How is it possible I find such enjoyment shooting the wildlife of Monterey Bay? Rarely do I return from a shooting trip without at least one trophy, if not literally dozens. All that and a permanent smile to boot. Sometimes I mount the trophies on my wall, but usually I just label them and stuff them into a folder. I really like showing them to my friends. It makes me feel special when others express appreciation and admiration for what I’ve shot. And when I get a good shot of an endangered species, I am on top of the world. I even shot a Black Rhino in AFRICA. We flew South African Airlines, and they didn’t mind one bit that I had my trophy Black Rhino on the plane with me. Only a few months ago they would have said, “no way” but because they are inclined to reverse their ethical decisions, they are like, “bring it.” Anyone can do it. That is, if you live in a country like the USA that supports the transportation of special animal trophies such as lions, giraffes and elephants. Fortunately we weren’t flying British Airways and Iberian Airways, because they don’t allow transport of animal trophies. Air France, while they permit passengers traveling with monkeys for lab experiments, they don’t permit passengers traveling with endangered animals. Now Delta, United, US Airlines, and American Airlines don’t want to transport dead trophy animals either, at least not the “Big Five.” What a drag. Turns out petition signers had something to do with this travesty.
I think my favorite part about shooting is not being noticed by the animals. Sometimes I see my target off in the distance and surreptitiously sneak up on it waiting for the opportune moment to hit my mark. But there are countless instances in which I sit patiently and simply lure them with my silent prowess. My targets innocently meander by just doing their wildlife thang – like foraging for food, looking for a mate, or migrating. Ya know, stuff that wildlife does. One click of the finger, and I have my shot.
On some occasions, I miss the shot, and this brings great disappointment. Sometimes I get the shot but only hit part of the animal (I wish they didn’t move around so much) then I have to quietly track her down until she’s standing still long enough for me to shoot her again. My greatest thrill is when they run, because it tests my ability to do very athletic things like stand up, move, and sometimes step up onto a bench, a big rock, the car hood, or my tippy toes. But there are those times when the big ones get away. I deal with the loss and move on.
Imagine my delight when I discovered vacation destinations that specialize in animal shooting. For a small fee, the shooters go out together to spot animals. Low and behold, the animals are right there waiting to be shot. They totally expect it, because why else would they be in a pen? It’s so cultured. I get to meet people from all over the world, and we talk and laugh, sharing our trophies and swapping stories about how clever we were at targeting our animals.
With my best shots, I know in my heart that the target has surrendered himself to me, because he knows in the bigger scheme of life that it behooves his species to be captured so that others can see his beauty and learn more about him. It’s just like conservation. Besides, if I don’t shoot these animals, someone else will, and then that person will get the trophy when clearly I am the one who deserves it.
It’s one of the reasons we position ourselves in stunning and wild environments. And the Monterey Bay is one of the most diverse environments we’ve ever lived. I shared a lot about the area in a recent post should wild inquiring minds find themselves not quite satiated and craving more wild information.
By now, you must be waiting with anticipation to see my trophies. Get ready. Have a seat, grab a cuppa joe and enjoy the wildlife I shot at the Monterey Bay.
From hunters to song birds to sea birds, on any given day we will see a dozen different species of birds. I’ve missed some great shots of birds (not shown here, obviously), so I just have my memories which is second best to capturing the visual permanently. Some of the birds most frequently spotted are Ravens, Chickadees, Jays (Stellar and Blue), Varied Thrush (big comeback to the area), Plovers and Loons.
Hummers get their very own space, because they are THAT spectacular. By far, my faves. That’s saying a lot, because I’m a bird addict, a birdict. I see those little beauties every day. I am in absolute awe of their brilliant colors, those gazillion-mile-an-hour wings and their incessant chatter.
When you drive into Pacific Grove, keep a look-out for the sign that reads: “Human Population about 15,000 – Deer Population about 15,001.” Those beauties are everywhere, and they know they are the shit. Have you ever seen the Doctor Who episode Blink? We’ve had the same experience with deer tracking us. We walk by and they stand still. We take a few steps and turn around, they are closer and in the EXACT same position, frozen. We have walked an entire mile like this. Turns out the females do not want us near their babies and they will walk us right off the face of the earth if they think we’re too close. Fortunately for us, Stella is super chill. We’ve had her off leash and happened upon deer just feet away and she walks on by. That’s our theme song, Walk on By.
I like saying Velella Velella! These intriguing creatures were washing up by the tens of thousands this past spring and summer. It was quite worrisome, really, to witness sea life devastation in the form of blue jellyfish-like critters blanketing the beach.
Imagine our delight when we were exploring the tide pools and found a baby octopus! I was checking out the rocks and something was spitting at me. The little guy peered out from beneath a rock, slinkied out, sat there in defiance at our intrusion then slinkied back below.
California Sea Lions
Loud, barking, and stinky are just some of the words used to describe the California Sea Lion. I’d like to add a few of my own descriptors: hilarious, curious, community-oriented, velvety, sleepy, and awkward on the ground/graceful in the water. I truly L*O*V*E watching these guys. They barrel in all over one another forming heaps of burping, barking, blathering adorableness.
Just as loud but less social, seals seem to be more engaged than the sea lions. I’ve spent entire blocks of time sharing moments with seals. They watch closely and curiously but not seemingly cautiously. They watch, duck, swim, raise their heads, watch, stare, duck, swim, and the whole thing starts all over again. Add to it, they’re super cute, and their babies, oh dio mio!
Check the oh-so-fabulous baby elephant seals. A 27-second cuteness coma!
There is not other out there like the otter. We see them regularly in Pacific Grove, but our favorite place to hang with the otters is while kayaking (Kayak Connection) at the Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing.. During the spring, the Mama otters go fishing and if they’re gone too long (like 5 seconds), the babies they’ve left behind in kelp beds cry out for them. Their cry is an intense, urgent, high-pitched mwaaamaa! Off in the distance, you can then hear the mom yelling back to the baby. It sounds something like, “hold your britches, I’m coming!”
Check out this TEN second video clip and hear the baby crying for his mama.
Taking a boat tour on the Monterey Bay at nearly any time of the year is likely to result in happiness. April through November are the best months to see Humpback Whales, even though we saw a bunch in January – probably stragglers – working their way to Mexico. Usually they travel in pods but sometimes the slow or elderly whales are at the tail end. Pun intended.
We’re learning there are whales hanging out in the Monterey Bay throughout the year now. It may be because of changing water temps bringing in a better supply of food or those same changing water temps are making their sonar is all kerfunkled. Gray whales generally pass through the bay from December to February migrating to Baja to have their calves then head north again in the spring with their new babies.
We took the Monterey Bay Whale Watch tour. They seemed in tune with respecting the animals. Sometimes tours make me nervous, because I know it’s a business and money always comes first in a business. Finding and working with ethical businesses is a priority for us.
Humpback Rescue Operation
We happened up a Humpback who appeared stranded, emaciated, and unable to move well. Our captain called it in, and we waited until we saw help arrive. They were hoping he was entangled as there is an easy solution to this problem, disentanglement. We later found out that no, this was not the case. This fellow was dying. It appeared he had been nicked by a propeller. There was nothing anyone could do but let nature take its course despite the fact nature didn’t cause this course, humans did. Sad.
Fortunately we saw vibrant, healthy, whales too. Many – about a dozen.
No Monterey photo-op would be complete without the ever-amicable Beach Squirrel
And no wildlife photo-op would be complete without a shot of the Wild Dog of PG
Since Cecil’s death, more big trophy kills have hit the news, but to a much lesser degree. How is it the largest elephant killed in Africa for the last 30 years didn’t garner the same amount of attention?
This post is dedicated to Cecil the Lion and all beautiful animals who should be walking free and unencumbered from the mighty grip of human selfishness.
Help fast-track African Lions to the Endangered Species list: Petition
Stop airlines from transporting dead animals: Petition
Learn more here about the role Americans play in Trophy Hunting, the association between male ego and killing exotic animals, and the dying off of Africa’s precious wildlife.
There are people out there who care. One shining example, Tom Kaplan, is using his healthy supply of cash to help and not cause harm. The world could benefit from having more Tom Kaplans.
As of December 2015, Walter Palmer, the man who wittingly took a life, that of Cecil, is back to his normal routine. No charges pressed. No lawsuit battled. No lesson learned. Walter admitted he may actually return to Zimbabwe one day to hunt.
And here is one of my favorite poems by Wendell Berry to ease my angst of the terrible truth that one day, because of egomaniacal, trigger-happy, head-mounting, asswipes like Walter Palmer, there will be no remaining Cecils to speak of.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
When we hear on the news of an innocent, precious, or suffering beings, such as a lion wounded by a hunter, in pain, and struggling to run away because he wanted to live, or infants struck by illness, or a grieving mother, humans seem to have an infinite capacity to love and protect.
What would happen if we extended that love and protection to all the innocent, precious, or suffering animals in the world – especially those that don’t make the news?
Just because I love animals doesn’t mean I dislike humans. Then again, if I had to choose between attending a party hosted by dogs or one hosted by people, I’d stick a few biscuits in my pocket before heading out.
Someone recently told me they think I prefer to spend my time with animals more than I do with humans. I shared this with my dog over breakfast. We were still laughing at the ridiculous notion through lunch, dinner, and while snugging at bedtime.
MY dentist is a marathon runner and not the most hated person in the world. Running seems like a more efficient investment of her free time and hard earned cash.
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