Posted by: Kiersten | December 19, 2009

Sea Lions, Clams and Fog

The weather has warmed back up to a balmy 12˚C.  The rain is soft and warm, it smells like spring.  I hear it’s about 10 below back in Ontario!  Hee he hee he hee!

The warm weather brought the fog.  I woke up, bleary-eyed, feeling like I’d under-slept and over-slept at the same time.  The fog had darkened the morning sky, so it was almost 9 am before the daylight seeped it’s way into our loft bedroom.

This was the view out the kitchen window:

 The sea lions had some sort of party last night.  I don’t know what they were up to.  It started at about midnight, when the temperature dropped and the atmosphere cleared. 

“Ar! Ar! Ar! Ar! Ar!”

Something about the air last night helped the sea lions’ voices to carry.  Their barks bounced across the harbour and echoed back.

“Ar! Ar! Ar! Ar! Ar!… Ar! Ar! Ar! Ar! Ar!”

At which the sea lions felt compelled to bark back at their own echoes:

“Ar! Ar! Ar! Ar! Ar!… Ar! Ar! Ar! Ar! Ar! —  AR! AR! AR! AR! AR! AR!… AR! AR! AR! AR!”

A third and a fourth sea lion joined in, barking louder and louder, all trying to out-do each other or drown out their own echoes!  On and on and ON they barked, tossing in variations of nasal honking and gargling, just to see how much noise they could all make together. 

Ever play that screaming game in the playground as a kid?  This seems to be a girl thing.  A bunch of friends get together and count to three, then all scream together just to see how much sound they can make.  That’s what the sea lions were doing.  From midnight to about four in the morning.

AR!  Ar! ar ar ar ar ar!  ARRWWWWRRRL!  Hink-honk-honk-honk!  AR!  OW OW ow ow ow!  AR AR AR AR AR!  AR! AR! AR! AR!  *gurlge* AR AR AR!  ar ar ar ar ar ar ar ar ar ar!  HONK!  *gurgle*  AR! AR! AR! AR!

Sea lions are intelligent, gregarious, charming, glorious animals… but at 3 in the morning I was about ready to lose my mind and start yelling “SHADDUP!!”  They are so loud!  I am beginning to understand why my neighbours occasionally fire bottle rockets at them to scare them off the docks for a few hours. 

Just in case you’re curious about what we had to listen to, here’s a video a tourist took of the sea lion family that lives oh, fifty feet from our window:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcIhnwb-14Y

The critters on the docks are california sea lions.  My favourites are the Steller’s:

http://www.arkive.org/stellers-sea-lion/eumetopias-jubatus/video-09f.html

I didn’t know anything about Steller’s seal lions B.U.  (Before Ukee)  A few weeks ago I had a dream that I was a sea lion.  It felt wonderful to be so big and strong.  I felt happy to be with my sea lion family and friends.  I loved to twist and wind through the water and just adored chasing and eating fish.  I felt proud to be so large, and felt sorry for those smaller seals.  Whale snacks, I thought to myself.  I was rather smug about being so much larger than all the other seals and sea lions.  My last thought before waking was “This is the best place in the world to live.”

After that dream I began researching sea lions, starting with the difference between sea lions and seals.  The major difference is in their back flippers – sea lions are more agile on land since they can use their back flippers as feet, whereas seals have to inch-worm along.

I learned that while the harbour seals are just 300 lbs, the Steller’s tip the scales at over 600 lbs for females and a whopping 2,500 lbs for males.  Stellers sometimes EAT the smaller seals, which I guess accounted for their lack of respect for their smaller relatives in my dream. 

I learned that Steller’s are endangered.  They’re so plentiful here, but so rare everywhere else in the world.  Their population has been plummeting – everywhere except British Columbia.  For a Steller’s sea lion, and certain people, this is indeed the best place in the world to live. 

Thanks to the Sea Lion Symphony, we got a bit of a late start today.  By the time we made it to Little Beach the tide was quite high, but the fog was still hanging around:

A few nights ago my downstairs neighbour knocked on my door and gave me a big, steaming bowl of clams.  I have to admit I was a bit intimidated by a pile of so-recently-alive invertebrates clattering around in their big ceramic bowl.  Their salty, buttery aroma filled the apartment.  My stomach wasn’t sure what to think.  I’m not sure if I’m a butter clam fan, but at least I know now what they’re supposed to taste like.

I gave my neighbour back his bowl today with four more butter tarts – I’m really enjoying this food exchange program we’ve got going on.  He said he’d bring me up some oysters next time – EEP!  “Just a little bit!  I’ve never had oysters before!”  I couldn’t eat all the clams and I just can’t bear to see such amazing sea food go to waste. 

I love living in a place where you can just walk down to the beach and dig up supper.  How awesome is that?  It feels profoundly *right* to me.

I found this cheeky article about Ukee recently.  Ucluelet – hard to pronounce, harder to forget: 

http://www.canada.com/saskatoonstarphoenix/news/weekend_extra/story.html?id=e3e54cba-5464-430a-adc1-25479681509c

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