May 13, 2016

Announcing Winners of Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest 2016


The third annual Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest asked people to celebrate native wildlife in poems of any form, and to capture the essence of the Morro Bay National Estuary in haiku. 72 poets from across the county and beyond sent in 96 poems for consideration.

Guest judges Marguerite Costigan, Jerry Douglas Smith, and Patty Sullivan were very impressed with the entries.

Marguerite Costigan

Guest Judge and current San Luis Obispo Poet Laureate, Marguerite Costigan.


Photo by Joe JohnstonThe Tribune
Photo by Joe Johnston/The Tribune

Guest judge Jerry Douglas Smith.


Patti Sullivan

Guest judge Patti Sullivan.


The judges have spoken, and the winners are in. Please read their poems below, and join the Estuary Program and guest judges for a celebratory reading at Coalesce Bookstore next Friday, May 20, at 7 p.m.



Estuary & Watershed Wildlife Category

For the Estuary & Watershed Wildlife category, writers composed poems in any form that focused on animals native to the estuary and the land that drains into it. using the estuary as a theme.

Adult Winner: Dawn Wood

Love in an Estuary

I am drawn by the soft outline of the shore,

beds of sand dunes, edges to sleep on.

The coming and goings, wet footprints

throughout the day.

Always amusing me, pulling back and forth,

the tide exposes  bubbles, homes

for sand dabs and tiny crabs.


There is so much life.


A sea otter hugs an oyster shell looking up,

to the silhouetted curve of a great

white egret’s neck, as it collapses into

a eucalyptus nest releasing sustenance.

A great blue heron on a private piece of shore

is statuesque, still, and silent.

Moving on foot until the sharp beak

falls like a guillotine and spears a wayward smelt.


Salty boats tightly moored dance with a daily rhythm.

Compelled by the water’s soft hand, the bows

first float gracefully from north until all is reversed

and for a moment each reaches out for

the southern lip of the sea.

As sky darkens, I watch a blood red orange

spill over Morro Rock.


There is so much life that lives and dies.


An estuary breeds an afterglow,

a process that never ends.

Let me not just visit and forget,

but remember all I have loved.

Let this estuary continue to bless

those who come to know its quiet kiss.


Adult Runner-up: Lani Steele

Local Fauna, Morro Bay Estuary

This April day is

gray and blue – the skies, the jays –

with a dash of whitecaps and greenery.


Khaki deer flick an ear

in their hiding places,

crows chase jays, and jays chase swallows;

hawk watches quail in the chaparral

but the quail sentry guards his family.


Heron stalks frog, egret stalks small live

things in the muck,

coots bounce on wavelets as mallards glide

the streams of Sweet Springs and

pond turtles bask on their log.


People paddle the Bay,

run trails on its rim,

drive by or stop to watch.

We live here, we are sentient

though busy.  We live here

because we love these waters,

these birds, these wild creatures.


Youth Winner: Fiona Reams

Estuary Bliss

The faint bark of a sea lion.


Birds gathered in groups,

searching for food.


Boats out on the water.


A bright blue sky.


No clouds for a mile.


The water shimmering

under the golden sun.


A blue heron soars

over head.

Observing life

at its most

peaceful moment.



Youth Runner-up: Luke Mellom

The Elfin Forest

No Sounds are made as wind

blows through the trees.


Trees grow at the touch of rain,


Moss dangles down from the branches.


Tiny creatures remain hidden.


Humans use the boardwalk

To admire the forest’s beauty.


At the end of the day,

The forest remains untouched.


Haiku Category

Haiku—three-line poems consisting of 17 syllables in a 5/7/5 pattern—traditionally focus on nature.


Adult Winner: Richard Immel

Low tide at Back Bay

Swirling clouds of sandpipers

Feast in the fresh mud


Tie for Adult Runner-up: Richard Immel and Ted Schade


Rookery beckons

Cormorant, heron, egret

Misty safe haven

—by Richard Immel


Lunch hunting

Like an aimless mob

Picking at morsels unseen

Willets with wet feet

—by Ted Schade


Youth Winner: Dylan King

The Way Morro Lives

A calm, salty wind

Birds call everywhere with you

Thick mud, crawling crabs.


Youth Haiku Runner-up: Vienna Laughlin

Our Estuary

Yellow rays shine down

Upon the snow white egret

Salt and fresh unite




Subscribe to get the Estuary Program’s blog delivered to your inbox each week! 

Donate to help the Estuary Program protect and restore Morro Bay.