Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Sea Lions Are Back on Seal Rock!

Living two blocks from Ocean Beach, Seal Rock, Lands End and the ruins of the Sutro Baths, I often walk or run around the area. A few weeks ago, I heard something unusual: It sounded like the bark of sea lions, which most commonly haul themselves onto the floating docks at Pier 39. (Live Web cam here.)

But while Seal Rock used to be a popular sunning spot for the pinnipeds, I understood from researching and writing this story that they mysteriously had abandoned the hangout around the time of the '89 earthquake.

So today, when I set out for my walk, I looped binoculars around my neck and determined to get to the bottom of this. (Cue Harriet the Spy, my inspiration.)

Sure enough, when I reached the Lands End parking lot and peered through the goggles, there were sea lions atop Seal Rock!

I padded down the trail for a closer look and, as luck would have it, ran into a volunteer from the Marine Mammal Center who had been called on a report of a stranding (the subject of the call, luckily, had returned to the ocean). In fact, this volunteer had been featured in a story by a colleague of mine about a disturbing increase in the incidents of sick sea lions.

He said that this year, for some undetermined reason, hundreds of pups have shown up much farther north than usual.

I put the spy glasses to my eyes again and couldn't believe what I saw -- what I previously had taken for vegetation on the rock was actually hundreds of chocolate brown pups.

In the dead of night, through my bedroom window, I listen to the sound of waves crashing. I can only hope a time comes when the pups' barking will punctuate the lull of the ocean and the moans of the moody fog horn.

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