SANTA CRUZ -- Tom Kieckhefer walked around the 27th annual Migration Festival at Natural Bridges State Park wearing a thick, flannel gray whale costume to grab kids' attention and offer a bit of information from his group Save the Whales.
Kieckhefer's Seaside-based organization was one of nearly two dozen groups set up in the state park on Saturday to educate children and adults about the many animals that make a stop in Santa Cruz as part of their migration patterns throughout the year -- namely birds, whales and butterflies.
Other groups at the migration festival included Save Our Shores, Save the Frogs and the Marine Mammal Center.
"We've got this endangered animal, the vaquita dolphin, and there's only 200 left," Kieckhefer said. "They're getting caught in the nets of shrimp fishermen and they drown. We want to make people aware of that."
The free festival included kid games, storytime, face painting, live music, guided bird walks, a bat presentation and a migration skit by UC Santa Cruz students.
Popular with children were the various crafts set up for them to do.
Martha Nitzberg, lead interpreter for Natural Bridges State Park, said she enjoys educating the public on the importance of the environment and why the Santa Cruz habitat is especially important for migrating animals.
"Where we live on the coast and our backyards are part of the migration patterns, and people don't even realize that sometimes,"
Maria Rocha of Watsonville watched as her son and daughter, ages 4 and 2, colored pictures of owls to glue on a small brown paper bag to make a puppet to take home.
"We came to learn more about nature and take care of the animals we see around," Rocha said. "We went for one of the nature walks to see the butterflies and we saw like two."
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