Carla Brennan's Blog

Reflections and Photos from The Big Trip and Beyond . .

The Birds of Moss Landing and Elkhorn Slough, Part 1 (of 3)

1 Comment

The Birds of Moss Landing and Elkhorn Slough, Part 1 (of 3)

This gallery contains 0 photos

Leave a comment

The Mammas and the Pup-Pups

The Mamas and the Pup-Pups
(California dreaming on the Monterey Bay)
Elkhorn Slough, Moss Landing CA

Last Thursday I went on my third trip with Elkhorn Slough Safari . It’s especially enjoyable at this time, because they allow fewer customers aboard the pontoon boat due to the pandemic. On this outing there were only five of us plus the captain and the naturalist (they can seat 22 in normal times). I had the back of the boat to myself where I could wield my cameras and walk port to starboard and back again as I wished. From the vantage point of the boat you can see a greater range of wildlife and birds: sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, egrets, herons, cormorants, pelicans and all manner of shore birds.

Sea otters reproduce year round so mothers and pups might be seen at anytime. Even so, sometimes there are many mothers and offspring and other times there are few. This was a trip blessed with many. As a matter of fact, it seemed that every otter that popped into view had a pup with her. Some pups were small fuzzy bundles where it was hard to tell which end was which. Most were older and getting closer to independence. Pups stay with their moms for about six months.

I highly recommend watching PBS Nature episode “Saving Otter 501” to learn about sea otters and especially orphaned ones and how they are cared for by the Monterey Bay Aquarium to return to the sea.

Enjoy the portfolio below of sea otter mother-pup portraits.
Please do not reproduce photographs without permission.

1 Comment

A New Dawn

A New Dawn
January 22, 2021

It’s a “new dawn,” because seeing the dawn every day is new for me. I’m not a get-up-before-sunrise type. But I recently got inspired to enjoy sunrise outdoors after catching glimpses from my windows of a frequent early morning sky on fire.

Right now the sunrise is late enough to occur at a not unreasonable time, about 7:15 AM. But it will happen earlier and earlier and, at some point this spring, I will likely refuse to leave my warm bed even with the promise of witnessing yet another morning spectacle.

Our current location, since early December, is a short drive to a wide beach that abuts the Santa Cruz Harbor and hosts the Walton Lighthouse. Because California mostly faces west and southwest, the sunrise cannot be seen from most beaches. This is sunset country.

However, Seabright State Beach is an exception. It faces south, the water line running east and west, so that the rising sun, at this time of year, clears the hills at one end and illuminates the shore. And conveniently, the lighthouse at the eastern end adds a well-known landmark and a welcomed compositional element to the photographs I take.

The sunrise people arrive each day. Many with dogs, others getting exercise, some making music or taking photos. Still others are there just to absorb the magic of the soft growing light and the way it plays on the ever moving waters of the sea. The fragrant air, the view, the sand under one’s feet bring each of us back to the vivid immediacy of the moment.

I will explore each sunrise as the unique occurrence that it is. A sight to never to be seen again, as it quietly and completely dissolves into the light of day. Every morning a new dawn.

Below is a slideshow of sunrises from Seabright Beach, Santa Cruz, CA. Please do not use any photos without permission. To inquire about permission, contact Carla at:

Leave a comment


Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument
Santa Cruz, CA

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Pacific winter storms bring the wild waves to the Santa Cruz coastline. It is the season that the surfers love most. During the last couple weeks, high surf warnings have been frequent, alerting me to grab my camera and go to the beach. The warnings advise beachgoers to “not turn your back to the ocean” because sneaker waves can unexpectedly rush in and wash people out to sea.

Yesterday, as I watched from the Rockview lookout on Pleasure Point, a red Coast Guard helicopter flew slowly overhead. When the surf is like this, surfers, boaters and swimmers often get into trouble and need to be rescued. Some do not make it.

From the cliffs overlooking the sea westward, you can see the huge swells roll in from the horizon. Normally the swells are not visible from afar and the waves crash on shore, but when the surf is unusually high, the swells stand out in endless parallel rows, often cresting long before reaching land. The roar from the sea is loud and constant, and the surface becomes a frothy stew of foam.

Here are a few photos from Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument along Highway One at sunset. (Making Coast Dairies a national monument was one of Obama’s last acts as president. I worried that Trump might overturn the order but so far he hasn’t. He still has 3 days but I doubt this is a priority for him.)

1 Comment

Battle of the Egrets

The Battle of the Egrets
Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz, CA
Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Snowy egrets like to get into territorial tussles. When they do, it’s like watching angels break out into a fistfight. Calm, elegant beauty suddenly devolves into a frenzy of feathers and jabbing limbs. They become wild, acrobatic and aggressive but the altercation usually ends as abruptly as it started.

Locally, snowy egrets are sporting their long lacy breeding plumage on their heads, necks and backs. It becomes especially visible when they are excited through courtship or disputes.

Leave a comment


Dear Blog Followers,

I apologize. I have been remiss in adding posts for many months. I now intend to recommit myself to posting on my blog regularly. There aren’t many of you followers and I don’t think my absence has been a great loss for anyone. Except, possibly, for me.

A lot has happened in the past year. Normal life for me (well, what normal life had become in an abnormal pandemic) was upended when we lost our home and belongings in August from the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in Santa Cruz County, CA. This was/is devastating and deserves more discussion, but at another time.

Since August we have been living in the middle of Santa Cruz in a densely populated single home neighborhood. A big change from our many years amidst the (now charred) redwood forest. The up side is that we are closer to the ocean and nearby lagoons where wildlife and the untamed sea dominate. Walking the beach has been a refuge in this disturbing time. It has also provided some exceptional opportunities for photography.

I have been posting photos on Facebook regularly because it is easy and I get responses quickly, feeding me with the minor pleasure of the small dopamine hits of “likes.” But I also value the focus and the record that this website provides.

My plan is to write less (only because it is time-consuming) and post a “Photograph of the Day” everyday, or at least daily-ish. I may add additional posts and photographs occasionally as I get more organized and inspired.

Thank you for your patience.
I hope you are well and safe and finding some comforting sanity in an insane world.
Carla Brennan