|Watching Zebras, Elephant Seals and Pelicans on
California Coastal Area near Hearst Castle
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While driving on the beautiful California coastal Highway 1 near Hearst Castle, we saw many zebras and other
cattle roaming free and grazing on the vast grassland of the 82,000-acre Hearst Ranch, which surrounds the
famous Hearst Castle just north of Cambria on California's Central Coast.
There are more than 100 zebras roaming free in this vast grassland. Amazing to watch them.
You can take the zebra out of the wild but you can’t take the wild nature out of the zebra, they are always
stubborn to refuse people to ride on their backs.
However, these zebras are often very far (more than 100 yards) away from Highway 1 or from Hearst Castle
Road. Visitors need to pay attention and look hard to spot them. Bring a binocular or a compact super-zoom
camera to zoom in may be helpful to see them well.
We then drove a few miles northwest on coastal Highway 1 to the large roadside parking lot of Elephant Seal
Vista Point to watch very large number of elephant seals (海象) sun-bathing on the beach. Elephant Seal Vista
Point is marked on the Google Map. So, if you enter Elephant Seal Vista Point, San Simeon as the destination,
the Google Map based GPS navigator on a smartphone will guide your driving to this large roadside parking lot
with plenty parking space.
Map: Click here for interactive Google Map showing the location of Elephant Seal Vista Point
Zoom in for closer look of many elephant seals crowding on the beach. In October, the Elephant Seals on the
beach here are all juvenile and yearlings of 5 years or younger. They come ashore to molt their fur coats.
They lounge on the beach and are important physical exercise for them. The fall haul out provides experience
with fasting, strengthen the muscle sets used on land, importantly, promotes bone growth because of the
stress on the skeleton due to gravity, a stress missing at sea.
On land they are very social during molt and haul out, often clumping together. Every once and a while two
elephant seals would have an argument, rear up on their flippers, bare their open mouths at each other and
The huge adult Elephant seals, weighing 5,000 lbs and 16 ft long, will show up here in winter season from
December to March which is their breeding season as shown on my website here from my previous visit in
The 6 miles of beach just off California Highway 1 in this area is the winter breeding rookery of elephant seals.
The viewing areas are open every day of the year, are wheelchair accessible, and free. No reservations
required. It is one of the best wild animal viewing sites in the country and it is free! Occasionally some elephant
seals flick a flipper to scoop up sand to throw onto their backs.
灘、另一段路是森林、岩石，同一條路，不同的風景，也有很多海象， 海獅， 海豹，
Nice blue color of Pacific Ocean on the southwest side of coastal Highway 1 as a contrast to the golden
brown color of grassland of Hearst Ranch in October dry season on the northeast side of Highway 1. Many
seagulls are floating on the ocean surface.
Some elephant seals are playing or fighting or swimming in the water near the beach.
Two bird islands off shore very far away. When I zoomed in with my compact super-zoom camera, I saw
many pelicans and other sea birds on those two off shore bird islands.
海邊成群的鵜鶘 （或 溏鵝）正在覓食，自由自在的呼朋引伴圍獵覓食，好熱鬧的，溏鵝
There are also several pelicans near the shore busily catching and eating fish on the shallow water near the
beach where many elephant seals are sun-bathing.
Many visitors are enjoying watching the elephant seals.
This is the normal view of a pelican when it is not feeding.
But when a pelican wants to catch fish in the water, the 2 long pieces of its lower jaw separate and bend into
bow shape to distend its large and elastic throat pouch so that the pelican can use the big throat pouch to
scoop up the fish in the water as shown in these two pictures. Most of the time, the large distended throat
pouch is in the water such that we do not see them. But occasionally in special situations, we get to see such
big throat pouch above water briefly just before the pelican push the big pouch into the water.
Then the pelican throws back its head, tilt the beak and the throat pouch up.
Then the captured fish slide down the throat easily and the pelican swallows the fish whole.
After the fish and some water are scooped up in the big throat pouch, the pelican closes its beak, the lower
jaw returns to its original unbowed position, so that small fish and water are trapped inside the pouch. Then the
pelican tips its head forward to drain out the water. The tiny teeth on the beak are for draining water from its
throat pouch. To drain the water, a pelican lifts its head very slowly with the mandibles slightly parted. Excess
water flows out the sides between the teeth of the beak.
Another example of the distended big throat pouch above water for us to see briefly just before pelican push
the big pouch, the beak and the head into the water to scoop up the fish.
Excellent views of distended big throat pouch of pelicans can be seen here.
The pelican starts to close its beak.
I took several movie clips of these pelicans busily catching fish, combining the movie clips and uploading the
combined movie to the following YouTube website:
All these actions of pelican catching fish happen very fast in a flash and are not easy for photographers to take
such action photos using the still picture mode of the camera. So, I use movie processing software to extract
several special action photos of interest from the recorded movie with my comments in the following.
Beside zebras, there were also many black colored cattle plus some other animals roaming free in the
82,000-acre Hearst Ranch as shown in these two photos that I took. But they were so far way such that I
cannot tell what kind of animal they are. The possible candidates are Sambar Deer, Barbary Sheep, Rocky
Mountain elk, tahr goats, llamas, and white fallow deer which are still roaming free in the huge Hearst Ranch.
A herd of about 80 elk have been seen crossing Highway 1 near Piedras Blancas, or grazing on the side of
Highway 1 near Piedras Blancas, or crossing the road and taking in the ocean views at Hearst San Simeon
State Park, or at the north end of the Hearst Ranch, or roaming about 7 to 8 miles north of San Simeon and
Hearst Castle, near the Arroyo de la Cruz creek, another one of the state-owned properties included in Hearst
San Simeon State Park.
Visitors are on railed walkway along a small cliff/ledge and are safely above those huge and wild elephant
When the fish is ahead of them, pelican shoot forward its beak, head and the big throat pouch to catch the fish
as shown in these two action photos.
When the fish in right below the pelican, the pelican shoot its beak, head and throat pouch straight down with
its tail pointing up to the sky (upending) just like a jumbo size dabbling duck.
Sometimes, the pelican takes off and flies in the air to get better view of the fish in the water.
發現目標, 鎖定目標, 入水抓魚, 從空中下來攻擊，急速俯衝人水的瞬間， 神速如疾風。
Then the pelican attacks from the air by plunge diving down into the water to catch the fish as shown in these
three action photos.
We enjoyed very much this October tour of California Central Coast with lots of interesting actions of pelicans,
elephant seals and zebras.
We also toured the majestic Hearst Castle high on the mountain top in this trip。The report on Hearst Castle
Tour may be presented in the future.
Nestled in the hills above the village of San Simeon, the majestic Hearst Castle as viewed from California
coastal Highway 1 (Cabrillo Highway) in San Simeon, California. This hill is known formally as "La Cuesta
Encantada" - Spanish for The Enchanted Hill. We came to tour Hearst Castle, Elephant Seal Vista Point and
many pelicans in action in California Central Coastal Area in San Simeon on Sunday, October 13, 2019. The
Visitor Center of Hearst Castle is located at: 750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452.
Map: Click here for interactive Google Map showing locations of Hearst Castle and Hearst Castle Visitor
An elephant seal swimming near the beach.