Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
Morro Bay National Estuary Program

San Luis Obispo County’s Stealth Trees—Our Native Conifers

Monterey Pine

Guest post by Chris Hamma, biography below. San Luis Obispo County’s Stealth Trees—Our Native Conifers Overview of the trees of San Luis Obispo County In many ways, San Luis Obispo County is a throwback to “Old California,” with its beautiful landscapes of oak woodlands, chaparral, and grassland. If asked to describe the county’s flora, many of us might not think to mention… conifer forests? Though our county’s coast ranges are home to a variety of native coniferous trees, for the most part, they’re overshadowed by our more prolific native species. Our iconic oaks—coast live oak, valley oak, blue oak—virtually define …

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Western Monarchs Need Our Help: Monarch Migration and Population Decline

Monarch butterflies cluster on eucalyptus leaves in Sweet Springs Nature Preserve. Photograph courtesy of Michael "Mike" L. Baird, bairdphotos.com by Flickr Creative Commons license.

Central Coast monarch butterfly sightings If you live on the Central Coast or visit during the fall or winter, you’ve likely seen monarch butterflies making their way along the annual migration path. Driving down the freeway, you might catch the bright orange and black flash of monarch wings as they flit as fast as they can across the road,  fighting the wind whipped up by traffic. These insect athletes are built for distance rather than speed. The Western monarch’s annual migration of up to 3,000 miles is the longest on record, but their estimated average flight speed of of 5.5 …

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Field Updates December 2020: Eelgrass Monitoring and Volunteer Monitoring Update

Monitoring eelgrass at a site near Morro Rock in December 2020.

The Morro Bay National Estuary Program’s fieldwork has been deemed an essential service by the County of San Luis Obispo. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, we are not working with volunteers at this time and our field staff are following updated monitoring protocols. We look forward to working with volunteers and other community members again as soon as it is safe for us to do so. Thank you, readers, for staying engaged and supporting the Estuary Program’s work during this difficult time.  Eelgrass Monitoring Anyone who has spent time on the bay this month may have noticed quite a few …

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Western Monarchs Need Our Help: Reasons for Monarch Decline and What You Can Do

Monarch butterflies cluster on eucalyptus leaves in Sweet Springs Nature Preserve. Photograph courtesy of Michael "Mike" L. Baird, bairdphotos.com by Flickr Creative Commons license.

  Why western monarchs are disappearing In recent years, scientists have cited several reasons for the dramatic loss of Western monarch butterflies. A well-known and loved butterfly species that travels thousands of miles over multiple generations to escape the cold northern winters. Lack of native milkweed One reason for this reduction in numbers revolves around the loss of essential native milkweed plants along the monarchs’ migration path. These plants provide a place for the monarchs to lay their eggs and allow their larvae to feed on of them. Milkweed plants are also a food source for monarch caterpillars. By consuming …

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Morro Bay Watershed Native Plant Series: Southern Coastal Scrub

    The Southern coastal scrub plant community is one of the most common plant communities found in our watershed. Not sure what a plant community is? Take a look at our introductory post to the Morro Bay Native Plant Series, an exploration of our watershed’s diverse native flora! Mediterranean climate Climatic conditions, soil type, topography, and other features determine what types of plants will grow in a particular region, and the coastal scrub plant community occurs on relatively dry soils in areas where a Mediterranean climate prevails. The Mediterranean climate exists along the Central Coast of California along with …

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Help Scientists See the Future: California King Tides Project 2020 to 2021

This image shows the stairway to the beach at Tidelands Park. An ultra-low tide is pictured on the left and an ultra-high tide on the right.

  What is the California King Tides Project? Scientists need you to be their eyes on the ocean December 13–15, 2020 and—if you live north of Point Conception—January 11 and 12, 2021. On these dates, the California coast will experience King Tides, the highest tides of the year. These extreme tides often encroach on infrastructure, submerging coastal access stairways, swallowing beach-side trails, overwhelming boardwalks, surging into storm-drains, and flooding roads. They can also inundate coastal habitats that aren’t typically submerged, like higher marsh areas or even dune scrub. With the rate of sea level rise increasing worldwide, what we consider …

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Use Leave No Trace Principles on Your Next Morro Bay Excursion

    With COVID-19 still in the forefront of American life, many people have felt a draw to the outdoors as a place of solace. Whether you’re an outdoor pro or a complete newbie, it’s important to be mindful of the impact we have on the landscapes we seek refuge in. Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics developed a series of seven principles that outline how to minimize our impact.  These principles can be applied to any outdoor excursion, from spending an afternoon at the beach, to an overnight at a designated campground, to a remote backpacking trip. Seven …

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With Gratitude for the Morro Bay Estuary

A view of the estuary from Upper State Park Road. The channels are full from the high tide and also from runoff.

    Though much of our world has been turned upside down since the spring, forcing us to find new rhythms and ways to go about our days, the Morro Bay estuary remains unchanged. The black brant geese began arriving earlier this month, as they are wont to do this time of year. The shorebirds forage on the mudflats and in the pickleweed of the saltmarsh, seemingly without pause. The tides come in and go out every twelve hours. Watch this timelapse video of the tides coming in and going out of the Morro Bay estuary. While we have had …

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Best Fall Hikes in Los Osos Near the Morro Bay Estuary

    The land that surrounds the Morro Bay estuary is contoured by hills and valleys, studded with trees, and etched by creeks that take their time winding down to the salt marsh and entering bay. In short, it is a beautiful place that offers many opportunities to get outside and explore. A study done by Stanford researchers shows that making time to enjoy the natural spaces around us by hiking, walking, or even just visiting with friends in natural spaces can decrease stress and may lessen the risk of depression. During the study, they asked participants to take a …

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Morro Bay Watershed Native Plant Series: Pioneer Sand Dunes and Foredunes

*Special announcement: Livestream the Beats for the Bay Benefit Concert featuring Upside Ska on 11/19! Tickets are free and all donations benefit the Estuary Program. Scroll to the bottom of this post for all the details, including donation matching!* Morro Bay Watershed Native Plant Blog Series  Because the natural areas of the Morro Bay watershed have been so well preserved, many native and rare plants grow here. Some of these plants are endemic to this area, which means that they are not found anywhere else in the world. To celebrate our area’s botanical richness, we are rereleasing our popular blog …

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