Thursday, May 5, 2011

So While I Was Out Birding ...

How many times has this happened to you? You're out birding, and you see something else . . .  a flower,  a cloud formation, some mushrooms, maybe a squirrel or a snake . . . and you experience that amazing "wow" nature moment.

Boy, did that ever happen to me today! Check this out:

See that? Maybe not. Look a little closer. Wow! Look at those FISH!

Here I am, wandering along a path at one of my favorite birding locales at the Las Gallinas Ponds in Marin County, and the sound of these behemoths is what made me turn around and say, "What in the heck is making all that racket in the water?" I thought it must be river otters, which I've seen here before. But this was LOUD. Like a three-year-old in a bathtub loud! So look now at what I saw:

Do you believe this? These fish were HUGE! Like two-feet-long huge! And they thrashed and splashed and crashed to beat the band!

They practically climbed up on the rocks. I've never seen anything like it!

But now that I've done a little bit of research, I know that these are spawning carp, just one of a gazillion aquatic species who reproduce this way. Says Wikipedia: Most fish reproduce by spawning, and so do most other aquatic animals, including crustaceans such as crabs and shrimps,molluscs such as oysters and squid, echinoderms such as sea urchins and sea cucumbers, amphibious animals such as frogs and turtles, aquatic insects such as mayflies and mosquitoes, and corals (which are small aquatic animals and not plants).

I knew about spawning, but have certainly never witnessed it. Are they all this vigorous? Beats me.

I'm amazed at how these enormous fish -- I'd estimate these at about two feet in length -- come almost completely out of the water to broadcast their eggs/sperm. You can't tell the males from the females, but there's obviously some benefit from being close to shore when it comes to reproductive success. 

These creatures look almost prehistoric, don't they? For these shots, I'd climbed down among the rocks and was practically on top of them. You would not believe how loud their thrashing and splashing was. It was like a high school water polo match, but these guys weren't in Speedos.

I went on to enjoy some excellent birding on this day, but that's another post. For now, I'm just going to leave you with a couple more pictures of this amazing sight that I never imagined I'd see as I set out birding yesterday. Just goes to show you, nature rules, as always.


  1. This must have been a spelling binding sight.Great pictures.

  2. How wonderful to find something that stops you dead in your tracks and causes you to go home and do a little research .... great post!

  3. The sanctuary Kim and I bird at have large carp like that and the mallards walk on top of them. Throw a handful of seed in the water and you get a real frenzie...fascinating to watch.

  4. Cool pictures, I sure the splashing sounds were loud. I wonder how long they can stay out of the water. Great sighting.

  5. Wow, Jann, this is just pretty amazing! I'll bet the Wiki article could use some of your photos. What luck to be there at just the right time. Speaking of time, let me take this time to thank you for kind comments on my blog. Much appreciated Jann!

  6. that's pretty cool. When I lived in Chicago we would often see huge carp cruising in the water just offshore but never doing anything like that.

    Not sure why they were going right up to the shore unless the females were trying to get away from the males. Or the eggs might be the safest in shallow water away from other fish.