Milpitas Camera Club Field Trip
Field Trip: Elkhorn Slough
Trip Date: March 20, 2010
Report Author:Scott Hinrichs
Report Date: March 24, 2010

Elkhorn Slough - playful pups and pinnipeds

A couple club members, two associates and a couple kids went to the Elkhorn Slough the weekend of March 20-one party on Saturday and the other on Sunday. The most remarkable part about this particular trip was the large number of pinnipeds present at the slough. The weather on the previous weekend (on the day I postponed) was okay, but the replacement date turned out to be a beautiful day, too.

Our group went out in a canoe to explore the estuary. Trying to keep the splashing and paddle fighting down to a minimum, our party managed to do pretty well in spite of the playful human pups we took along with us. We saw large numbers of sea lions, sea otters and the usual number of harbor seals, still lounging on the mudflats keeping a watchful eye on their almost-grown pups. There were also sea lion pups present and probably a hundred adults sunning themselves on the floating dock near the Highway One bridge. (Perhaps some of these were the missing San Francisco Pier 39 sealions.) As we paddled by the group, a couple of pups hurled themselves out of the water next to our boat. Apparently they were playing tag above and below the water. The suddenness of them bursting out of the water and up into the air startled us. They were just as cute as the harbor seal pups further up the slough-perhaps a little cuter with their little needle-noses!

The bird watching was less than spectacular, as I noted fewer species than ever before. There were very few California Brown Pelicans, no terns and very few wading birds-and, of course, I didn't see the pink flamingos that everyone was talking about. Our sea mammals, however, made up for the lack of creatures of the avian persuasion.

Steve and wife went to Elkhorn the day before and took the pontoon boat tour. They reported that they had a great time and the weather was wonderful. Steve thought that going the day after a big storm may have resulted in more animals. The sea otter count was 93 (it is usually 25 to 30). The bird species count was about 38.

After lunch, Steve and wife took Jetty Road out to the beach. With a strong sea breeze to tack into, the birds were hanging nearly motionless in the air over the surf and shore. This allowed him to get some good photos of them in sharp focus.

Thanks to Steve for adding his take on the trip. There's always something new and interesting at Elkhorn Slough. It is still early enough to go see the seals, otters and sea lions, so if you have a free weekend, take a little drive and see what you can see from the parking lots and the trails near the slough.

© 2010 S.R. Hinrichs