When we travel to California our favorite place to stay is down in Monterey Bay. We usually stay at the Best Western Beach Dunes Inn, not the fanciest hotel but it is affordable and right on the beach, in Marina, Ca. From this central location we can head south to Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur, or go north to Elkhorn Slough or Moss Landing.
Moss Landing is a little harbor town near the middle of Monterey Bay. We first explored the area while waiting for a tour ship, that we were taking through Elkhorn Slough, to depart.
We found a lot of cool things in the area to photograph, like the California sea lions that liked to sun them selves on boats, docks, dingies, and the breakwaters.
The breakwaters also provided an excellent nesting habitat for Brandt's cormorants, a Pacific species of cormorant that we never see in Minnesota.
Swimming around in the harbor water you can often catch a glimpse of a harbor seal. Notice that the seal has no ears. That is one of the primary differences that distinguishes seals from sea lions.
There is usually a few coastal birds hanging around the harbor, like this surf scoter. Surf scoters bread up on lakes in Alaska and northern Canada but they typically spend their winters along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts here in the US.
Like many types of ducks the female surf scoter is not as colorful as the male.
When we visited in 2007 we were lucky to see a lot of sea otters in the Moss landing harbor and beach area. While I was carefully walking out the breakwater, that keeps the larger waves from hitting the beach, I spotted this sea otter diving in the water.
I was pleasantly surprised to see him come up with a large crab. The main diet of sea otters is clams, crabs, snails, mussels, sea urchins and other marine species.
You can sea that this crab was not going down with out a fight. The sea otter has to hold on tight to the elusive crab while trying to keep out of range of the wicked claws. If the otter were to grab a leg instead of holding on to the shell the crab would shed the leg and attempt to escape and then it would grow the leg back again later.
However sea otters are very dexterous. They are the only marine mammal that will catch fish with their forepaws instead of their teeth. They are also fairly intelligent, they will often use tools, such as rocks, to break open hard shells. On this occasion however the otter used his incisor teeth to access the meat. This is a good thing, at least for the otter, as they frequently eat up to 25% of their weight in food each day.