Archive - Feeding Frenzy

December 29, 2019

Feeding frenzy in Santa Cruz 70

Each Sunday we present a notable item from our archives. This EPOD was originally published December 27, 2013.

: Mila Zinkova
Summary Author: Mila Zinkova

When visiting Santa Cruz, California, on Monterey Bay a few weeks back I knew something was awry as soon as I looked at the water. There were hundreds of seabirds on the bay. It reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds". Pelicans, seagulls, cormorants and terns were screaming and frenetically diving into the water. In the midst of all the birds, I noticed a pod of California sea lions (at right center of photo). A lonely harbor seal was swimming closer to the shore and further away dolphins and humpback whales were exhibiting breaching behavior. When we made our way down to the shoreline we realized what was happening. Anchovies were even beaching themselves in a futile attempt to flee from predators both in the sea and in the sky. Just what brought about the explosion of anchovies is unknown at present. However, anchovies had been unusually scarce in these waters for the past five or six years. According to Dr. Baldo Marinovic, a marine biologist with the University of California at Santa Cruz, it’s possible that a convergence of factors including a milder than usual fall, strong upwelling of colder water and normal cycling of nutrients conspired to create near-perfect conditions for the population to explode.

Photo Details: Top - Camera: Canon PowerShot SX40 HS; Focal Length: 21.0mm; Aperture: f/4.5; Exposure Time: 0.0020 s (1/500); ISO equiv: 200.