Sunday, June 7, 2009

grunion greeting, 2009 #6

people & grunion
full moon cycle (10:30pm - 12:30am), clear skies

We arrived right before 10:00pm thinking we'd meet our ol' night heron buddy Charlie. Instead, we found a group of people already on the beach and lining the pier. There was also a very large cruise ship nearby with all its lights on. It was a very different atmosphere from the quiet, meditative grunion nights that we've gotten used to at Del Monte Beach. We asked around and pieced together a collective story. We greeted more people (24-35) than grunion (~31)!

Dr. Giacomo Bernardi from UCSC and an entourage of his children, students, and former students had been out on the beach since 9:40pm. Apparently, he's been coming to this beach for 14 years to watch grunion. He said it was 10 years ago when he last saw massive numbers of grunion all along the beach. From what he said about Monterey runs being on the night of the full moon versus a day or two after like in SoCal, I believe he's the one that let Dr. Martin know of the grunion runs in Monterey. One of his former grad students said they always come out to Del Monte Beach at the start of olallieberry season, which made no sense to me.

Dr. Bernardi's children and students were catching grunion and putting them into 2 coolers filled with sea water. A little after 11:00pm, he took his 11 fish and coaxed eggs and sperm out of them into a dish. He saved the spent grunion in a plastic bag. He then poured out the cloudy dish water and put in fresh ocean water to cover the orange eggs. He explained that he was sending the fertilized eggs and grunions to a researcher back East.

We believe we spoke with Chris (or Peter) a fellow grunion greeter who was walking the length of the beach with his headlamp. He agreed with us that the crowd was unexpected. My husband was literally run into pretty hard by Dr. Bernardi right at 10:00pm while he was whooping up the first grunion sighting of the evening. We didn't get an accurate count since people were eagerly collecting fish and we simply wanted to stay out of the way.

Two sets of scuba diver pairs came right out of the water where the grunion "hot spot" is located, which was surprising. An off-duty CA Dept. of Fish & Game fellow was there as well (pictured with his yellow and white bait bucket). Apparently, the closed season is over!

We also talked with 2 older gentlemen towards the end of the night who sounded like they've been watching the beach for years. Unfortunately, we didn't get their names, but they said they'd e-mail Dr. Martin and let her know they saw us "dedicated" grunion greeters. The 4 of us were the last ones on the beach and spotted a set of 2 and a set of 3 grunion together at 11:25pm. The last picture above shows a beautifully colored female still in the sand with what looks like a successful spawn - note the cloudy water around her body.

About a half hour after saying good-bye to the nice gentlemen and not seeing any more grunion, we left the beach around midnight.

Diane, a fellow grunion greeter from May 25, called me while we were still on the beach. She and a friend went to the Seaside Beach with no grunion luck. We plan to meet up on Monday night at Del Monte Beach. Hopefully, the crowd won't be there on night #2. I don't think I could be a grunion greeter for the SoCal beaches with lots of people. I missed seeing Charlie!

ps 06/09/09 - Dr. Martin said the grunion eggs are going to colleagues of theirs at SUNY and who attended the PGMNH workshop. They already have eggs from Malibu and Mexico.