Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Seredipity by the River

Be careful, very careful when taking new ways home. You never know what will happen when you do.
Two Sunday's ago, a suggestion to go home by a way we'd never tried before, took us well into the depths of Ladner and onto the south bank of the mighty Fraser river (you know, where the Salmon go to spawn?). Ladner is still in the Greater Vancouver area and stuffed in a none-too-clear area in the Corporation of Delta just above Tsawwassen ( where you take the ferry to Vancouver Island). Yeah, I'm still having problems finding where things are. But then, that's the part of the adventure in living in a new place, isn't it?
We decided to drive toward the river and then along it to find a place on the bank where we could go look out and maybe take pictures. After passing, substantial dikes on which were an amazing collection of dilapidated fishing huts and shops, a surprisingly modern pod of floating homes with a marina and the S&M industries building (it's not what you think. S&M in this case, stands for Seafood & Meats). We come up on a modest little park. And that's where we saw it!
At first, I was just interested in the lovey-dovey pair of seagulls nestled on top of a pile. Then, as Bogart said to Kate on The African Queen, you learn to read the river. Where there is whitewater are rapids, where the water's surface is disturbed, is not surprising, something underneath. Out by the pier, just below the nesting gulls, the water was indeed not as smooth as it should have been. Odd, I thought to myself, waves usually swell and then fall. But this wave just continued to bob higher and higher. Then it hit me! Silly girl! It wasn't a wave, it was a head! A wet black, smooth & shiny head. Then this thing crawled out of the dark water and flopped onto the wooden deck like a jelly giant slug. Heaved itself tall and looked like it was right chuffed with itself. Never having seen a seal, or was it a sea lion(?) real life & up close before I was spell bound by this lumbering flippered creature sun-tanning on the deck. I must have taken 50 digitals, until my batteries went dead. Ten minutes later, when we left the park, our Californian Sea Lion (I checked up when I came home), was still lounging in the sun as bold as brass.
Amazing to a tropical girl like me, the working Fraser River is a ecosystem teeming with life of all sorts, not only fish. Tourists come from all over to visit Steveston, at the mouth of the river to see the Californian & Steller Sea Lions congregate & frolic. But only the males. It seems that all the females are back in the breeding ground looking after the pups. Sound familiar?

This from a tourism write-up I found online

"In the waters around Vancouver other marine mammals can be seen. Many of them follow the migrations of eulachons, herring and salmon, particularly around river mouths. Harbor seals are very common and can be recognized by their spotted coats, large eyes and earless heads. While there are two species of sea lions, the giant Steller sea lions are rare as compared with the California sea lions. Tour boats take tourists out to observe sea lions from the Steveston docks near the mouth of the Fraser River

Every year during April and May, when the Fraser River estuary is teaming with spawning eulachons, thousands of sea lions migrate into the area to feast on these herring-sized members of the Smelt family.

California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) come all the way from Mexico and the large Steller Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus) travel South from the Arctic.

Only male sea lions travel here. Females and calves stay behind. Because they have no rookeries to protect, they are playful and non-territorial."


Horny Peter said...

Hi there! Love the pictures you've taken. 'twas a good thing you didn't bump on the seal!

marsha said...

What a wonderful post and such great pics! I saw my first sea lions at the San Francisco pier area during my trip and yup, they aren't really like what you think they are until you see them in the flesh, eh?