2012's Day of Days
Posted 1/11/2013 When I look back at 2012, I don't have a favorite photo, but certain days stand out as fantastic - the kind of day that leaves a smile on your face for the rest of the week and beyond.

I had two or three of these days in 2012, but after careful consideration, I picked just one as my 2012 Day of Days and it occurred early in the year, on January 7th.

My day was already made by 11am. I arrived in Big Sur around 10:30am and was immediately watching a pair of orcas about a half mile off shore. This was my first sighting of orcas down in this region and by the time they'd disappeared I already had a massive smile on my face.

They were too far off shore for good photos (a not so good photo is below), but just seeing them out there was a day of days worthy experience - at this stage little did I know that this experience was a mere appetizer for a truly awe inspiring day.

After the orcas, I decided to go further south to look for condors.

A previous experience had taught me that when I'm looking for condors, I should always go down at least as far as Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (known locally as JPB) as I once spent a day taking time lapse movies of the fog and decided I didn't need to go as far south as JPB only to find out a week later that there were 10+ condors near the highway about a half mile further on from where I turned around.

So, off in search of condors I go and I get down as far as JPB around 11:45am and notice something in the trees around McWay falls (the photographically iconic waterfall that falls on to a beach that frequently appears in articles about Big Sur and whose base can be seen in the background of the photo at the top of this article).

I soon realize that there's a couple of condors in the top of the trees and I have to assume there must be some reason why they're there, so I head out on to the overlook trail and about a third of the way along, realize what is attracting the birds - there's a sea lion carcass down on the beach near the falls. As you'll see in the photos, it looks like the unfortunate sea lion got tangled in a fishing net and that likely caused its demise.

To cut a long day into a short story, for the next five hours, I'm on the overlook trail watching condors fly in and get brave enough to fly down to the carcass (the beach at McWay falls is small and surrounded by cliffs).

After they eat and decide to leave, they're doing close fly bys and landing near (both above and below) the overlook trail and generally amazing all the folks who happened to be at JPB that memorable day.

It was amazing to see a sea lion carcass start out as a recognizable carcass and end up a skeleton. Marine mammal recycling in action.

As the last birds left the beach area, the wind had died down and the birds were heading north. As I started to head home, I came across them again near the highway and got another 30 minutes of great photos before the sun went down.

Truly a day of days for a condor nerd such as myself.
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