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One beach, with elephants

The elephant seal rookery at Piedras Blancas is busy in January.

It's the only time of the year that you'll see bulls, cows and pups on the beach together. The two tonne bulls have fought their dominance battles, and the cows have given birth to last years pups. While the young suckle, the males start to round up their harems. Overhead the turkey vultures gather, slope-soaring the dunes looking for in the inevitable fatalities, as pups get under flipper the barraging males.

We usually stop there on our way from CES to the Bay Area, and wander down to the viewing areas. It's noisy, and not a little smelly, but it's also one of the few places you can get up close to such immense creatures.

Mother and child

The pups are just a couple of weeks old with big wide eyes and high-pitched yips. The cows bark incessantly, trying to find their young in the hustle and bustle of the crowded beach.

What are you looking at?

The bulls are still aggressive, chest shields scarred and pink from their recent battles. They roar out challenges as they round up their harems.

Waiting it out

Sometimes it's best to just lie there and soak in the January sun...

Feeding time

...or just grab a quick meal.

Under the vulture

After all, the waiting turkey vultures are always there...

Piedras Blancas, California
January 2010