too tired to enjoy it. The first picture here is an artistic look at the shadow of the pier against the patterns of the waves in the sand. The shorebird just ties it all together. Then we have a great painterly rendition of the Splash Splash2restaurant. Splash has been providing our catered meals throughout the week.

We ended the day with an very fascinating talk on falconry and owls with live bird examples. Nobody told me to bring my camera and I was too pooped to go back and get it.

Tomorrow promises to be another very full day but a trip to the Elephant Seal rookery will definitely be the highlight!

Of Sunsets and Sea Otters

Thsunset1is is the sunset that was happening last night as I was finishing yesterday’s blog. This, by the way was shot from my hotel room balcony.

This morning was spent in classroom mode learning about Sea Lions, Elephant Seals and Monarch Butterflies. Then we took a field trip to Morro Bay and had a walk along an Estuary which was interesting but not to photogenic for the short telephoto lens on the M3.

The next stop was along the Bay to look for sea otters. We were in luck and Sea_Ottersfound 15. It was still pushing the envelope for the M3 and how I was wishing for my 150
-600 lens. But with a little cropping and finessing I did come up with some sea otters that looked like sea otters oughter. (Sorry, couldn’t resist). But I still hope to have time to go back with the big girl camera before heading home.

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And then there was this Brown Pelican wBrown_Pelicanho actually showed up to try and steal the otters food.

And the sun had just set when we got back to the hotel so here is another pretty sunset picture.

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Tomorrow we have a bird walk, a trip to the Monarch butterfly grove and some time in downtown Pismo Beach.