By Ruth Ann Angus
Marbled Godwits, Long Billed Curlews, Willets, Dowitchers, Dunlins and Sandpipers in the Morro Bay estuary by Ruth Ann Angus
It happens every year. Summer ends, the days become crisp and clear and the birds return to Morro Bay.
The National Audubon Society lists Morro Bay as a Globally Important Bird Area and it is also a part of the National Estuary Program. Fall and winter seasons bring thousands of migratory birds that make Morro Bay their winter home.
Shorebirds such as marbled godwits, willets, curlews with their long curved bill, and tiny sandpipers find a bountiful feast in the mudflats of the bay. Black Brant geese migrate from spots on the Alaskan shore to feed on the rich eelgrass beds of the estuary. Fluttering terns, brown pelicans, graceful egrets and herons are also part of the seasonal mix.
One of the best ways to see the birds of Morro Bay is from the water. Outfitters located on the Embarcadero rent kayaks, canoes and electric boats.
For those who don't want to take to the water there are trails and viewing places surrounding the bay. An easy trail is located beginning at the rear of the Morro Bay State Park Marina parking lot and winding out along the estuary.
Morro Coast Audubon Society maintains two special birding locations. The Audubon Overlook is located in Los Osos on the south side of the estuary. From the small roofed deck you can sit comfortably and view the variety of waterfowl foraging in the waters of the back bay.
Another excellent area for bird watching is the Sweet Springs Preserve. It is a 24-acre natural site on the southern edge of the bay consisting of one acre of freshwater ponds and marsh, 14 acres of saltwater ponds, marsh and mudflats and nine acres of upland scrub. Wintering Brant geese and scores of ducks take up winter residence along its shores. There are trails, bridges and benches along the way and many locals make this area their daily stroll.
Another great viewing spot is at Morro Rock where peregrine falcons nest every year. Ospreys are often seen perching on top of boat masts in the harbor area.
A great way to see and learn about the 200 plus species that visit Morro Bay is to attend the annual Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival every January on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. The festival offers guided field trips throughout the county, workshops on bird identification, photography, how to select binoculars and scopes and more. Special keynote speakers present entertaining and educational evening programs.