I went to Launiupoko today in hopes of better wind conditions and as expected, it was favorable for some paddling. When I arrived, there was a mom and calf not too far out past the surfers and the mom was doing some nice tail slaps. On the way to taking the SurfSki down to the water's edge along with my camera gear, I saw that there was a Monk seal resting in the little "keiki pond" there. There is semi circle of rocks with a narrow tide entrance at the north end. The seal had obviously come in through the entrance and went for a rest.
I have seen Monks now a few times on the beach and unless you are familiar with their behavior, it is easy to feel concern that the animal is sick or possibly even dead. They can lay for hours and hardly move at all. This seal was relatively active and rolled a bit as well as scratched its chest and moved its head some. I let the seal and paddled out. I was out for about an hour and a half and there was not much whale activity in the vicinity. I did see the mom and calf surface from time to time but no surface action like I saw earlier. On one surfacing, the calf was pretty close to me:
I took a couple shots of land from out there. Below is a shot looking south. You can see Haleakala under the clouds in the distance and the ridge in front of it is where the windmills are. You can just make out some on the ridge line. The second shot is looking up into the new homes at Launiupoko and the beach park on the left side of the shoreline. You can make out the rock break wall that surrounds the keiki pool.
When I got back in, the Monk seal had moved from the inside beach and was resting in the narrow tide inlet. It seemed to be quite comfortable with the rising tide and small lapping surges that would come in and at times almost cover its head.
It was nice to see a clean and wet Monk as I have only seen them covered in sand on the beach previously.
You can only take so many pictures of a Monk seal that is seriously taking it easy. I headed to my van with the cameras in hand. All the shots above were with a 80 mm lens. When I was putting the camera and paddling equipment away, I heard a loud slap on the ocean and saw that a whale was doing some tail slaps not too far away. I grabbed my 300 mm lens and walked back to the beach.
Since I now had a long lens, I decided to get some more shots of the Monk seal.
Its head would occasionally lift after a wave disturbed it but perhaps disturb is too strong of a word.
I was quick enough to catch a belly scratch below; a significant effort, relatively speaking.
In the image above, you can see the little wave has flowed over the seal's neck. Probably quite refreshing. I was tempted to hang around on the chance of watching the Monk return to the sea but it might have been any number of hours before this took place. As I understand it, these animals are solitary creatures and they are endangered with an estimated 1100 total left in all of the Hawaiian island chain. They are celebrities when they do arrive on the beach and volunteers will stake out a large area to keep the interested and well meaning from bothering the seals as they slumber on the beach.
The pictures above were taken on 2-17-09.
Today, 2-22-09, I was at Launiupoko again and so was this Monk Seal. I understand that she was there yesterday for most of the day as well.
Above, you can see her orientation to the inlet of this keiki pool.
In the image above, you can see two of her four teats. For the most part, she lay with her head mostly submerged and I would wait for her to come up for a breath. I switched from the 80 mm lens to the 300 mm lens:
Below, you can see a Cookie Cutter Shark scar on her side.