zScapes Ramble On
Año Nuevo :: Northern Elephant Seal Colony
The purpose of Año Nuevo State Park, in San Mateo County, is to preserve and protect the scenic, biological, ecological, and cultural values of the central California coastline, including Año Nuevo Island and properties on the western slope of the coast range inland from Año Nuevo Point. The park protects and interprets the pinniped rookeries, a prime resource, and significant wildlife habitats on Año Nuevo Island and the mainland - As quoted on the park's web site
Seal Adventures February 2024
Weather was the big story this year. The Sunrise Seal Adventure day/time that we picked was right in the middle of a major west coast storm that brought pounding surf, torrential rain and hurricane wind gusts. By 10am, after a 9am start, the docents asked all the guest to return to the Barn and canceled the event. I was one of the last to leave and waited at the entrance shack for the winds to get under 50mph. Gusts were recorded in the area up to 75mph making it very tough for the pelican below to get out of harms way/
Seal Adventures February 2023
The Coastside State Parks Association puts on 2 events each year at Año Nuevo State Park during the Northern Elephant Seals breeding season. The larger event is the Seal Adventure Fundraiser that runs for several weekends and allows you open access to the breeding grounds for a good 3.5 hours (with docent monitoring where and when you can go). Great way to move around on your pace to see these magnificent creatures up close (tho not too close!). The second is for photographers. Sunrise Seal Photography as the name suggests, crack of dawn access to the park in a small group (7) lead by one of the knowledgeable Rangers. Bonus, they drive you into the park and you get access to areas that are not always available to the general public. I have been attending both these past few years and always discover something new.

The winter storms had a big effect on the population with several storms wiping out and eroding the beachheads where the action all unfolds. This in turn delayed the breeding and there was a greater population of pups and weaners (no longer feeding from mom) to see and capture. Of particular note was the Gauntlet (see image below), where the less eligible males would wait for a female to head into the sea and try their pickup lines to charm the departing ladies, as they were unable to hook up on land with the big bull elephants constantly guarding their harems. Please enjoy the images.
Seal Adventures January 2022
After Covid 2021, Coastside Parks was back in action and to make up for lost time, I attended both the Seal Adventure and Sunrise Photography tours. Beautiful weather for both occasions, however, lack of rain made for dryer conditions and reduced room for the big guys to hang around. Climate change is happening everywhere you look, from the coasts of California to the peaks of the Sierra Nevada. Please do what you can to help, every small action contributes to rescue our groaning planet in her time of need.
Seal Adventures January 2020
For 2020, thought I would expand the images to show more of thee park and the terrain you experience in this magical corner of the coast. This year our good friends Linda And Jeff came along and we finished off the adventure at Dad's Luncheonette! Yum
Seal Adventures January 2018-19
Seal Adventures January 2017
Seal Adventures January 2015
Coastside Parks Association does a Seal Adventure two weekends each year. For a reasonable fee, you get 3.5 hours access to the entire reserve and can move around at your pace. Docents monitor all the activity and provided insights at the three main lookouts, as well as act as traffic cops to keep you a safe distance away from these rather large and fast mammals. The fees go to a good cause.
Sunrise Photography February 2014
If you want to get an early start and private access to Año Nuevo State Park, then the Sunrise Photography Tour hosted by the Coastside Parks Association. It is a bit on the expensive side but you get into the park before dawn, shuttle ride to Bike Beach and open access to the reserve. This is a ranger led tour, so no docents but you get a different perspective. Also, we were treated to a talk with the Director of Research, which was fascinating hearing his depth of knowledge.
Visit with Friends February 2013
Our good friends Liz and Jack were visiting us from back east and we popped into the park on our way to Monterey. Another fun excursion that they enjoyed.
First Visit February 2009
Our first time seeing this amazing place. We had a great docent (Raman's regular), perfect weather and a real treat that will draw us back again and again. And it is just a 35 minutes drive, you cannot ask for more.
May our paths & errands meet

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