Dead Birds on Montara State Beach – El Niño?


Montara State Beach is approximately 16 miles south of San Francisco on HWY 1.

Went on my beach cleanup excursion to Montara State Beach, just south of Pacifica, during high tide this afternoon. If you want to be completely mesmerized by waves crashing down… this is the beach! There is a very steep decline in some areas where the waves meet the shore, creating dramatic wave curls and subsequent crashes. The undertow has got to be really dangerous at this location. I have been to this (almost) mile-long beach three times during weekday afternoons and every time I visited, I have been awe-struck by the waves, there hasn’t been that many people and it is relatively litter-free! However, there are quite a few deceased seabirds.


Folks heed the sign and keep this beach clean.

There must be a team of volunteers that keep up with this beach or people do a good job of picking up after themselves. I hiked most of the beach and only came away with a three-quarters full paper bag. Most of the litter that I found were the typical plastics such as packaging, bottle caps, straws, plastic utensils and of course, cigarette butts. And luckily no garbage made my Jerk Awards, but there was two piles of dog poop. Hello, dog owners.


Evidently, El Niño is making its presence known – we just haven’t been visited by the storms yet.

After spotting numerous deceased Common Murres (seabirds) at Ocean Beach in San Francisco during September, I had documented it here. That page has received a lot of traffic, so evidently, I am not the only one curious about the die-off. I had made an inquiry into Farallones Marine Sanctuary and the representative said that it’s related to the El Niño weather cycle and lack of food for the young Murres, but this year the rate of die-off is four times greater than usual. During an El Niño, there is a decrease in nutrients in the coastal ocean for the entire marine ecosystem to thrive on due to warming waters – thus, causing a die-off. Farallones Beach Watch states:

“Annually we expect to see a small ‘post breeding’ increase in dead Murres in September and October. However starting in August of this year, Beach Watch surveyors found much higher than normal numbers of stranding and dead Common Murre chicks. Historically in warm water El Niño years we do see higher numbers of dead Murres than other years. This year is no exception; our surveys documented more than 4 times the long term average number of dead birds in August. This event has caught the attention of the community at large.”

Today, I photo-documented 19 Common Murres (below), and then my cell lost its charge. I spotted 12 more after that. There was a part of the beach I didn’t visit, so I would say there’s approximately 40 dead Murres at Montara State Beach. I wonder what other factors could be causing the increase in die-off.

El Niño: it is a good reminder that absolutely everything cycles. And, California should be getting some water to relieve some of the drought stress soon.

Before the weather sneaks up, get out to this beach and do not let the amount of deceased sea birds scare you away – there is plenty of beautiful clean sand and space at Montara State Beach. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the increased die-off… what other factors do you think are causing it? Or on a lighter note, anyone else awe-struck by the waves at this particular beach?

Happier Montara Photos to “Clear the Palette”


Please feel free to comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s