Nature At Sea Ranch
Great Blue Heron
One of the most photographed birds on the Sea Ranch is the Great Blue Heron. This stately heron with its subtle blue/gray plumage often stands motionless as it scans for prey or wades belly deep with long, deliberate steps. They may move slowly, but Great Blue Herons can strike like lightning to grab a fish or snap up a gopher. In flight, look for this widespread heron’s tucked-in neck and long legs trailing out behind. Sea Ranch photographer Allen Vinson spotted this one.
Sea Ranch Herds
The Sea Ranch depends on some 600 sheep and goats to mow the fields and common areas. This practice (called prescribed grazing) and the emerging land-management technique are increasingly replacing the notoriously noisy and pollution-spewing machines that once displaced the animals. Prescribed grazing is also thought to be beneficial in controlling invasive weeds and encouraging diversity. Although sheep rancher Leland Falk usually requires top performance from his ruminants, he does allow the requisite union break (such as this one captured by Sea Ranch photographer Rozann Grunig). For today’s location of the sheep at Sea Ranch, check out: http://thesearanchsheep.com/
Abundant Sea Life
The Sea Ranch is home to diverse flora and fauna, extending from the ocean strand, bluffs and sand dunes to the headlands, coastal and upper terraces and finally to the redwood and fir forests. Over 480 species, subspecies and varieties are represented (nearly 70% of which are native). Sea Ranch wildlife is equally diverse, abundant and captivating. Common offshore species include both resident and migratory whales, sea lions, dolphins, harbor seals, fish, abalone and other plentiful sea life–while our tidepools support sea urchins, shrimp and a wide variety of convergent marine life.
With their iridescent emerald feathers and sparkling rose/pink throats, Anna’s Hummingbirds are more like flying jewelry than birds. Though no larger than a ping-pong ball and no heavier than a nickel, they leave a lasting impression. In their thrilling courtship displays, males climb up to 130 feet in the air then swoop to the ground with a curious burst of noise produced through their tail feathers. Sea Ranch photographer Paul Brewer caught this stunning Anna’s Hummingbird just as it was about to feed.
Walk On Beach is a top-notch bird watching spot. You’ll usually see short, stocky black Surf Scoters diving for food, various gulls, Black Oystercatchers (usually in pairs and recognizable for their bright red bills), cormorants and an assortment of shorebirds. On the bluffs you’ll find Common Ravens, Turkey Vultures, White-crowned sparrows and other birds. The black ravens are mesmerizing, acrobatic flyers. Photo courtesy of Sea Ranch photographer Phil Wendt.
Sea Ranch Seals
The Sea Ranch has a fairly stable population of between 150 and 200 Pacific Harbor Seals (Phoca Vitulina richardsii). These furry fellows (always with spotted fur) can be seen right off Vista Del Mar’s deck. Their coloring is either dark with light spots or light with dark spots. While not noisy and only vocalize as pups, the adults can hiss and threaten with body movement, posturing or flipper waving. Normally found along temperate and Arctic marine coastlines of the Northern Hemisphere, this one obviously enjoys a festive Hawaiian lei made of seaweed. Photo courtesy of Sea Ranch photographer Rozann Grunig.
Western Bluebirds are often found enjoying Vista Del Mar’s bird feeders and other spots near the Sea Ranch bluffs. Brilliant blue and rust in color, typically they sit on low perches and swoop lightly to the ground to catch insects. As with most wildlife, the colorful males are considerably brighter than the gray/brown, blue-tinged females. This small thrush nests in holes in trees or nest boxes and often gathers in small flocks to feed on insects or berries, giving their quiet and chortling calls. Photo courtesy of Sea Ranch photographer Rozann Grunig.