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Two Decades of Kids and Counting

By Sally Torbey

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About this blog: About this blog: I have enjoyed parenting five children in Palo Alto for the past two decades and have opinions about everything to do with parenting kids (and dogs). The goal of my blog is to share the good times and discuss the ...  (More)

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Close encounters with wildlife

Uploaded: Jun 8, 2014
The best thing about kayaking in Elkhorn Slough near Moss Landing is that the sea otters have not read the rules about staying 50 feet away from the kayaks. Neither have the harbor seals. We try to keep an appropriate distance from the wildlife, but some of the otters and the seals are so intensely curious about visitors that their heads pop up right next to our boat to check us out. It makes us wonder, who is watching whom here?

My daughter and I spent a morning last week on a leisurely paddle in the slough enjoying the abundance of wildlife. No need for binoculars as the brown pelicans swooped by us skimming the water, jelly fish floated by, terns circled over head, and harbor seals of all ages and sizes lolled, or scrambled up and slid down the muddy banks. Tall, majestic egrets and great blue herons fished in the shallows, still as statues, and cormorants dove for fish or dried their spread wings in the marshes. A crowd of California sea lions occupying a dock could be heard (and smelled) from afar, we kept our distance!

We were especially excited to spot a group of one of the largest birds in North America, the white pelican. The birds are five-foot tall with an impressive nine-foot wingspan. We paddled along side the pelicans as they formed a line in the water and cooperatively herded the fish together to facilitate catching their meal. Unlike the spectacular dive-bombing of the brown pelicans, the white pelicans catch fish like ungainly ducks, tipping forward into the water, tail feathers and big rumps straight up in the air, scooping up the fish in their massive fleshy pouched bills. Awkward looking but clearly effective!

As fascinating as the huge pelicans are, I still find the sea otters the most irresistible creatures in the slough and can watch their antics endlessly. We watched a mother and pup wrestling and rolling together over and under the water. The pup would swim off, the mother in hot pursuit, only to have the pup spin around and tackle her again.

We love that if we paddle quietly, pay attention, and keep what distance we can, we are up close and personal witnesses of the birds and animals of the slough. I return from even a few hours on the slough all the better for the experience.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by PR, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 8, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Enchanting! Thank you, Sally!

 +  Like this comment
Posted by LJ, a resident of another community,
on Jun 9, 2014 at 11:02 am

Were any otters carrying tools for shell-cracking? When I was there a few years ago, we saw an otter using a broken bottle bottom. The guide said the otters carry their tools on them even when they leave the slough. Fun piece, Sally!

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 9, 2014 at 11:23 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Peg!
Thanks for commenting!
Hi LJ!
We didn't see any cracking tools in use this time but I've also been told that the otters will carry a favorite shell to use. They are ingenious and fascinating creatures!

 +  Like this comment
Posted by KL, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 10, 2014 at 11:33 am

Hi-This sounds lovely! Do you own or can you rent the kayaks there and if so, what age would you say works (minimum age). Thanks!

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 10, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi KL,
We rent kayaks from Monterey Bay Kayaks. I am having trouble attaching the link, but here is their website. They also supply wetsuits or splash pants/jackets for adults and kids, depending on the conditions.
I have taken a four-year-old out on a guided tour with our scout troop and it went very well (three years is the minimum age they permit on tours). To go on your own without a guide, children need to be at least five years old. Kids under 13 are required to be in a double kayak with an adult.
Kids need to be willing to keep a lifejacket on and enjoy sitting for a couple of hours, there are not any options for taking a break and getting out of the boat, although you can carry snacks and water with you on the boat. It also depends on how comfortable the adult is paddling a double kayak without much help, and on the weather and tide conditions. I would feel very comfortable taking a 5-year-old out by myself on a calm, warm day at low tide (not too much current), but less comfortable in more challenging conditions.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto,
on Jun 12, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

If otters teamed up with corvids, they could take over the world!

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford,
on Jun 13, 2014 at 6:22 am

Nora Charles is a registered user.

Thank you for this charming piece and the lovely photos. And how fascinating about the sea otters and their tools. Ain't nature grand?

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 13, 2014 at 8:02 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Dear Hmmm,
Yes, they both seem to be very capable species!

Dear Nora Charles,
Thanks for reading and commenting. 'Tis indeed!

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