Yes, It's Me, the ESW

My sister-in-law and I have bonded over an elephant seal.  Not to say that we stood over an elephant seal and shared a pinky promise.  Nor did we expose and then resolve any long-simmering differences through the result of arguing about one.  Rather,we shared in an elephant seal birth experience.  From afar - thankfully (see above).

This bonding happened on a beach outlook area near San Simeon, California.  My brother, sister-in-law, and their two kids had flown out for Christmas and we were touring up and down the Central Coast finding fun things to do.  Which was not hard on the Central Coast.

Our little family had seen the elephant seals before, but not during this particular season.  In fact, we were at first a little afraid that there wouldn't be any on the beach at all this time of year, but in fact there were plenty.  I read on the website that late December was the beginning of the birthing season, and sure enough, after some searching amongst the beach-dwellers we saw three little calves sleeping in the sand happily.  This brought to me the idea that we might actually be able to see a female give birth right in front of us.

So I sent my mind to looking for signs of elephant seal labor.  I peered at all the females carefully, watching for signs of any distress or discomfort.  And actually, all of our other family members had already walked back to the car before I actually found one.   Actually, it was really kind of hard to tell about the labor thing at all, because in general, these animals make all manner of awkward, rolling-type movements and sounds that could be taken as discomfort pretty much most of the time, anyway.  But finally I saw one that looked a little extra discomforted, and I told my sister-in-law (Jana) that I thought that one was actually in labor at that very moment.

"Hmmm," she said, noncommittally, which in hindsight I take to mean that she was a little doubtful of my elephant-seal-in-labor pronouncement.

But I watched and watched as she acted in ways that the other females were not - and then a noticed a sea gull coming to stand right by her back flippers - waiting patiently.  And then a few other seagulls came and tilted their little seagull heads to the side expectantly, and knowing the nature of how those things work in the world, I was pretty sure of what was happening.

Her back end away from us, so we didn't get the blow-by-blow of the birth, but of course that was convenient, considering that my five-year old niece was watching with us.  It was the perfect distance to see in general how it was happening, but not get too overwhelmed with the details. And actually, the mother was quite helpful to turn our way at the end (in a wiggling, labor-like kind of way), and we saw the baby seal emerge quite clearly.

And then it was seagull chaos.  They flocked the baby so quickly that I was concerned that it would be harmed, but the mother stood over it and bellowed at all of them to tell them to go away.  (Which brings to mind the tip that if you are ever at this beach and for some reason want to see a newborn calf, just watch for the seagull swarm.  Wait until the clear, and then voila - a new baby.)

After it was all over and the baby was nestled between the mom and a male that we are only assuming to be the dad, Jana called me an elephant seal whisperer, and we went off together all aglow over the miracle of birth of an elephant seal on a beach in California.    (Actually, she did not call me an elephant seal whisperer, but I am secretly thinking of myself in that way.  Which is really not a very glamorous title, but that's okay.  I still might put in on my resume or put the initials on the next name tag I fill out  - ESW.)

This event was only one of the fun adventures that we had with our family over Christmas, and hopefully I can write about more in the coming days.  Although few perhaps can compare with the elephant seal birth.

Source: via Robyn on Pinterest

Sarah  – (29 December 2011 at 20:32)  

That is way cool. I can totally see you as the elephant seal whisperer.

Anonymous –   – (30 December 2011 at 19:31)  

I wish I had a called you an elephant seal whisperer--I just didn't think of that quickly enough.

In truth, I have always been in awe of you AND I have held you in high esteem in my heart--but, it was over-the-top cool to witness this birth and to watch how God shows His glory again and again, sometimes in the most unlikely places and to know that you had the sense that this was happening. Very cool.

You'll always be an ESW to me.

Much love!

Anonymous –   – (30 December 2011 at 19:36)  

And, dear Julie, not only are you an ESW, but you also know the secret language of the birds.


Angel  – (31 December 2011 at 08:31)  

What a fabulous experience!

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