Tuesday, July 7, 2009

grunion greeting, 2009 #10

grunion greeting
full moon (10:50pm-12:50am), clearing skies

Eh? We didn't see any grunion. I'm extra tired and grumpy today from the late night last night (I'm posting on 7/8/9). I was contemplating why I haven't felt terribly social and can't manage to speak in coherent sentences during grunion nights, and then it dawned on me that I'm out way past my normal bedtime and am virtually sleep walking. I'm starting to feel my age, and it's not because it's my birthday tomorrow. I posted these pics, 'cause I don't have anything better to post.

I've neglected to mention previously that the time shown in parenthesis above on all grunion greeting posts is the "official" time that we're supposed to be out "greeting." Usually, we're out before then and if nothing exciting happens we generally leave ~15-30 minutes early. Here are the ugly details:

We arrived at 10:35pm. There was a flock of gulls on the berm. I couldn't identify which kind in the dark, but they had brownish-mottled wings. They were particularly skittish compared to our western gulls. This was the first time we've seen any number of gulls on the beach during our several grunion nights. We were initially excited thinking they were hunting for grunion. No such luck. I believe the high tide brought up food material in the form of fish carcasses, sea lettuce, mussels, crabs, etc. (see pic above). This material was in greater quantities than in past grunion night observations. I'm not sure if I should consider this "wrack" for reporting purposes since it wasn't the typical heavier kelp or seaweed. It was a particularly low high tide (oxymoron?), only creating waves up to the 7th parking meter from the bathrooms.

There was quite a crowd at Del Monte Beach consisting of 4 official grunion greeters, 3 folks from a local paper, and numerous locals (at least 20 additional people w/ dogs). A couple of fishermen were trying to reel in something very large - it turned out to be a young sea lion. Rumors and admonitions flew about them using a line to catch a particularly stubborn grunion. Hahaha! Some people had buckets in anticipation of collecting grunion. We were all a bit disappointed.

From 11:20-11:40 my hubby and I walked to the cement structure and back, partly to get some relief from the crowd that had gathered near the pier.

I missed seeing our night heron Charlie. We left at 12:30am.

ps - As a side note, I know Dr. Martin is wondering where the grunion are and why they haven't provided an incredible display of spawning this season in our area beaches. Melissa Studer half-joked with us that while us greeters have a schedule with specific nights and times, no one told the grunions about it. Apparently, no one sent them an invitation ;p

I'm starting to wonder if something more isn't going on - highly variable fluctuating populations (gypsy moths), flexible breeding schedules (cormorants), or synchronized with overlapping generations (cicadas). Anytime when there's a mass reproductive phenomena with prevalent predators, I think cicadas. Dog days overlap in their cycles so people see them every summer, even though it takes them a number of years to mature. Periodicals generally stick to their timing. Of course, with periodicals there are a good number that don't follow the timing and show up 1-2 years early or late. Could it be like the cicadas for grunion, even if the fish supposedly reach reproductive maturity after 1 year? Maybe down south there's such an abundance of grunion that there's an overlap in populations such that some come up to the beaches every year, but maybe here up north there's only pockets of grunion so that they come only every couple of years in mass numbers. Maybe. Just postulating...

ps 07/10/09 - Here's what Dr. Martin said to my query:

In the past the grunion were in Monterey only occasionally; the first published report was in 1943 and they said that it wasn’t the first time, but they were infrequent enough to inspire comment. That’s why it is interesting that they have been so predictably there over the past 10 years or so.

The usual boundary for warm water fishes is Pt Conception. It may be that either the grunion population in Monterey is not stable but an offshoot that is replenished periodically by more southern populations, OR it may be that there has been a population holding on in Monterey Bay for a decade or so, but on the wane now. Maybe an oceanographic shift has affected them. Or, maybe they are hiding somewhere else, and have found another beach! That’s what I’m hoping the Grunion Greeters can tell me.

pss 07/21/09 - We're famous... for our allotted 2 seconds:

Btw - it's black-crowned night heron!