Photo by @cetuselena of Humpback Whale in the Monterey Bay
Santa Cruz County has year round wildlife watching - whales, sea lions, dolphins, tidepools, hundreds of species of birds - there's really not a bad time of year for some creature viewing! But here's a quick roundup of photos - all taken within the last week - that will give you a realtime look at the Santa Cruz summer wildlife scene.
I've seen whales spouting off from the shore all summer long - West Cliff, Santa Maria's, and as of yesterday, from Davenport. With all these whale sightings from the sand, you can bet it's a good time to hop on a whale watching tour or boating adventure for even better views! And right now, the largest creature on earth, the blue whale, is in the Monterey Bay! Blue whale sightings peak in July, August and September.
Photo by @duvel3
Photo by @xoxandreaaa with Santa Cruz Whale Watching
Otters call the Monterey Bay home year round, but we're loving the recent sightings of these adorable and curious creatures! Two of the best places to spot otters are at the Santa Cruz Harbor and the Santa Cruz Wharf.
Photo by @americancorporateservices at the Santa Cruz Harbor
Photo by @ramletheglobe at the Santa Cruz Wharf
SEA LIONS AND ELEPHANT SEALS
The Santa Cruz Wharf is the perfect spot to stop for some centrally located wildlife viewing. Near the Boardwalk and numerous restaurants and shops, the Santa Cruz Wharf spans 2,745 feet over the Monterey Bay where sleepy, sometimes noisy, sea lions love to spend their days under the wooden pier.
Photo by @reginaanne
Elephant seals are another impressive creature calling the Santa Cruz County area home. For a fun, more adventurous wildlife outing, head to Ano Nuevo State Park and check out these pudgy pinnipeds.
Photo by @michaellanghans - Elephant Seals at Ano Nuevo State Park
BIRDS, BIRDS, AND MORE BIRDS
Situated along the Pacific Flyway - a prominent migratory path that stretches from Alaska to Patagonia - Santa Cruz plays host to hundreds of bird species throughout the year and there are lots of great spots to view! Elkhorn Slough is an excellent place to get some up close and impressive views of dozens of species including pelicans!
Photo by @bradlewis_ - Pelican at Elkhorn Slough
With 135 acres of gardens and blooms, the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum is a unique and beautiful place to walk through nature. And all those fragrant and colorful blooms attract a variety of species, but arguably the most popular, the hummingbird! Some of the rarest species of these fast fluttering birds call the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum home, and often make news for their sightings!
Photo by @howls_with_wolves at the UCSC Arboretum
When we say we've got birds, we mean we've got a lot of birds. And a heads up, when you see flocks as impressive as the one below, watch for whales and other sea life that might be feasting on large schools of fish or a bait ball below the water's surface!
Photo by @elliwrite
TIDE POOLS AND CLOSER LOOKS
Feed your inner scientist and adventure to one of our top picks for tide pooling in Santa Cruz. Tread lightly and see how many species you can identify as you peek into the little pools of creatures. My favorite find to date was a tiny octopus at Santa Maria's Beach!
Photo by @pascarosaoliveoil
Learn more about marine life and conservation at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center. The Seymour Center has exhibits and aquariums where you can take a close look at some of the creatures of the Bay, like these jelly fish!
Photo by @
And for more wildlife and nature exploring be sure to visit the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History and the Nature Centers at the following state parks: Henry Cowell, Ano Nuevo, Rancho Del Oso, Natural Bridges, Big Basin, Seacliff, and Wilder Ranch (which is an active farm with goats, horses, chickens and more!). And request a free Birding and Wildlife Watch Kit so you can always know what's in season, where to go, and what to look for when your in Santa Cruz County!
Photo by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks