Seal Anthology

I still remember my excitement the first time I saw a seal in the water around Chavez Park. The sight of this sleek mammal in the cold water not far from shore suddenly added another dimension to my park experience. That was a few years ago. Since then, either there are more seals or I’ve been paying more attention. The video above is an anthology of my seal spottings in the past few weeks. No doubt my sightings cover only a small fraction of the seals’ presence here. A fisher who angles off the north coast of the park every Wednesday, Christopher R., says he sees at least one seal just about every day he’s out there.

The ones I’ve seen are all harbor seals, not sea lions. The visible difference, if you can only see the head, is in the ears. Seals have an ear hole, no visible flap. Sea lions have an external ear flap. There are bigger differences in their flippers, but you generally can’t see those when they’re in the water.

The other day I was following a dense flock of probably over a hundred American Coot on the south shore of the North Basin Cove, when they suddenly all took to the air. I felt bad, fearing I’d somehow frightened them with my approach on the Virginia Street Extension (although Coots generally don’t care). Moments later I saw what really spooked the birds: the big head of a harbor seal poking above the surface, looking in the direction of the departed flock. Seals mostly eat fish, but a seabird or two must be very tempting.

With seals coming ever closer to shore, maybe one day a whale will visit. They’ve been seen in the Bay. I’ll keep scanning. If you see one, let me know, OK?

Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)

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