Sometimes during one's observational research, a soundtrack of waves crashing and bird song plays. Sometimes, that peaceful ambience is interrupted by the sound of zombies. Or in my case, Harbor Seals. If you've never heard the loud bellowing of Harbor Seals, you've never truly heard the sounds of the undead. At first I found it unsettling; setting up recording equipment for nocturnal seabirds in the dark because as the sun set, the zombies would take to the beach and become quite vocal. I rode a bicycle to and from the Rhinoceros Auklet nesting sites every night with just a headlamp for light and I must admit, some nights I felt like peddling a little faster as the seal pupping season began. A larger haul-out (place where seals temporarily leave the water to pup on land or forage) meant a higher volume of zombies and you can bet I was peddling to the tune of Miss Gulch riding away with Toto.
I enjoyed my morning seabird observations much more. Seal cows and their pups often visited me in the boat I watched the birds from.
And then the cows would wriggle onto the beach and take a nap as their pups nursed and took naps. I envied the morning habits of the seals. It was very early when I set up my recorders in the marina every morning and I would have gladly joined them for a nap on the beach.
Some days the seal population of Kanem Point skyrocketed and it was on one such day that I observed the most incredible predator/prey interaction. I had heard rumours about a transient pod of orcas that were making their way around the Salish Sea but had not yet seen them. I hadn't seen orcas in the wild ever. One morning I was sitting on the grassy slope, winding up cord from a night of recording seabirds. I was watching the beach on the spit below me, surprised at how loud the seals were calling on this particular morning. I held my gaze on them for some time. Out of nowhere, not even the hint of a dorsal fin parting the water, an orca came up with a wave and threw itself partway onto the beach. It beached itself from nose to pectoral fins. It grabbed the tail of a seal pup and dragged it back into the water. Just like that. I didn't see a single trace of an orca from that moment on but I sat on that hillside for the better part of a day with my jaw on the ground. This is the spit where the seal abduction occurred.
I'll leave you with a few photos of my biggest fan. She stuck with me the longest during my field season and visited me every day, keeping a watchful eye on my diligent research. Next week, back to birds. Maybe even owls...
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