Birdwatching at NATURAL BRIDGES STATE BEACH, Santa Cruz, CA

Snowy egrets and dunlins, Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz, CA
The city of Santa Cruz sits at the north end of the wide half circle of Monterey Bay on the California coast. At Natural Bridges State Beach, named for the large arched rock just offshore, one can get down on the beach for a close-look at wildlife and, on a warm day, splash in the waves.
Natural Bridge rock formation, Santa Cruz, CA
A week ago I was visiting a friend who lives near the park and we took a morning walk along the beach. Overhead, gulls and ravens circled in the air and pelicans glided by like fleets of  tiny fighter jets. On shore, groups of tiny dunlins skittered in unison along the water’s edge searching for tidbits in the wet sand.
Snowy egrets
The tide was going out and a group of egrets was foraging in the shallow water at the edge of the waves and along the creek that empties into the bay. We were able to get surprisingly close to the birds as they stalked their prey.
View of the beach and outlet of Moore Creek
We then climbed up from the beach for a walk along the bike path that runs along the top of the cliff next to the water. Our goal was an overlook onto a rock shelf that is a rookery of Brandt’s cormorants.
Brandt's cormorants
Pairs of birds were building nests and we watched as they jostled one another and males extended their necks in courtship displays.It was, in fact, the first day of spring. Soon the birds will be laying eggs and another cycle of life will begin.
A variety of wildlife can be seen in the different tidal zones
In addition to bird watching at Natural Bridges State Beach, one can explore the tidepools at low tide, and, in winter, see monarch butterflies in the Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve within the park. One can also picnic and hike along the trails through the park.

For information about visiting Natural Bridges State Beach and about the various activities available, click HERE.

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