Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
morro bay national estuary

Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: California Brown Pelicans

Brown pelicans at Morro Rock, photograph by Teddy Llovet.

Photograph by Teddy Llovet. See below for a link to this image on flickr.   California Brown Pelicans are easy to spot in Morro Bay’s waters. They’re one of the biggest birds out there, larger than other subspecies of brown pelicans, though a bit smaller than white pelicans. Adults have a wingspan of about 6.5 feet, and they can weigh up to 11 pounds. They also dive in a big way. A pelican can begin its descent from up to 60 feet in the air, once it has spotted a fish with its keen eyes.   The impact of the …

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Appreciating Wetlands Worldwide and at Home

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Estuary, fen, mire, morass, quagmire, slough—a person could get bogged down in all the words for wetlands! These fertile places where land and water meet are as rich in language as they are in life. Wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world; according to the USEPA, they’re comparable even to rainforests and coral reefs. Wetlands produce a bounty of plants, microbes, invertebrates, and other small lifeforms, which in turn attract larger wildlife. They provide essential habitat for waterfowl and wading birds, many of which breed, nest, and raise their young in wetlands.   Wetlands also help …

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Birds and Morro Bay

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  At least one billion birds migrate along the Pacific Flyway each year. (One billion birds!) Most of these birds migrate at night. They take off near sunset, moving together in groups that can be seen as large colorful swirls on Doppler radar. In the winter, thousands of these migrating birds make a much-needed stopover in Morro Bay, foraging for food and resting on and near its clean waters in order to conserve energy for the continuation of their journeys. The Estuary Program recently talked with Dave Tyra, President of the Morro Coast Audubon Society (MCAS) about Morro Bay’s birds. …

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El Niño, Rain, and the Estuary

An increase in water flowing through local creeks helps fish and other aquatic species. This picture was taken at Pennington Creek in 2011.

  Everyone is talking about El Niño: the rain, the wind, the warmer ocean temperatures, and whether or not it will impact the drought. At the Estuary Program, we are keeping our eyes on this weather phenomenon because it directly affects our local waterways. In this post, we’ll discuss what extra precipitation might mean for the Morro Bay watershed and estuary. How much rain can we expect? According to an article by local meteorologist John Lindsey, the historical average rainfall for our area is about 23.5 inches during the rainy season, but previous strong El Niño events have brought almost …

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Clean Water, Great Life – Bay Water Quality Update Part I

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  The Morro Bay estuary is a special place that is central to many of our lives, providing a beautiful place to live, work, and visit. We play in these waters and enjoy the food they provide. These waters are also home to countless species of plants, fish, and invertebrates. This week, we’ll discuss our findings on bacteria in the bay. Morro Bay – is it safe for swimming? Each month, Estuary Program volunteers monitor bay shoreline sites at popular access points. They test the waters for indicator bacteria like Enterococcus and E. coli. If these indicator bacteria are present, …

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What we’re thankful for

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  Today and every day, we are thankful for you, our supporters. The Estuary Program was established through a grass roots movement, fueled and funded by passionate people in the local community. Your interest in the estuary, and your desire to protect and restore it, is a big part of what keeps us going. Thank you! Hear about the Estuary Program’s roots from founder Bill Newman. We are also thankful for the estuary itself. As the best-preserved estuary in central and southern California, it’s something to be proud of. It acts as a nursery for many plants and animals, sustains …

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Fire and the Morro Bay National Estuary

A harbor seal rests in the bay, beneath a sky full of smoke. Photograph by Ruth Ann Angus, August, 1994.

  This week’s fire on the Cuesta Grade comes almost exactly 21 years after the devastating Highway 41 fire of August 1994. Ruth Ann Angus, local photographer, writer, and long-time supporter of the Estuary Program, was out kayaking on the bay with a friend when the Highway 41 blaze began. As Ruth Ann recalls, “We paddled all the way back to Sweet Springs and as we turned around there, I spotted the puff of smoke in the sky. I knew it was bad so we immediately began paddling back to the Marina area….” She took photos on the way back …

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Learn about the Morro Bay estuary with our staff

A group of students note the plants and animals they've seen on a walk through the elfin forest.

  With the start of the new school year just around the bend, it’s an exciting time for teachers and students alike. Estuary Program staff are excited about the school year, too. Education and outreach have always been an essential part of our mission, and our staff members work routinely with students and other interested groups to teach them about our bay and watershed. Recently, we have worked with a wide range of interested parties including college students from both Cal Poly and UCSB who are studying science, a group of girl scouts who traveled across the county to see …

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