Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
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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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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 Wildlife Spotlight: Brown Bears and Black Bears

    Black bear sighting in Los Osos A black bear (Ursus americanus) recently swam across the southern end of the Morro Bay estuary and made its way onto land in a residential area of Los Osos, near Pasadena Point. The bear spent some time napping in a tree before officials with California Fish and Wildlife tranquilized and transported it to the Los Padres National Forest. This incident reminded many of us that the lands surrounding Morro Bay are still wild and able to support large mammals, like black bears and mountain lions. Though black bears are omnivores and eat …

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Morro Bay Watershed Native Plant Series: Introduction

  Why do native plants thrive in the lands surrounding Morro Bay? The Morro Bay watershed is one of the most botanically diverse regions in California. This diversity can be traced back to the ice ages as California’s coastline receded and advanced over thousands of years, and the tectonic plates settled into their current position. Many communities and species of plants have evolved here as a result of such active geologic change. These plant communities have continued to exist and thrive because San Luis Obispo County still resembles its natural state, despite increasing human habitation and land use development. Because …

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Have a Happy, Bay-Friendly, Halloween 2020!

  It’s October on the Central Coast; the sun is going down earlier and there is a little chill in the air. Halloween is only three weeks away! Very little is business as usual this year, but the changing of the season and having a familiar holiday celebrations to look forward to can help give us a all a sense of normalcy. Halloween itself is a lot of fun; it means candy, costumes, and light-hearted mischief for everyone. While traditional trick-or-treating and group celebrations aren’t an option this year, many people are planning to celebrate at home. Between candy wrappers, …

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