Travel Dispatch: Baby Animal Edition

I’m still traveling, but I know this blog’s been dark for a while, so I thought I’d post a quick update. The theme: baby animals. Dolphins, and sandhills, and seals, oh my!

1. Dolphins

My first stop on my research trip was the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida. I was interested in some of the aquarium’s older dolphins, but, after I arrived, I discovered that the rescue and rehab facility had a new resident–a five-month-old bottlenose dolphin. The dolphin’s mother had beached herself, and died, this past December. Her itty-bitty calf was discovered beside her, still breathing. The calf was sent to the Clearwater Aquarium, where she is thriving. She is growing fast, already excelling in her training sessions, and is due to get a name in a few weeks. (The aquarium is currently running a naming contest.) Dolphins nurse for the first several years of their lives, so the calf will continue to be bottle-fed for some time. Below, a picture I snapped as one of the aquarium’s staff shows off the new behaviors the calf has already learned.

2. Sandhilll Cranes

I also took a day trip to Sarasota, Florida, where I visited a bird rescue facility called Save Our Seabirds. The small non-profit runs on a shoestring budget and takes in all sorts of ill and injured birds. The goal is to rehabilitate and eventually release the feathered charges, though some of the birds have injuries so severe (broken beaks are common) that they become permanent residents of the facility. Save Our Seabirds winds up caring for a lot of sandhill cranes–the big, top-heavy birds are commonly hit by speeding cars and flying golf balls. When I toured the facility, the organization had just taken in two sandhill crane chicks that had been abandoned by their mothers. The birds will be isolated for some time; when they get older, they’ll be housed with the sandhill adults and, if all goes well, will eventually be set free. Here are the two chicks, hanging out in what used to be a child’s play pen. While I was viewing the chicks, the staff discovered that one of the birds had a cut on her toe–I also took a photo of the chick being bandaged up.

3. Elephant Seals

After Florida, I flew out to San Francisco. I spent a day at Ano Neuvo State Park. The beaches at the park are a favorite spot for elephant seals, which come ashore there several times a year. The females give birth on the beaches in the winter. By late March, the mothers have disappeared back into the ocean, leaving their “weaners” to fend for themselves. During my tour, I saw lots of weaners–the smaller seals in these photos, just a few months old–and some females, who, by early spring, have returned to the beach to molt.

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