Point Reyes National Seashore December 2021

Tim Valentine

May 24, 2015
A big storm was coming to the west coast so I ditched my Yosemite camping plan after one snowy day and headed to the coast. I spent a couple of days in the coastal rain, (not snow :whistle:) car camping and day hiking the short trails in Point Reyes. I was looking for wildlife to photograph but my first day there, it was very stormy. I was not seeing much activity but then I remembered friends had told me about some river otters in the park. I figured they might not be affected by the wet conditions so I went looking for them. On the beach, some of the elephant seals looked comfortable to be away from the stormy seas. DSC02812-Edit.jpg

The national seashore sits as a peninsula just north of San Francisco Bay. Thats the Golden Gate in the lower right of this map.IMG_8573-2.jpg

The wind and rain made for a fierce combination, particularly in the sand dunes near the west facing beaches. At one point I was not sure if the back of my jacket was being pelted by sand or rain it was so strong, noisy, and horizontal. Luckily, I found the river otters and they made the hike all worth while.

They are always so playful, curious and sociable.


It looked like there were two adults and two full grown pups.

The only other person I saw on the trail told me she had just seen a single otter, leave the water, go up a trail, attack a skunk, kill it, and bring it back to the water. I just missed that encounter, but saw them feeding on the carcass. They were back in the water and the skunk smell was still around. I had no idea these playful critters were capable of such an attack, on land. The lady said it was the most amazing thing she had ever seen in all of her hiking.

Feeding on the recent kill.DSC03239.jpg

The next day was predicted to have clearing skies so I got up early and was ready for some animal activity after 48 hours of the park being pelted. This is the Point Reyes beach shoreline with probably no humans on it for 12 miles. Just a few elephant seals hauled out on the sand.

Lots of coyotes were out early, taking advantage of the clear weather.DSC03292-Edit.jpg

I found numerous pairs of healthy coyotes appearing to hunt together. Female and MaleDSC03367-Edit.jpg

There were also lots of Tule elk posing in front of the beach landscape.DSC03417-2-Edit.jpg

These bulls looked like they just came up from a beach visit.

The coyotes appeared to make the elk nervous but I doubt they were any real threat.

The elk took off running just to be safe.


I took a hike up a hill near Drakes Beach on the more protected Drakes bay side of the land form.

The surf on this side of the peninsula had glassed off already and there were some folks out.

There was a huge elephant seal blocking the trail on the path to the beach. It was hard to see with the early morning glare of the sun. A lot of folks nearly stepped on it, including me, on the way to the water.

I did a number of the short beach hikes, also the Abbott lagoon hike and the Chimney rock hike. I was looking for Bobcats specifically, but I kept running into Coyotes or elk, posing in great light.DSC03711-2-Edit.jpg


Young loner coyote.


Later in the day near the Bear Valley trail I finally found a couple of bobcats but they were not facing the camera.

Stalking ground squirrels.

This hawk was cooperative, hunting right on the trail.

Near the end of the day I heard some coyotes making a lot of noise, yipping and crying. When I found this trio on a sunny hillside I was entertained by their playfulness.

I was hoping they would sit still for a second but at least one of them was always pestering the others.

They reminded me of first graders too wound up to pose for their class picture.

I think there was a male and two female sisters.

Suddenly, one sat down and stared towards the camera.

And then, miraculously, for a brief second, as if posing for their yearly Xmas card, they stopped, sat down, and each gave a coyote hollow stare towards my direction. Which I interpreted as the coyote equivalent of a smile, for the camera.

Merry Christmas, can we invite ourselves to your dinner?

That was a great way to end the day. I had a great trip to Point Reyes and hope to do some more hikes there to find more bobcats.



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Really cool. That's a ton of great wildlife. In many of those it is like they were posing just for the lens.
Wow! You must be a professional wildlife photographer. This is borderline unbelievable, as if you just took frame grabs from a BBC documentary and posted them here to troll us. I've never seen anything like that in just the span of a few days. I once walked 80 miles to the Thorofare ranger cabin and out a different way... I saw a single bison in the first 10 minutes, then zero land land animals the entire rest of the trip.

I comfort myself by making videos of the gray foxes, skunks, possum, raccoons, armadillos, and other critters who visit my backyard every night.
Amazing wildlife images, and I can almost smell the surf in the one immediately after the otter series! Always have a Plan B.
Thanks guys for the kind words. I enjoy sharing my photos and adventures with an appreciative audience.
Futurafree: no I am not a professional but I hang out with some of them and osmosis happens....they teach me a lot. I am good at finding wildlife but my photography isat more of a journalistic quality level...good enough to tell a story and show on a phone or PC.. It is only recently that I have started taking more "keepers" that have an artistic quality to them....and good enough to be blown up for a wall.
Awesome photos, I really like the coyote xmas card

I assume a long lens (600mm?) for all of these or heavily cropped?
The last shot blows me away.
I just showed my kids, lots of ooh's and ah's, they just put Point Reyes on the travel list :)
wsp_scott: yes the coyote sequence was shot at 600 with some cropping. the light was so good I was at a low ISO. The bobcats were heavily cropped at 600 in glaring light. I was just happy to see them, let alone get any Pictures. The closeup of the solitary coyote appears to show it may have blue eyes which my friends tell me is a unique individual in the park.
That's a place I need to visit. Heard a bunch of hoopla about the park and elk and something to do with grazing or whatever.
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