I have to admit that the lack of sleep left me feeling a big groggy and not even a hefty dose of caffeine really fixed it, so my first full day in Morro Bay was one of grinding it out despite mostly wanting to sit and maybe take a nap. Unfortunately, I’m not really a napper, so that’s not really an option.

What I had planned on doing was to head over to the Marina, where a few years ago they installed a new boardwalk that took you around a part of the estuary. It’s fairly well known as a good birding location and now that I’d finished the morning’s landscape shoot, I wanted to get out and take my walk and go birding with the big lens and see what I could find. For various reasons I’ve never gotten out to walk this boardwalk before, and it was a rather beautiful morning, so I headed over, got out the binoculars and camera, and went for my walk.

And pretty literally the first thing I stumbled on, maybe 15 feet from the start of the trail, was a small group of birders with scopes and cameras. This is always a good thing, so I joined in to see what they’d found.

It turns out that for the last month or so there’s been a pair of yellow-crowned night herons hanging out in the marina. This is the first recorded sighting of the species in the county, so it’s a pretty big deal for birders — and a life species for me. They told me the species has been moving north along the coast for the last decade or so and were now known to be breeding in Ventura, but this is the first time they’ve made it this far north.

This, folks, is a great way to start a birding outing.

One of the things I tried to do this trip was shooting the area more and not being so tunnel-visioned on birds; try to think more about travel photography and widen the type of images I was creating. Fortunately, this boardwalk has some really beautiful vistas…

And the birds did not disappoint. I ran into flocks of shorebirds including good numbers of Whimbrels as well as the more common Long-Billed Curlews.

Along the way I was serenaded by a personal favorite winter visitor, the White-Crowned Sparrow.

At one point all of the flocks spooked and I saw a very black blob out in the distance, and sure enough, it was one of the area’s Peregrine Falcons hanging out.

And then I got scolded for interrupting them, and out popped a Bewick’s Wren to chatter at me.

And for me the nice surprise was when a Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher popped up and foraged near me.

That boardwalk is easily reached from the parking lot at the marina, is flat and accessible, covers about a mile and did not disappoint for either views or birds. I ended it with a closed ring on the watch and a bit of soreness in the knee (that’s normal) so I decided it was a good time to head back to the room, import and check the images, grab some lunch and take a rest before heading out for the afternoon.

Bewick’s Wren, Morro Bay Marina Boardwalk Trail

Peregrine Falcon, Morro Bay Marina Boardwalk Trail

Morro Bay Marina Boardwalk Trail

White-crowned Sparrow, Morro Bay Marina Boardwalk Trail

Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, Morro Bay Marina Boardwalk Trail

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Morro Bay Marina Boardwalk Trail

Bewick’s Wren, Morro Bay Marina Boardwalk Trail