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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Elkhorn Slough

June 13th, 2014 · 2 Comments

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When I visited Northern California recently, my friends John and Vicky treated me to a boat tour of Elkhorn Slough. Except it’s really not what most people think of as a slough.

Elkhorn Slough isn’t “an area of soft, muddy ground; swamp or swamplike region,” as one dictionary defines the word. It is actually a broad salt marsh is second in size in California only to San Francisco Bay.

The slough is the heart of the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. Its mouth is Moss Landing at the center of Monterey Bay, about halfway between the cities of Santa Cruz and Monterey. When I lived in Santa Cruz from 1995 to 2004, I went to the reserve several times to hike but never knew about the possibility of boat tours.

My friend John, who lives near Santa Cruz, discovered Brian Ackerman’s Whisper Charters tours of the slough. John had told me about his great experience on an earlier tour there, and it was everything that I had hoped it would be.

The skies were clear, we had no wind, and the temperature was perfect, warming up to 58° when we set off at 8 a.m. into the slough to see some of the rare southern sea otters and other marine mammals as well as dozens of species of birds. The light on the scene — both the water and the green surrounding hills — was lovely. The boat, the whisper-quiet electric Selkie II, was covered and had the most comfortable seats of any small boat. I got perhaps a thousand photographs, and some of them were keepers. Here are a few of my favorites.

​Two Southern Sea Otters at Play

Two Southern Sea Otters at Play

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​A Southern Sea Otter Grooms her Pup

A Southern Sea Otter Grooms her Pup

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​Captain Brian certainly knows the sea mammals and the birds of Elkhorn Slough and is a knowledgeable and helpful teacher. For one thing, he taught me how to distinguish between two similar grebes. The next two photos are not just different birds, they are different species.

​This is a Clark's Grebe, Considered to be a Morph of the Western Grebe until the 1980s

This is a Clark's Grebe, Considered to be a Morph of the Western Grebe until the 1980s

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​This is a Western Grebe​

This is a Western Grebe

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I had previously seen many cormorants of several species, but had never seen a Brandt’s cormorant before. Captain Brian identified this bird for us.

​A Brandt's Cormorant in Breeding Plumage: The Blue Throat Patch

A Brandt's Cormorant in Breeding Plumage: The Blue Throat Patch

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Just as I appreciate the cormorant’s bright throat I also like the colorful beak of the surf scoter below.

​The Orange Beak of the Surf Scoter Seems So Silly

The Orange Beak of the Surf Scoter Seems So Silly

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Brown pelicans are among my favorite seabirds. These gregarious birds live in large flocks.

​A Flock of Brown Pelicans Rests

A Flock of Brown Pelicans Rests

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My, what big throats you have!

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Posted in: Photography

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Robert Taylor // Jul 2, 2014 at 8:18 am

    Very nice photographs! My wife and I were there a couple of months ago. While in the parking lot a trio arrived packing Canon cameras and some very large lenses. One in particular was huge, apparently about $7000 worth! Very serious bird photographers, I would say. We had a nice conversation. As an old geezer view camera landscape photographer, it was quite a juxtaposition. My wife is diabetic and we always read, enjoy and appreciate the excellent information in your newsletter which has helped her (and me) a lot. Thank you and happy photography!

  • 2 David Mendosa // Jul 2, 2014 at 8:25 am

    Dear Robert,

    Thanks for your appreciation of my work!

    Namaste,

    David

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