On a recent brilliant morning at Morro Bay State Park, the water was glassy and calm, American White Pelicans floated in the bay, and Brown Pelicans flew in V formations overhead. In the distance, several sea lions barked. The peacefulness concealed the significance of Morro Bay and its surrounding protected areas, where more than 320 bird species have been recorded. The bay has been described as “one of the most important waterbird stopover and wintering locations in California south of San Francisco Bay.” It hosts as many as 20,000 wintering shorebirds and thousands of Brant. On the western side of the bay, a seven-mile-long sand spit is home to about 30 percent of the Western Snowy Plovers in the state.
The 576-foot-tall Morro Rock, the area’s most prominent and breathtaking landmark, is located at the entrance to the bay. Peregrine Falcons nest on it and can be viewed year-round. Other must-see spots are the heron rookery in trees just north of the park’s Museum of Natural History, the Marina Peninsula Trail, and 800-acre Morro Estuary Natural Preserve, where tidal sloughs and expanses of pickleweed provide habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds. — Leslie Jones
Leslie Jones is a writer and media-relations consultant from San Luis Obispo. She has written for Yosemite Conservancy, WildBird, and other magazines.