central coast of California

Feedback!

Since starting this blog 6 weeks ago, I have posted articles, slide-shows and reviews of beaches, aquariums, and marine life to discover along the Central Coast. I want to thank everyone who has even taken a glance at my blog and given me feedback; it’s not possible to move forward and constantly improve without constructive criticism.

My Stats:

I’ve had 282 views on my blog, and 109 individual visitors. I haven’t been using social media to advertise very much, however I have added a link with my twitter, created its own Instagram, and I finally shared it on my Facebook page. In class, we conducted a peer assessment of our blogs to receive more focused feedback. Here’s what I got:

1. Use sub-headlines. Lupita Rodriquez, author of A Golden View suggested this. Absolutely! I didn’t think to do this, but it’s totally useful in helping readers get a sense of what my articles are about before they choose to dive in. Making my opening statements catchy is also important.

2. Increase font size. Lupita also recommended this. In general, I’ve thought about changing the theme of my blog, which would also re-arrange how my media would be presented. I can’t change certain things like font size with my current theme, so I’m looking into another theme I could use that would maximize the readability of my blog.

Thank you to those of you so far who have read Beachy Keen! I’ve enjoyed this experience so much that after this class is over, I’m planning on continuing it and making it more my own. Any comments & suggestions are more than welcome, so let me know your thoughts!

Keeping it Beachy Keen,

Avrah

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The Monarchs of Pismo Beach

Time to switch it up.

When you think of going to the beach, butterflies usually don’t come to mind. But at Pismo Beach, California, that’s exactly what you’ll find.

Between the months of November and February, thousands of monarch butterflies migrate south from as far north as Canada, all the way down to Mexico. The Central Coast is such a prime location to be in if you’re trying to find them. In Pismo, they can be spotted collecting in a cluster of misty trees in a dirt patch off the side of Price St., called the Pismo Beach Monarch Grove.

Beachy Keen drove down to the quaint grove this week to see the delicate beauties in action.

Irene Ouyang, a student at California Polytechnic State University, loved seeing the butterflies when she went. “I think it’s really amazing how all those butterflies, thousands of them, travelled so far and now they’re all here in Pismo. It’s quite beautiful and breathtaking seeing butterflies, who usually flutter away at the slightest movement, being so comfortable and at peace in the monarch grove.”

Parking is free, but a bit tricky. Pulling off to the side of the road is necessary, and cars can line up on either side of the street. A huge sign with a painting of a monarch butterfly decorates the entrance; it’s hard to miss!

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A cute fence with benches for children nearby. Image by Avrah Baum.

Entrance is free, and the little grove has lots to offer. There’s a mobile gift shop, with everything from jewelry to educational books on monarchs and their mating, migration, and eating habits. There’s also a few rows of kiddie benches for field trips and families.

Karen Mitchell, a retired schoolteacher and volunteer at the grove told Beachy Keen why she enjoys spending time there. “I heard about the opportunity to volunteer,” Mitchell said, “and I knew it was seasonal. So I started getting to know the other volunteers. Everyone is warm and welcoming, and it’s a great atmosphere. It’s just people who want a peaceful afternoon watching butterflies.”

The air feels clean and crisp; ripe with the smell of eucalyptus. Birds chirp, and your surroundings are still, besides the few dozen monarchs gliding from tree to tree every few moments.

The small grove has telescopes set up to look up into the trees to see the butterflies, and a couple of experts are available to speak to.

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A view of a butterfly cluster through a telescope. Image by Avrah Baum.

David Coon is a docent for the San Luis Obispo Parks, and has years of knowledge and wisdom about the butterflies’ migration. “They seem to like this small cluster of trees right here,” Coon says as he points to tall eucalyptus trees with clusters of butterflies clinging to their branches. “It creates a micro-climate for them with the right temperature and humidity that they need to stay alive and fly properly.”

Monarch butterflies come down from the trees to fly when it’s fairly warm; 55 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. Check the weather for the day before deciding to head down because you won’t get the chance to see the butterflies up close if it’s chilly and foggy.

The Pismo Beach Butterfly Grove is a wonderful and unique place to take your children, a friend, or someone on a date. But hurry, because in a couple of weeks, the butterflies will be on their way back north!

review: THE SHELL SHOP, INC.

Beachy Keen was in Morro Bay (again) this past weekend and paid a visit to The Shell Shop, Inc.

Since 1955, The Thomas family has owned and operated this world renowned store, and according to their site, has the largest collection of shells and collectible marine life on the Central Coast.

Upon entering, you’re immediately surrounded by the warm sunlight beaming in from the windows and an inviting vibe. Beautiful corals and jewelry boxes line the shelves, and shell chandeliers hang from the ceiling. The long tables are covered in baskets that are filled with a huge assortment of discoveries for sale. You’d be hard-pressed to find another place that has dried out sea horses, pufferfish and shark jaws!

A sun-filled corner with shell crafts

A sun-filled corner with shell crafts. Image by Avrah Baum

I purchased a night light with a beautiful whale carving on a purple shell.

Shell Night Light

Shell Night Light. Image by Avrah Baum

A favorite item there are the painted shell roses! At only $2.50 each, you can pick up a couple (or a dozen…) for your Valentine.

Shell roses

Shell roses. Image by Avrah Baum.

You haven’t seen anything yet. Check out The Shell Shop on any day of the year, (minus Thanksgiving and Christmas) and be prepared to be completely wow’d by what you find.

A DAY IN MORRO BAY

At Beachy Keen, getting the opportunity to enjoy clear skies, warm weather and a cool breeze is a day well-spent. We visited the Morro Bay Aquarium in Morro Bay, California, this past week and documented our discoveries and adventures. All pictures taken and edited by Avrah Baum. Enjoy!

The Hazard Canyon Reef Tide Pools

Beachy Keen spent a glorious afternoon at Montaña de Oro State Park exploring the soft sand, breezy air and of course, the sea creatures. The park is home to Hazard Canyon Reef, where within its tide pools hide sea anemones, urchins, sea stars, and crabs, just to name a few. Finding the tide pools can be a bit tricky, however. The trail begins by a dirt parking lot off of Pecho Valley Road, labeled by a wooden sign that reads, “Hazard Canyon”.

Once parked, head north on the trail on the far right. The journey to the tide pools is just as awe-inspiring as the pools themselves; the air is moist yet refreshing, and the greenery surrounds you on all sides. photo 2 copy

Overlooking the tide pools. Photo by Avrah Baum, free to use/share.

The brief journey down to the beach ends with the path opening up to a breathtaking collection of huge rocks with a peculiar wavy pattern and a crashing shoreline.

The air sits still next to the side of the cliff, yet there’s a deep humming of energy that invites you to come and explore…

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MDO. Photo by Avrah Baum, free to use/share

The rocks are slippery, so take time and step carefully, or a nice cold bath with the fish may ensue.

As the water pours over the cavities in the rocks and slowly retreats back, a collection of critters can be found, squishy and prickly alike. Taking caution when stepping down into the crevices is necessary, as the life within them don’t like to be disturbed.

Collections of sea anemones are the most prevalent creatures in the pools, and they come in a multitude of colors and patterns. A gradient of green to purple is a common color scheme seen in its tentacles. If touched, they’ll coil away, revealing an underside decorated with small rocks and bits of shells.

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Waving hello. Photo by Avrah Baum, free to use/share.

The sea anemone is a favorite of Justin Michelle Trabue, a student at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. “I love their vibrant colors,” she told Beachy Keen, “there’s an entire rainbow inside of them! You don’t see that a lot in sea animals,” she adds.

While exploring the pools, Beachy Keen had the pleasure of running into a pair of brothers who enjoy spending their time at the calm beach. Daniel and Jack Cimo are originally from Chicago, Illinois, and Jack lives in the area as an avid surfer and personally-acclaimed expert on the tide pools.

“You have to come around low tide when you can see more of not only the anemones, but urchins and stars as well,” said Jack. “I’ve been living here for years and I never get sick of it.”

His brother Daniel was just in town for a few days to see him, and chose to spend his visit at the beach with him.

“Every time I fly out here, we make a point to come to Montaña de Oro,” Daniel said. “Obviously the animals in the tide pools are amazing to see, but there’s so much else at the beach, like the eucalyptus trees and the succulents.”

Besides the anemones, there are thousands of crabs that thrive in pools that latch onto the rocks so they aren’t swept away by the tide. Sea urchins and stars can be seen at low tide, in the late afternoon.

It’s hard to get bored at the pools, so if you’re looking for an exciting and engaging afternoon on the Central Coast, paying a visit to the Hazard Canyon Reef tide pools will not disappoint.

Hazard Canyon Reef entertains and enthralls folks of all ages, but keeping an eye on small children is definitely recommended.

Happy pool hopping!

photo 1-3Making a tiny friend. Photo by Avrah Baum, free to use/share.

The Infamous Elephant Seal

It isn’t every day that someone gets the opportunity to witness a creature as marvelously atrocious as the elephant seal. The most famous inhabitants of San Simeon, California, sees visitors from as far as Japan each year. As ridiculous as it may sound, it’s for a good reason.

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So ugly it’s almost cute. Borrowed from Wikimedia.org, free to use/share.

In the 18th century, elephant seals were hunted almost to extinction for their blubber. By the end of the 19th century, they were believed to be extinct. A small population of them were found, however, and in 1922 they became protected by the Mexican government. Their numbers continued to grow after the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. In the 1990’s, fewer than 2 dozen seals were found on the beach just south of the Piedras Blancas lighthouse.

Within a few years, their numbers climbed and there are now about 17,000 of them that currently thrive there. Along the North America Central Coast, their numbers have recovered to over 200,000. Needless to say, the elephant seal has made quite the comeback.

Numerous nonprofit organizations have been founded to protect the unique creatures, including Friends of the Elephant Seal. Scientists keep a close eye on the elephant seal population, and literally stand on the beach and count them.

Richard Condt, a scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute interviewed with The Cambrian and explained, ‘“They are all just sitting there in a pile waiting to be counted,” he said. “Not many animals will do that.”’

Besides being hilariously unfortunate looking, the seals are known for their obnoxious social tendencies and mating habits. Their typical lazy demeanor is deceiving: if you’re visiting the beaches between Morro Bay and San Simeon during the months December-February, you might be lucky enough to witness the bloody battlefield of the elephant seal dating world.

Beachy Keen got the opportunity to speak with Gita R. Kolluru, Ph.D., a Biology professor at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.  “The elephant seals have a resource-oriented mating system,” Dr. Kolluru explained, “the most ‘fit’ males have the largest territories and therefore have access to all of the females within their territory.”

These territories, called harems, tend to have at least fifty females. The biggest and strongest males can defend those harems from smaller, weaker males.

In an interview with KQED Science, Caroline Casey explained how researchers are keeping track of who’s in charge of what territories, “We have come up with this ranking system where we assign each male a score”. When males fight, depending on who wins and who loses, their scores are adjusted accordingly.

This highly competitive mating atmosphere results in about 90% of male elephant seals never producing offspring. If a smaller male challenges a larger male in an attempt to find a mate, a scuffle will surely ensue. Sometimes a tilt of the head and a snort is all it takes to end the confrontation, but if a fight escalates, it can get bloody very quickly, sometimes resulting in death.

Yikes! it sure makes the human dating experience seem like a cakewalk.

Stay tuned for next week’s adventure, when Beachy Keen explores Montaña de Oro and the critters within its vibrant tide pools!

Northern Elephant Seal, Piedras Blancas, San Simeon, CA 02feb200

Not your typical brawl. Image by Avrah Baum. Free to use/share.

Welcome!

The wonders of the beautiful central coast of California are a mystery to many. Beachy Keen dives right into the waters of its shores to unearth the commonly asked questions about the history, climate, and creatures.

This blog, Learn by Living, has the simple scroll-down layout that Beachy Keen will emulate, and it also appears to have the same layout as Olivia DeGennaro. Beachy Keen offers informative tidbits like My Ocean News, but with the fun and illustrated vibe like Queen of Wild California. Expect to see a variety of content, much like A Central Coast Paleontologist!

Stay tuned for an adventure to Morro Bay, where the elephant seal mating season is in full swing!

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A view of Morro Rock, borrowed from Wikipedia.org.