Monk seal dreaming

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Dreams.’ See more responses here.

A couple of weeks ago, I was out walking along the coast and saw a monk seal I didn’t recognize. As I usually do when I see monks seals, I took photos in an attempt to identify it. Many Hawaiian monk seals have numbered red tags in one or both tail flippers. Some have been bleached with an identifying mark, though this lasts no more than a year as it will disappear when the seal has its annual molt. Some have scars of one kind or another that help with identification. This seal had none of those things.

Its most distinctive feature, apart from being a bit on the small side, was that it was restless. As soon as I saw it twitching and rolling and flexing its flippers I thought it looked like the seal was having a dream of some kind. It finally rolled over completely, in the process opening its eyes and noticing me, up on the cliff, taking photos. No matter. The seal ended up on its belly and found a good spot to rest its chin and drift back into slumber and that rather good dream it had been enjoying.

I sent some of my photos off to Lauren, the Response and Operation Coordinator at Ke Kai Ola, who keeps track of the whereabouts of monk seals around the Big Island. She said the seal was most likely Hiwahiwa (meaning a person or thing greatly beloved). He was the only monk seal pup born on the island this year, back in April. Because of the Covid virus, the shorelines were closed at that time, so access was very limited. This also meant that the pup didn’t get tagged, which explained his lack of identifying marks.

I haven’t seen him since, but a week later I saw another seal I didn’t recognize. That one turned out to be Hiwahiwa’s mother so maybe they bumped into each other again somewhere along the coast.

For more information about Ke Kai Ola and Hawaiian monk seals, go to www.marinemammalcenter.org/hawaii.

Also posted in response to Becky’s October Squares challenge theme of ‘Kind.’ See more responses here.

24 thoughts on “Monk seal dreaming

    1. Graham Post author

      Thanks Jo. I was very glad to see him and learn a bit about him. Usually I go and see a new seal but wasn’t able to this year so, though I knew a pup had been born, that was sum total of my knowledge. This encounter gave me a first look at him and it was great to see him doing so well.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  1. naturebackin

    What a lovely series of photos of a dreaming seal. I see that this was the only monk seal born on the island this year – is this the norm in terms of numbers born each year? He seems to be doing well so far.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Graham Post author

      I think there’s been one pup born here each of the last three years, but the Big Island has a very small regular population, less than 10 seals. Usually monk seals will have their pup at the same place they were born. One of the seals that lives around this island was born in Kauai and she goes back, has her pup there, and then returns here. Hiwahiwa is doing well and in fact that’s one reason he’s hard to identify. He doesn’t have tags and he doesn’t have any scars or marks on him. He’s still young though and he’s bound to pick up a few dings on the way.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
        1. Graham Post author

          I haven’t seen him again, but I’m really hoping I do. I’d also like to see IO5, the seal I used to see most often, but haven’t spotted for more than a year.

          Like

          Reply
  2. SandyL

    “… was out walking along the coast and saw a monk seal I didn’t recognize.”
    What a great opening line Graham. I can imagine you being such a naturalist that you recognize every mammal on the island. Very Doolittle of you!
    Those are great photos. Do the monk seals get quite large? I seem to remember a very large monk seal being beached a couple years ago near my place on Vancouver Island. A community alert was sent out to leave the animal alone as it wasn’t hurting even though it looked distressed. It was a female who was molting and they apparently look quite pathetic in the process. According to local experts, monk seals are not usual that far north. Harbor seals and Steller sea lions are common.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Graham Post author

      Not as Doolittle as you might think. Fewer than 10 monk seals live around the Big Island on a regular basis and I was familiar with four of them. So Hiwahiwa and his mother bumped my knowledge up by 50%! I wouldn’t think a monk seal would show up off Vancouver Island. They’re only found here and in the Mediterranean and are endangered in both places. There used to be another species in the Caribbean, but those went extinct in the 1960s, I think. Perhaps it was a different kind of seal that sometimes is referred to by that name. You’re right about the molting. It’s a very uncomfortable process for the animal and can last for a week or more. I’ve only seen a monk seal molting once and he looked thoroughly miserable. He spent most of his time lying on the rocks with his head submerged in a tide pool.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s