Next up: Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

It turns out that in my haste to get last year’s stories written down I left out a few. Well, four I suppose. The first is another job report, this one from Piedras Blancas on the California coast (near San Luis Obispo). I spent a little bit of time there in September of 2011. Its a beautiful place, notable for being a historic site (see: ancient lighthouse) and for being an enormous Elephant Seal rookery.

The literal translation of the name ‘Piedras Blancas’ is apparently ‘white rock’ (I’m pathetically uni-lingual). The white aspect of which was donated gracefully by generation after generation of the resident Cormorants.

Harbor Seals, Sea Lions, and Sea Otters were also in abundance (or so I heard, I never saw a Sea Otter), but the burgeoning Elephant Seal population at Piedras Blancas was what drew my eyes.

And my ears. Oh but they were loud, audible faintly even through the walls of the room I lived in on site.

Even diminished as it was in September, there were dozens of the flubby behemoths stretched out on the beaches. Reportedly they were ‘weaners’ — juveniles who hadn’t yet mastered feeding themselves, but would hopefully figure it out soon — and so were undersized. Undersized.

The Elephant Seal juveniles in question. Looking lazy.

I’ve always known them by their enormous hanging (pendulous?) noses. To my dismay they don’t develop those right away. That was both disappointing and initially confusing, since as juveniles they look quite a bit like massively over-sized Harbor Seals. The picture here really doesn’t do the scale of them justice, but no one took me up on my suggestion that someone climb down the cliff and pose with them.

However, most of my time at Piedras Blancas was not spent looking at seals or lying on the kelp-strewn beach. While there we spent most of our time helping the BLM manage their ice-plant infestation.  Ice plant is a ground hugging succulent, apparently resistant to salt and everything but incredibly determined efforts to remove it. The folks at Piedras Blancas have done an amazing job of doing just that though. Leveraging truly massive amounts of volunteer (and intern) man-power to clear the historically and ecologically significant grounds of the lighthouse from its droopy clutches.

The Ice-plant removal went well enough, although our best efforts paled in comparison to what the volunteers had accomplished in the past. I’ll return to my stay there with more detail in the future.

That green mass of invasive succulent is the Invasive in question.

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Posted on March 14, 2012, in Piedras Blancas and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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