Monday, November 4, 2013


The Brant is a small goose that feeds in Morro Bay during the winter and breeds on the high arctic tundra during the summer.  At the time I moved here, about 17 years ago, there were a couple thousand Brant wintering on the bay.  Unfortunately, the number of Brant overwintering in Morro Bay has steadily diminished over the past decade (last year less than 200).

Possible explanations include climate change and a reduction of the amount of eelgrass, the birds main food source.  And due to shifting storm patterns, in some years, a third of the population may winter in Alaska.

Yesterday about 130 Brant were seen in Baywood Cove.  This morning I was determined to find the Brant.  It might be my only chance to see them this year.  My first stop was Sweet Springs, where one can get a good view of the Baywood Cove - no Brant.  I did observe a small flock in flight that was moving south toward Shark Inlet.

Shark Inlet, the most southern section of the bay, was beautiful.  About a mile out was a large flock of Scaup, Ruddy Duck, and Bufflehead - no Brant.

I headed into Morro Bay; last year the Brant fed on eelgrass in the channel - no luck.  Last stop was the Marina where one can get a broad view of the bay and the estuary - no Brant.  On the little hill directly above the marina is the Museum of Natural History.  They have a scope and also a view of Grassy Island where Brant are known to haul out.  The scope made all the difference; on a narrow sandbar, the one in the foreground of the photo, were 50 or so Brant.  Success!!
Unfortunately, at the southern (left) edge of the island, the broadest dark area of the photo, a hunter had set up his decoys and was waiting for an unsuspecting Brant.  It seems a crime to take the life of a small goose, that mates for life, and has just flown nonstop from Alaska to Morro Bay. 

(note:  a portion of Morro Bay is designated as a state and national bird sanctuary.  This means it is illegal to kill or harm a bird in that portion of the bay.)  I feel it is time to extend the sanctuary designation to the entire bay.



  1. Glad you were successful at the end of your long search Joyce. But I am angry about the hunter , how come he kills them if it's illegal ?

    200 left out of 2000 ... really sad !

    1. I too am angry about the hunting. In part of Morro Bay hunting is legal, that is where the hunters wait for the ducks to fly by. Thank you for the comments.

  2. Yeah...... 200 brant last year is completely innacurrate. DFG callculated over 3000 brant visiting the estuary last year. Additionally, how is it possible that a hunter had set up one week before the season opened? Nov 9th began the waterfowl season in Morro bay. Maybe try to mix a little truth in with your personal conviction. Also, brant WILL find new mating partners after one is lost/killed/predated/dies of sickness,etc. That is a just another lie that gets propogated by those that are misinformed. Kind of like only 200 brant came by last year because mean people hunted the other 1800.

  3. The first time my 5 year old son heard the F word was when a kayaker screamed it at him and I in our duck blind. So, thanks for that....... Who are the unethical, mean, selfish people that should be under scrutiny? My son and I, or the ones who yell and scream at us, key our cars, and think that they have full ownership of the entire back bay?

  4. Also they "winter" as you say in Morro bay after a direct flight from Alaska.... they actually stop all over the west coast including Cayucos, San Simeon, Monterey, the delta, Tomales Bay, Bodega Bay and Humboldt bay just to name a few as they make their journy to Baja Mexico (where they actually do winter). Even for those who don't really know much about this bird can just google it. Even wikipedia states that the current population is estimated at 115,000 and ranges from 100,000 - 200,000 depending on the year. It seems that foxes are much more of a problem then those mean ol' hunters in Morro Bay as they gobble up their eggs straight from the nest. I don't intend to degrade your opinion but its unfair to the rest of us when you publish false data and state it as fact.

  5. The real crime here is the loss of bird habitat. These same people who throw the stones at hunters own a home on the bay that developed (destroyed) acres of wetlands and eat meat on the regular. They've been divorced from the whole process of getting food it seems like a crime to them.