I think my favorite two things last year in the Sea of Cortez were the Boobies and the seals at Coronados. I had been really anxious to take Tristan to see the sea lions as it was so amazing, so we finally took the opportunity to make a brief stop there on our way to Punta Pulpito.
Approaching the rocky outcrop and resting ground of the seals we immediately notice that there are a large number of males, big males. We knew breeding season started in June, but last year in July there had been only a couple of males and a lot of females and adolescents. This time there were many males and only a couple of females and one young pup. The males were very noticeably covered in gnashes from their fighting, which we did see while there and more aggressive than last time. A very big deterrent to swim with them.
A little aggression between these two males.
Wind and rain have over time carved the cool rock formations that surround the sea lion’s home.
While visiting the sea lions we noticed a peculiar sight, a male seal spent about 20 minutes floating on his side with his flippers sticking out. I wondered whether he was just relaxing, trying to kill off parasites on his extremities, or just a little unhinged. This led to a little research. It turns out that this is completely normal behavior and is known as thermo-regulating. It’s a process where the sea lion lays on his side in the water with his flippers extended so that the sun’s rays can heat the capillaries on their surface. The heating of the exposed flippers effectively heats the sea lion’s body through its circulatory system. I guess it’s a little similar to cold-blooded animals like snakes and lizards.
The sea lion’s leisurely warm-up float.
Tristan did eventually get in the water but stayed firmly attached to the side of the dinghy. The sea lion was most definitely not worried about Tristan’s presence, although he did give a few half-hearted barks at the dinghy if it got too close.
Tristan up-close with the sea lion
When you see the size of these animals it is amazing how they manage to maneuver their large bodies both in and out of the water.
Hopefully, later in the season, we will get another opportunity to swim with the seals either in Coronados or elsewhere, when there are fewer males.