My human, Terry, wanted me to share this with you. Today, in our neighborhood, lots of adults were looking up at the sky with binoculars. I thought they were a little crazy, but they were craning their necks and standing on walls to see if they could take a look at the Space Shuttle Discovery as it rode, straddled on a huge plane, to Dulles Airport, which is near our house. I'm going to find some way to go to the airport so I can see the shuttle before they take it inside, to the Udvar Hazy Center. The Udvar Hazy center is closed to felines.
Read below about my next latest post on elephant seals. Koooool!
I’m not sure I would, it might get in the way of catching things when I go outside; but male Northern Elephant seals use them to make themselves sound fierce. Looking at those huge dudes, I think they’re scary enough. They don’t need anything to make them more fierce. My human, Terry, says the noise they make reverberates inside the inflatable noise. What does reverberate mean? It means to roll around, the noise bounces from one side of the nose to the other, like an echo.
My human, Terry, met some Northern elephant seals last year during a trip to Big Sur, California. The seals visit Piedras Blancas beach, near Big Sur, twice a year. Lots of humans like to go watch them and get to know about them.
Northern elephant seals belong to the pinniped family. Pinniped is a word that comes from Latin. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, pinniped means “feather or fin foot.”
Of all the true seals in North America, Northern elephant seals are the largest. Males can be as long as 13 feet, and weigh as much as 4400 lbs., more than two tons. Females are three feet shorter and weigh about 1300 lbs. The males are the ones that have that long nose which gives them their name. I don’t, but some humans thinks that nose looks like an elephant trunk. Scientists call that a “proboscis,” do you know of any other animals that have a proboscis?
Folks that visit Piedras Blancas beach will see Northern Elephant seals most of the time, but they’ll see different ones. In September and October the pups that were born that year come to the beach. They are followed in November by the “teenagers,” and later, as December nears, the bulls return and so do the females. In January, February and March, the babies are born and the adults mate. The adults leave by the end of March. From April to August, they return to molt, but they don’t all return together. The females and the pups return to molt the first two months, and the males return to molt after them.
You’d think with all those seals on the beach that they live nearby, wouldn’t you? But they don’t. Adult males stay out at sea for eight months each year. They travel as much as 5,000 miles to the Aleutian Islands near Alaska twice each year. The females go in the same direction, but not quite as far. You’d also think that since there are many seals together on the beach, that they’d be social animals like elephants, or wolves, but they’re not. Once in the ocean, seals are loners, hunting for food. Males like sting rays, small sharks and other fish that live on the bottom of the ocean. Females mostly like to hunt for squid. Can you find any other animals that eat small sharks?
I don’t think I’d like to be a seal because when they come to land, they don’t eat. Sometimes they’re on land for more than a month. They can loose as much as 1/3 of their weight. Can you figure out how much that is for males? For females? What I like even less is what seal mothers do to their pups. They leave them alone! They make the pups teach themselves to swim. And to hunt. And to dive. Seals can dive between 1000 and 2000 feet. And its dark down there. How do they know when they have to come up? I guess their body tells them. By the time they become adults, they can dive for more than an hour, and they only take 2-4 minutes between dives. That’s a lot to teach yourself when you’re only one month old. I’m glad Mother Cat taught me all I need to know to be a cat. Do you know any other animals whose mother lets them take care of themselves very early in life? Look at some of my earlier blogs, you might find one.
Terry tells me she found the information about elephant seals at the following websites:
And a newsletter from Friends of the Elephant Seal
She took the awesome pictures of the seals in November of last year.
My human has been having a lot of fun these last two weeks doing author visits at schools. She loves it! She has visited Red Mountain Elementary School, in Ivins, Utah; Santa Clara Elementary School in Santa Clara, Utah; and the Vista School in Ivins, Utah. One of the questions the students have been asking her, is "What is you favorite animal?" I think the students think that gophers are her favorite animal, because she's written this book about them. But she tells me that every time they ask that question she says Kool Cat KC (that's me!) is her favorite animal. She'd better! Is there anyone out there that can tell me if I'm still her favorite?
She really does like gophers second best, and then blue-footed boobies, and then giant Galápagos Island tortoises. She likes them because she's learned a lot about them. She's funny like that. So she's asked me to share more info about gophers with you.
Northern pocket gophers, which is what her book "Gopher to the Rescue, a Volcano Recovery Story" is all about, like to live in the mountains. They can live as high as 11,000 feet, although they prefer elevations ranging from 3600 to 8,000. No wonder they loved Mount St. Helens! In addition to living in mountain meadows like in Mount St. Helens, northern pocket gophers live in short-grass prairies, in valleys full of grass and of course, on farmers’ fields. Some even live under the canopy of the forest.
My human thinks that if you saw a gopher, you would think they are perfectly made for tunneling. They are shaped like a two sided torpedo—pointy on both ends and rounded along the middle, and they are smaller than a squirrel. They measure between six and ten inches and weigh between two and five ounces. Their fur is brownish and sometimes, when they molt, it can seem as if they have bands of color around their bodies. To dig, they have strong claws and huge teeth—incisors—sharp and fast growing. Their skin is loose and their upper body is strong for digging. Since they don’t need them much, gophers have very small eyes and ears for their size. What northern pocket gophers have that makes them different from other gophers and other animals are external cheek pouches. These pockets are located behind their ear and lined with fur. Gophers stuff them with any food they find and carry the food into their tunnels for storage. Sometimes they stuff the pockets so full, they drag the ground.
Gophers even dig tunnels in winter to find food. And what do they really like to eat? You have already seen that gophers like roots and bulbs and vegetables that grow underground. But they like grass too, and leaves. About 80% of the plant material they eat is from above ground.
Can you think of other animals that store their food? Where do they store it? How do they find it later?
Can you think of other animals that have pouches? What do they use these pouches for? Of course, my human wants you to research this and write me about it. Put it in a comment. I'll try to answer all I can.
Can you imagine being six and your mom kicking you out of your home? How about having to walk about a mile and then making a home of your own, still at age six? That's exactly what Northern Pocket Gophers do. They lead solitary lives and only come together during mating times. They use their tunnels to burrow under farmers fields and steal their carrots and potatoes, and to eat the bulbs and roots of meadows on mountains. The tunnels are also their storage closets. So they don't want to share their tunnels with any other animal or gopher, not even their own kid. I'm glad Mother Cat was not like that. She let me stay with her until my human got me. Can you find other animals that live underground? Find out about gophers and one other animal. Figure out how their bodies are made to allow them to live under ground.
Gophers are solitary because it's hard to build your tunnels and it isn't always easy to get food. Their tunnels can be as long as 500 feet. The tunnels wind around underground. There is a special area to store the food, and there is a special area to poop. When times get hard and there's not enough food, they'll go back and pick through their poop to see if they can find anything that will fill them up. Gophers will fight with other gophers to protect their food and their tunnels. Do you know of any other animals that dig through poop to find food?
Gophers can be heroes and pests. They steal farmers' crops. Sometimes they just leave a hole where a carrot used to be. Their tunnels can damage the farmers' tools and machines. But in Mount St. Helens, after the volcano, gophers' brought up rich, fertile soil from below to the dry, ash-covered mountain. Seeds were able to sprout on these tunnels. The tunnels helped the mountain recover after the explosion. Gophers can do the same thing in farmers' fields. They can make the farmer's soil more fertile. What do you think? Hero or pest? Read my human's book: "Gopher to the Rescue, A Volcano Recovery Story" to find out more.
Blue-foooted boobies have bright blue feet, but boobies’ feet come in many different colors. Boobies with different colored feet are a different species, a different type of boobie. Can you find out how many species of boobies there are? See if you can find any other differences.
Boobies live off the west coast of the Americas, below California, and as far south as Perú. There is a very large colony of boobies in the Galápagos Islands, off the shore of Ecuador, in South America. No humans live in many of the Galápagos Islands, so boobies are not afraid of humans. That's how my human, Terry, got close enough to them to take those pictures.
There is a really big, and slow reptile that also lives in the Galápagos Islands. Can you figure out what that reptile is? Can you find the islands on a map?
Here's some info about blue-footed boobies. When boobies spot a fish, they dive head first into the water, wings folded back. If they’re lucky, most of the time they come out of the water chomping on a fish! People have even seen them catch a flying fish in the air.
Blue Footed boobies make their nests on the ground. When it’s nesting time, the male starts a little dance, lifting one foot and then the other. When a female joins in the dance, or touches him with her bill, he knows he has a girl! Can you find out how many eggs boobies lay? Who takes care of the eggs? How do they keep their eggs warm?
My human and I read our info about blue footed boobies in the March, 2010 issue of Ranger Rick Magazine, and at marinebio.org. See what other information you can find out about all types of boobies and the Galápagos islands. Choose a topic, write an essay and share it with your friends in class.
See our Photo Gallery for Boobie pictures