Send in the clowns

California sea lions take center stage in December
David Lukas

Think of the antics and acrobatic energy of circus seals and you'll know something of their wild brethren, California sea lions. After a summer of breeding and raising pups off the Southern California coast, the families move northward during the winter and show up in bays and on coastal docks and jetties. They are often seen basking languidly near the water's edge, but you might catch them twirling, diving, barking excitedly ― as if the whole world is their audience.

Great places to see sea lions

Oregon
Newport Bayfront: (541) 265-8801. Sea Lion Caves: 11 miles north of Florence; (541) 547-3111.

California
Channel Islands National Park: (805) 658-5730. Monterey Fisherman's Wharf: (888) 221-1010. San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf (especially Pier 39): (415) 391-2000.