Sonoma County is in the midst of a record-setting heat wave for early May. It’s always cooler at the coast—a good place to escape the hottest weather.
Because my favorite estuary, the Estero Americano, has so little water in it, I decided to try to paddle on Tomales Bay, my second-favorite estuary. In the spring, though, it’s often unpleasantly windy on Tomales. Heat spells sometimes attenuate the winds and I hoped that would happen yesterday.
When I arrived in the morning the wind was already up enough to keep me ashore.
Heart’s Desire, though, is about as nice a beach as one might wish for. A dozen families, most with preschool children, set up for a midday sojourn along the shore near the parking lot and bathrooms.
I ventured a short way south the better to see what wild animals might be up to.
Soon a turkey vulture flew over head.
The ebbing tide revealed a dead leopard shark.
The vulture had become aware of the carcass before me. Turkey Vultures can detect ethyl mercaptan, a gas emitted by decaying flesh, from the air.
Soon it landed on the beach and began to disembowel the leopard shark.
It concentrated on a slit in the underside of the (female?) shark.
The turkey vulture stayed for some time and was eventually joined by other TVs. Taking turns, they worked for about an hour on the carcass, but didn’t get a whole lot of entrails out of the body cavity. Their efforts were interrupted from time to time by humans walking by. They finally flew away leaving the carcass pretty much as they had found it.
Later a seagull flew in for a look at what the vultures had abandoned. It went right to work.
I didn’t expect the seagull, who worked alone, to pull much out of the shark. It was surprisingly successful.
The seagull managed to pull a great deal of food from the leopard shark’s belly.
Such was the show on Heart’s Desire Beach on May 2, 2017.