I arrived well before sunrise, but the cacophony had already begun. While I unpacked my gear in the parking lot, the staccato barking is echoing throughout the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle. I’m guessing people don’t need alarm clocks from fall to about early spring, when the California sea lions gather in a channel that leads into Hiram M. Chittenden Locks.

Locks and dams are good places for sea lions and harbor seals to congregate in the Puget Sound because the structures slow migrating salmon. Because of declining salmon runs, all number of methods — from firecrackers to recorded Orca sounds to shooting — have been employed to stop the pinniped feeding frenzy.

But they keep coming back. These sea lions are a force of nature, all male, weighing up to 1,000. The females stay down along the southern California and Mexican coast, tending to their young.

So the big guys gather every year, loudly gorging in between naps at sea — like a scene out of “Game of Thrones.”

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