Thursday, August 6, 2009

grunion greeting, 2009 #15

grunion greeting
full moon cycle (11:15pm-12:45am), clear skies

Heavy sigh... this is my final grunion greeting post for the 2009 year. I'm very glad I included our grunion greeting nights in this blog, because, like rereading a journal, it has been fascinating to see how our expectations and understanding of grunion (and of nighttime fishing/beach activity) have changed during the experience of volunteering for this project. I considered including a summary of my other grunion greeting posts here, but now I simply want to tap out my report for this one night and include whatever sticks out in my mind since May 2009. Even though I submitted our official report promptly Friday morning to, I am finishing this blog entry on a gorgeous Monday morning (The fog has lifted and the sun has just cast a glorious pink glow over the bay - Wow! Have I mentioned that I love living here and feel very blessed to able to do these kinds of things?). To see other grunion notes, click on the label/index for "grunion greeting."

We arrived at 11:07pm. The time range in parenthesis above on every grunion greeting post shows the official requested times, and I believe the start time coincides with hide tide. Our enthusiasm for arriving early has waned since we haven't seen our night heron friend Charlie the past several outings. I think earlier in the season, there was one night where the only grunion we counted were the ones "he" caught. We were hoping to see him for our final hurrah, but no such luck. I know night heron are still around in the area, b/c we saw one near the Coast Guard Pier last week while we were observing the jellyfish. During the daylight, he certainly looked more scrunched up with little neck showing, versus the elongated, beach hunting stance that we observed on the berm. I'm still kicking myself for not taking the camera with us on our regular walk.

Two men were sitting on overturned buckets, hidden by the height of the pier - I'm sure by no mere coincidence - watching the waves. I overheard some of their conversation and I concluded they were waiting for grunion as well as engaging in other activities. They left at 11:20pm, shortly after high tide. I sometimes wonder if the local, nightly fishermen know a heck of a lot more about times to spot grunion in our area than most of the volunteers and researchers. If only I could recruit them for the research project! It was an evening of illicit exchanges as we also noticed a very flashy car parked on the pier with several men sitting inside and obviously handing things over to each other. Hey, we don't really want to know and tried our best to mind our own business. The pier attracts all kinds late at night.

This tide was the lowest high tide we've seen throughout the season. The biggest "waves" came up to the 9th parking meter and later during our watch the water line was closer to the 10th parking meter, past where the pier turns from cement to wood. I put "waves" in quotes, because it was very calm out on the water as evidenced by my first photo above. Earlier in the year, we would have thought this was a low, low tide; but now we know better for next year... if there is a grunion greeting program in our area and if we decide to volunteer again next year.

While we were standing on the beach about 20 yards from the pier, the favored previous grunion sightings spot, we heard a disturbingly loud and continuous, "Crunch, crunch, crunch!" around midnight. I hopped up to the pier to check out the noise. I discovered two sea otters having a feast around the 15-16th parking meters and only 10 feet out. This was our first time observing sea otters feeding so late at night. Granted, during some other nights, we were in heavy conversation with other grunion greeters and visitors that we may not have noticed the distinctive sound that carries over the water.

By this time a flock of seagulls had arrived about 100 yards from the pier on the beach, not like Wednesday night where only a handful of mixed gull species stood about, but more like what happened during the previous new moon cycle. It seemed peculiar to me that they would gather around the exact same spot more than 2 weeks later with no obvious reason to do so. They didn't seem to be feeding; they seemed to be waiting for something considering they weren't sleeping either.

I did notice that the waves brought up noticeable amounts of sand crab bodies (see second pic above). Again, this is the first time we've observed this. No, I did not count their little bodies as wrack for official reporting purposes. Interestingly enough, the last time I saw little sand crab bodies at the wave line was on Morro Strand back on June 25th. We seem to get seasonal fluctuations on the Del Monte Beach a little later in the year than further south.

We left at 12:30am after not spotting a single grunion for almost an hour and a half, coincidentally, right as several cars pulled onto the pier with 7 people who piled out and excitedly talked about how their friends had told them it would be a good night to catch grunion. We left them on the pier to watch the beach while we anticipated the warm comforts of bed...

ps 08/13/09 - As an addendum, on Sunday we were fortunate enough to accompany Dr. Martin, her husband, and a retired CDFG colleague of hers to tour 3 local beaches not on the grunion watch list. As expected, we didn't find any grunion eggs. However, we had a lovely time and learned quite a bit. I still have many questions for Dr. Martin, but it simply wasn't appropriate to grill her with my silly questions. We love our gifts of fleeces and a cool bag!

black-tailed deer
Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

I finally grabbed the camera fast enough to catch a fawn below our balcony. It's late in the year and has grown quite a bit now. I miss seeing the twins that regularly visited last year. In my previous post earlier this year on March 11, I called the pregnant female a mule deer. Take a note at how lush green the grass was back in March compared to the dried mess that we have here in August. Thanks to another quick Google search, I found an old CDFG report, which identified our local deer as black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus) - so, I managed to get the scientific name correct in the first post. However, Wikipedia has differing opinions on whether what we have in the area is more closely related to the mule deer or the Sitka deer (see link in the common name above). I know so little about deer that I can only present the information I've found. If anyone has better information, I'd be happy to hear about it. Thanks!