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Morro Bay's unique landscape makes for birders paradise during annual festival

Credit: Morro Bay Bird Festival
Posted at 7:10 AM, Jan 16, 2020

Hundreds of people will flock to Morro Bay this weekend for the annual Bird Festival, which is now in its 24th year.

"Morro Bay is so great because it's on the Pacific flyway," Bird Festival Program Committee Chair Chris Cameron said. "Lots of birds come here from the North and South for a break."

On any given day, around 200 unique species of bird can be spotted in Morro Bay.

"This is kind of their fast food restaurant, if you will, if you were driving on the 101 or the I-5, this is their version of that," Bird Festival Board Chair Michele Roest.

Cameron and Roest took a break Wednesday from stuffing packets for festival attendees to watch an osprey eat its version of the Filet-O-fish on top of a lightpole.

"Man that's a really big fish too," Cameron said as he peered through a scope.

Many of us would look away and others wouldn't even notice.

But as the bird dug into lunch, birders like Cameron and Roest watched in awe.

"I have loved nature since I was a child," Cameron said. "Birding is one of the easiest things to start because there are birds everywhere you go."

"The bald eagle, the symbol of our country," Roest said. "What would sports teams do? What would Seattle do without seahawks, Arizona without cardinals?"

That same passion is the reason some 400 birders are coming to town this weekend.

The event is a golden egg for hotels and restaurants serving the festival goers, more than two-thirds of whom are visiting from outside San Luis Obispo County.

But Roest said changes in the environment could negatively impact the diverse avian population.

"Eel grass beds have been significantly reduced over the past 20 years," Roest said. "Those eel grass beds are essential for our migrating birds, especially the black brant."

The itinerary being stuffed into envelopes Wednesday afternoon show a weekend packed with a mix of observation and conservation.