Seasons in the Sea

Brandt's cormorants at Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz, California, May 2013. Picture © Robin Stone, 2013.
Brandt’s cormorants at Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz, California, May 2013. Picture © Robin Stone, 2013.

Want to know how things change in the ocean throughout the year? Seasons in the Sea is a website all about whats going on in the ocean on the central coast of California, month by month. It is a project by Kim Fulton-Bennet. He hopes someday to make it a book.

If you go to his website, here is some of what you will learn about the happenings on California beaches in September:

Moving Sand

As northwest winds and wind-generated waves subside, sand on continues to build up exposed beaches. This process will continue until the first winter storms (typically in late October).

Migrating Birds

Large numbers of migrating shorebirds appear on Central Coast beaches. Western sandpipers and sanderlings return after nesting in Alaska to feed on mole crabs, beach hoppers and sand-fly larvae. Marbled godwits and willets arrive or migrate through in large numbers after nesting in Canada and Alaska.

Vast flocks of sooty shearwaters move close to shore to feed on schools of anchovies, especially in the inner parts of Monterey Bay and the Gulf of the Farallones. Their feeding frenzies often attract other diving birds, including pelicans, cormorants, gulls, and alcids, such as murres and murrelets. During their summers on the California coast, sooty shearwaters stock up on food, increasing their body weights by up to 40 percent. They will need this food when they fly across the Pacific to their nesting areas in New Zealand in early October. A few shearwater will stay on the Central Coast until November or even December.

Sea Life

Burrowing sea urchins known as Sand dollars broadcast spawn all summer, with a peak in August and September.

Pismo clams spawn mostly between August and October (larvae need warm water and dinoflagellate blooms for survival)

Sanddabs (a common flatfish off sandy beaches) spawn.

Fall is peak mating season for beach hoppers (amphipods), when sandy beaches are at their widest and most stable.

Take the Self-Guided Mobile Tour

This piece is part of the Marine Life Guide. Download the free app with many tours of the Santa Cruz area and beyond.


Go to Mobile Ranger Guides in the Apple App Store
Go to Mobile Ranger Guides in the Google Play Store

About The Author

I really enjoy field trips. I love being in a cool place and having someone tell me about it. The problem is, you can’t always find a professor or park ranger-type to tell you all they know about the local rocks, plants, and history. So I decided to combine my love of things natural with mobile technology.

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