Wednesday 11/23/22 - 68 seals hauled out, 44 degrees, NW 10 to NNW 15, clear, 1215. 8 seals on far rock for 76 seals total. A delightful seal watch today, with enough interesting seal observation to hold our attention for almost 4 hours on the Rome Point beach. The light for the scope was excellent for high magnification close-up viewing, and with the moderate breeze the seals were more active today than they were on Sunday. We recognized more seals that have returned this season, including 3 seals that were perched atop the rocks we call the "twins". These seals are now are a bit older and larger, with more distinctive markings that we were able to discern and recognize. There was a small seal on the pointy rock that has a wound on its belly that will be easy to identify as we watch to see whether it can hold onto its resting rock if the larger seal that was hauling out here last year returns at some point. We also recognized several additional seals, including one with a double net entanglement scar and an especially fat seal that habitually arrives late in the tide and hauling out on a semi-submerged rock that does not require much effort to climb onto.
When wildlife watching you never know what you are going to see if you pay attention and after all this time the seals continue to surprise us. Today our surprise came in the form of a unique aggressive behavior which we were fortunate to witness because we are always attentive when we hear the seals vocalizing. Upon hearing a few feral growls, our attention was drawn to an agitated seal that appeared to be defending its resting rock from an as yet unseen marauder. Suddenly the attacking seal leapt out of the water at a right angle to the seal on the rock and delivered a flipper slap directly to the face of the surprised seal. We have seen seals in the water lunge at seals on rocks many times to bite or poke at seals whose rocks they want to take, but never before have we seen an a flipper slap thrown by an airborne seal. The seal on the rock plunged its face into the water while remaining on the rock, which is a common defensive maneuver that probably served to ease the sting of the face slap as well. About 30 seconds later the seal in the water made a second pass in a similar fashion, but this time the seal on the rock was wiser and managed to avoid the extended left front flipper. Having had enough, the seal on the rock took to the water, where we believe that these sorts of territorial squabbles are sometimes settled underwater out of our sight. Later, one of the seals got onto that rock and the other seal hauled out on a nearby rock, but we were not able to ascertain which seal ultimately won this battle.
Shortly after noon, the wind picked up and shifted a bit to the north, which caused us to move into the shelter of the trees. The seals on the taller, more exposed rocks sometimes are less tolerant of a gusty wind, and at 1225 about 20 seals on the twins and on the ridge rock flushed. Only a few of these seals left the area, and as they resettled this triggered a round of mild territorial skirmishes. We had nowhere else to be this afternoon, so we enjoyed hanging out and chatting with other seal watchers for a while. At 1405, a single kayaker approached the rocks and flushed all of the seals but one; at the same time a sailboat flushed the seals on the far rock as well. As we departed, we paused for a moment of silent gratitude for this day in nature, while recognizing that free days watching wildlife and socializing with like-minded nature enthusiasts have become less frequent for us over the past several years. We treasure these times more than ever now, and look forward to all of our winter nature explorations with a renewed sense of anticipation and thankfulness.