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2022 May 2

Secret Walks: Museum of Natural History

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:33
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On Sunday, 1 May 2022, my wife and I walked to the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, to see the annual display of scientific illustration.


(Click for higher-resolution map) We went down Bay, through Neary Lagoon on the floating boardwalk, along Beach Street, and across the pedestrian bridge. We returned across the Riverside bridge, so that we could go downtown for lunch. The whole walk was about 5.7 miles.


At full zoom, my camera takes rather poor pictures (I haven’t found a way to restrict it to doing only optical, and not digital zoom). But I needed full zoom to identify this bird in Neary Lagoon as a pie-billed grebe.


We’ve never seen a mallard duck standing on a railing before—they usually prefer flat surfaces.


We only saw one coot in the lagoon—usually coots seem to hang out in fairly large groups.


Another pie-billed grebe. This one made a very loud call—you can hear a similar call at


Yet another pie-billed grebe.


The yellow irises near Neary Lagoon are still blooming, but not as exuberantly as a week or two ago.


The buttercups are attracting pollinators. I did not get a close enough photo to decide whether these are bees or hoverflies, but I lean toward hoverflies.


Purple salsify grows as a weed here. Supposedly the stalks and roots are edible if cooked. We have a little in our back lawn.


Red valerian also grows as weed.


Santa Cruz now has a year-round population of monarch butterflies, but no longer seems to get many migrating ones.


I think that this mural on the carousel building at the Boardwalk is a fairly new one—at least, I don’t remember seeing it before.


On Hiawatha, someone has gotten a bit carried away with decorating their garage with wooden letters. The signs seem to say “liars beware” and “idiocracy wag the dog”.


Photographing bees feeding on bottlebrush bushes is difficult—the bees dive into the flower deep enough that little of them is visible. This was as much of a bee as I ever managed to get.

I did not take any pictures at the museum—it would not be right to take photos of the art work on display. The museum still displays a collection of taxidermy (mostly local animals), a live snake, a working beehive with glass sides, a small touch pool, and some American Indian artifacts (including some nice baskets). The museum is a good one for young kids with an interest in nature, and the illustration exhibit was quite good.


California buckeye flowers are now blooming. This bloom was on a small plant on the river levee.


Another naturalized plant is Scabiosa atropurpurea, though it is a pretty enough flower that no one seems to mind.


This ground cover on the levee is one we were not familiar with—it appears to be Lotus subbiflorus.


I tried to take pictures of gulls landing or taking off—without much success, as they were so far away that I needed a lot of zoom, and then I could not track them easily.


This small gull seems to be a Bonaparte’s gull.


Here are a western gull and a Bonaparte’s gull side by side, for a comparison of sizes.


The levee has some sticky monkey-flower planted—probably as part of the effort to restore native plants to the levee.


There is also a yellow sticky monkey-flower.


I believe that these ducks are common goldeneyes, though it is hard to tell when they have tucked their heads away so that neither the eyes nor the beaks are visible.


This shot is what convinced me that the ducks were male and female common goldeneyes.


Behind the goldeneyes was a driftwood tree.


Canada gees are a fairly common site on the river or in the ponds.


This mural is the side of the Motion Pacific dance studio.


I rarely visit Pacific south of Laurel, so I had not seen these sculptures before.


This gorilla sculpture was part of the same group as the Spiderman sculpture.

We had lunch at Cruz Kitchen and Taps, which replaces Saturn Cafe. I had a blackened-fish sandwich, which has a good sauce, but the fish itself was flavorless (probably tilapia). My wife had the breakfast tacos, which were probably a better choice. The food was not very exciting, and the traffic noise on Laurel made eating outdoors less pleasant that it could have been. We might eat there again, but it won’t be high on our list of destinations.


On the way home, we noticed that the curly willow that was cut down in front of Emily’s Bakery is beginning to regrow from the stump.


On Laurel Street, I saw a small bird at the top of a tree, but could not identify it live. Using the max zoom and then enlarging the picture in Photoshop Elements, I could see that it was a house finch.


  1. Thanks for some great posts! I like your walks, especially when a few months ago you went by the Dream Inn where I used to stay when I was up there for business in the 1980s. I had no idea it was still there.

    The LA Times today ran a story about another who likes to walk Santa Cruz:

    Keep on truckin’! – David

    Comment by Trekker D — 2022 May 3 @ 19:50 | Reply

    • I saw that the LA Times had that story about a week ago, and I tried to read it, but it was paywalled and I was too lazy to do the workarounds of going through the UCSC or public library site to get access.

      For a few years the Dream Inn had a different and non-memorable name (I referred to it as the “generic hotel name hotel” because I could not remember what it was), but the owners had a contest for renaming the hotel, and the overwhelming favorite was to change the name back to what everyone still called it.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2022 May 3 @ 20:11 | Reply

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