Morro Rock-Otters & Birds

May 11, 2020 at 5:45 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, California wildflowers, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, San Luis Obispo County, Wildflowers) (, )

Mom and baby sea otter

Photographers like me like to go out early in the morning when the birds are active and the people aren’t. Marilyn and I headed out to Morro Rock, part of Morro Bay State Park on Saturday, with a stop at my favorite California viewpoint off Hwy 46.

Looking toward Morro Rock, well hidden in fog

As is typical of summer, the coast is often shrouded in fog on mornings when it is sunny and headed for hot weather in Paso Robles.

Heading out

In addition to having a special character, fog also evens out the light and is makes it easy to photograph the sea otters, which are so contrasty in the sun. It’s also great light for photographing birds.

This little family was aware of a swimmer in a wetsuit headed their way.

The otters just came right back after the swimmer passed by

Otters are almost always found here, wrapped in the kelp or diving for food. The babies by now are big enough to be nearly indistinguishable from the adults, but are still close to their moms.

The rock has one or several peregrine falcon nests as well, but we didn’t see them. However, there were perhaps 200 western gulls perched on guano-stained ledges, and I saw one bringing nesting materials to a potential nesting site.

One of the most remarkable birds there is the canyon wren, and we heard two males singing their song mostly associated with desert canyons.

Canyon wren male staking out his territory

There was also a Bewick’s wren singing, too.

Bewick’s wren

You can hear them in this somewhat shaky video. (Using a Nikon D750 handheld with 200-500mm lens, trying to look through the LED screen instead of the viewfinder, is a nightmare.)

Canyon and Bewick’s wrens singing

Another birder also pointed out a bushtit nest. They resemble a “dirty sock” as she called it, and I would never have recognized it as a nest. The parents kept bringing materials in to finish it, but they were sneaky and fast, so no photos of them.

Bushtit nest

There were three black-crowned night herons fishing on shore.

The California ground squirrels were so used to being fed they waited expectantly when people passed by. However, we do not feed the wildlife, so they didn’t get a tip for their portrait.

Around 10 a.m. it started getting “crowded” – which in this era of COVID-19, doesn’t take a lot of people. Almost nobody wore a mask, and as we walked back to the car, a river of people flowed toward the beach – many of them not socially distancing and obviously not families. We were glad to leave.

We went to the Morro Bay State Park Marina to continue our birding foray and to wait for the Bayside Cafe to open for take-out lunch (Marilyn’s treat!)

White-crowned sparrow with band

Although it’s a mecca in winter, the birds were few today. However, it was a Global Big Day for birding and we dutifully entered every bird we saw in eBird. White-crowned sparrows are so plentiful we hardly react to them, but this male begged for his portrait, and neither of us realized it had a band until we edited our photos.

Male bushtit

A pair of bushtits were also making a nest, which we didn’t find, but saw the birds flitting back and forth. We enjoyed a lovely lunch in the car, overlooking the bay, having called in our order for spicy green chile soup (yum!), Baja fish tacos, the battered fish sampler, and tres leches cake. Of course we used sanitizer, especially when using the bathroom (for the doorknobs).

On the way home we stopped at the rookery across from the golf course and found cormorants nesting. It never occurred to me that they nested in trees. There were also several blue herons there as well, but I’m not sure if they had nests. As far as we know, they are double-crested cormorants.

It was a lovely, lovely day.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre
Feel free to reblog or share
Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America
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Contact:  cindy at

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