Friday, January 29, 2010

Camera-Critters #95

Because I was such a distance away these photos are better viewed when enlarged. Photos are a little fuzzy as I tried to improve them in paint shop pro and also did some cropping.

Looking out at Monterey Bay I was struck with how peaceful this scene was. The rolling effect was very calming to me, as it always is when I look at the ocean. I have said it before, if I lived close to it I would be there every day just sitting on the sand staring as far as the eye could see. I would be that rather strange lady who sits for hours as still as a statue, looking for anything that lives in and on that pretty blue water in any season of the year.

I had just seen the Kelp Forest exhibit inside the aquarium and realized that what I had thought of before as debris was actually kelp, and amongst that kelp were little dark blobs, and as I stared more keenly those dark blobs were actually moving.

Much to my delight I realized they were sea otters. These photos are about as good as I could get but I was thrilled to get my first view of the sea otter in years. When we lived here before they seemed to be closer to the shore but these little guys were way out there. If I had been brave enough I might have rented a kayak like the ones I saw; their 'drivers' seemed to be following the golden rule of not getting close enough to disturb them in their natural surroundings. They seemed happily content to keep munching on whatever they were munching on and I was mesmerized, but oh what I would give for the eyes of a hawk.

I found the following paragraph here and there is another great article which you can find here in which Mr. Harper says that there are two subspecies of sea otters, the northern and the southern. The northern version is larger, with some males recorded as weighing over 100 pounds, with the average between 70 and 90 pounds. Sea otters can reach 4.5 feet in length and live as long as 15 to 20 years in the wild. Capable of diving as deep as 330 feet in search of food, the sea otter spends most of its life in the water and is not comfortable on land.

"Sea otters are the most recently evolved marine mammal. It is believed that they originated from river otter stock or ancestors approximately 5-7 million years ago. Sea otters are in the weasel or mustelid family. Other members of that family include badgers, polecats, skunks, wolverines, martens, weasels, fishers, sables, and river otters."

I loved how this family seemed to be in a perfect circle and were using the kelp to anchor themselves. A group of sea otters is called a 'rack', so this small rack of sea otters kept me riveted for almost an hour. In the top right of the photo is some kind of bird, a Cormorant maybe?

I hope they are around for a very long time but like so many they have been labeled as an endangered species.

I found the following information here.

Sea otters are a classic example of a keystone species; their presence affects the ecosystem more profoundly than their size and numbers would suggest. Sea otters keep the population of certain benthic (sea floor) herbivores, particularly sea urchins, in check. Sea urchins graze on the lower stems of kelp, causing the kelp to drift away and die. Loss of the habitat and nutrients provided by kelp forests leads to profound cascade effects on the marine ecosystem. North Pacific areas that do not have sea otters often turn into urchin barrens, with abundant sea urchins and no kelp forest.

Camera Critters is a wonderful meme created by Misty Dawn.

You can find other critter photos by clicking here.


  1. Great photographs and natural history lesson. It's amazing how inter related everything is.

  2. Sea otters are making a comeback after nearky being eliminated due to fur trading. With thier return the balance of nature in their habitats also is restored.
    I'm wondering, in England, did you live near the sea? I know it I had to live inland from the coast, I would miss it, too.

  3. Aren't they just some of the cutest critters around? We love seeing the sea otters when we go out to the coast or the sound. In between times we are often entertained by the river otters that frolic in our beaver ponds here. When the ponds freeze over they seem to be the most active and comical! Thanks for sharing your pictures and information.

  4. Fantastic pictures, I just love sea otters, they are so inquisitive.
    Interesting information I didn't know hardly any of that, I'm now enlightened and delighted.

  5. How cute Sea otters, what a great sighting!

  6. Fantastic! I learned quite a bit today. Thank you, Denise!

  7. What a delightful post today. I couldn't imagine where you were going with those photos. I dutifully clicked to enlarge each one as I came to it, and just kept shaking my head. And then...well, the story unfolded! I have come across a smaller species of otter while kayaking in the ocean in the wee hours of the morning in Atlantic Canada and they are the cutest and most comical creatures. They will swim by me, not even slowing down, and lift half way out of the water and peer at me as they go by. It's hysterical! Thanks for a fun post today. ~karen

  8. How fun to view the sea otters. They're interesting critters, and I learned a lot about them here.

  9. I too can sit and watch the sea for hours and I feel a calmness wash over me. (Like in my header photo)But I have never seen sea otters in real life. I love the way they float on their back and open shells on their tummy. It must have been exciting for you.

  10. Great photographs and natural history lesson. It's amazing how inter related everything is.

    Work from home India

  11. Hi Denise,
    I'm afraid if I lived near the water I would also be the strange lady sitting and staring. :)
    These little guys seem so playful. I'm glad you got a chance to see them once again.
    Have a great weekend!

  12. Great shots of the Sea Otters such beautiful creatures to watch and admire their agility in the water. Superb captures well done.

  13. Wonderful Denise, it pays to sit watch the ocean for hours. I love it too.

  14. This is very interesting, Denise! I learnt something to day!

  15. Wow! Sea Otters, thats a great find Denise.

  16. Fascinating information with your photos. I did enlarge a couple to have a better look at the sea otters.

  17. It's way to cold here to have such unthawed water :)

    I played too :)

  18. Great captures, Denise! And thank you for sharing the information. I learn something today too!

  19. Oh, Denise -- what fun! I love otters of all kinds. There are so much fun to watch!

  20. I have never seen a sea otter. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos of them.

  21. Love sea otters - never been to the Pacific but the otters always catpure my attention on TV. Great shots and info.

  22. I absolutely adore otters, they are some of the most lovable creatures God created :o) Thanks for sharing your photos and story with us!

  23. What a wonderful surprise to see Sea Otters unexpectedly!

  24. Denise: Looks like the Sea Otters were having a great day of hunting for food.

  25. hmmm...very interesting!! I love otters I can watch them for hours. We have a wildlife center here with otters (not sure what kind they are)but are still just as cute and adorable!!
    Thanks for stopping by!!
    Have a great weekend!

  26. If you walk the paved path to the west sout west of the aquarium, you can usually find otters foraging right below you in the intertidal during high tides. You will be able to get some really good pictures there during the morning hours when the sun is behind you.

    I studied northern sea otters for almost 6 years now....especially in Washington State and in the Aleutians, both on Amchitka and Adak Islands. Their personalities and culture are engrained within the essence of my soul.

  27. Cloudia, thank you. Aloha, Friend!

    Yogi, thank you, it certainly is.

    Linda Reeder, that's good to know and I hope they come back strong. Yes I lived near the ocean for the last ten years before I moved to the States, and then for the next 15 years until Gregg retired from the Navy. We are inland now and don't get to the sea shore as often as we would like. I truly do miss it.

    Lanny, they are the cutest critters. I have only seen river otters on nature shows.

    A Brit in Tennessee, thank you Jo. I'm happy you enjoyed my post.

    eileeninmd, aren't they though? It was a thrill to see them.

    gigihawaii, you are very welcome. Glad you liked it.

    KaHolly, thank you very much. Wow, you are one of those brave people who go kayaking. That must be so much fun, especially if you come across these wonderful animals. How entertaining they must be.

    Janie, it was. Glad you found my post a learning experience :)

    diane, a kindred spirit. I loved your header photo. That would definitely be me.

    kanishk, thank you, it certainly is.

    Carletta, another kindred spirit ;) Thank you. Hope you have been having a great weekend too!

    Monts, they certainly are and thank you.

    imac, thank you and I totally agree.

    Reader Wil. thank you, so glad you enjoyed it.

    Roy, it was absolutely amazing to see them.

    Lavender Cottage, thank you.

    Teena in Toronto, I hope it warms up there soon :)

    eden, I'm glad, thank you for stopping by.

    Snap, so much fun and me too!

    Marvin, I don't get to see them too often, once 30 years' ago, once in a nature museum two years ago and this past October.

    wildcatwoodscats, they are pretty lovable and thank you.

    Karine, me too and I agree.

    Lisa, it certainly was.

    This Is My Blog - fishing guy, they were tucking in there.

    Kathy, I love them also and I could watch them for hours. Such interesting little guys. How lovely that you can visit them close to home.

    Natural Moments, the next time I visit Monterey I will remember that. Thank you for the great tip. If I had studied them at such great length they would be part of me too. Even in such a short time I felt connected with them.

    Thanks so much for stopping by everyone. I have enjoyed reading all your lovely comments.

  28. Iv'e never seen a sea otter in the flesh but if I did I know I'd be captivated like you were. Good spot there eagle eyes;-)

  29. Fascinating post, Denise. Sea otters are such fun to watch. I hope they are around for a long time, too.

  30. Your sea otter shots are wonderful, Denise. I enjoyed reading and learning about them.
    Thanks for stopping by, have a nice day.

  31. Kewl captures of the otters amidst the kelp ... I can watch these critters for HOURS ;-)
    Hugs and blessings,

  32. Captain Shagrat, why thank you sir.

    Adrienne in Ohio, they are I agree. Me too.

    Pam, thank you and I hope your day was a wonderful one.

    storyteller, hours and hours!
    Hugs and blessings to you too :)

  33. what an excellent sighting! I never ever see sea otters, but I see a lot of river otters. These guys are so cute, I'm glad you got some photos of 'em!

  34. A very informative post with good writing and photographs!

  35. Hello dear Denise!
    You are so clever and I liked a lot your explanations here , I'm always learning good things with you.
    Wonderful pictures!
    Happy Camera Critters
    purrs and love
    your friend