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Coming Up in the Elfin Forest

Text and photos by Jean Wheeler

Although springtime bloom in the Elfin Forest is declining, summer still puts on a fine show of flowering shrubs and herbs. Among the most noticeable colors are the yellow of deerweed and California poppies. Coastal Dudleya flowers are also yellow, topping tall reddish stems above gray-green basal leaves in succulent rosettes. With their long blooming season, orange sticky monkeyflowers are also still in evidence.

California Poppy pix

California Poppy (coastal form: yellow with little orange)

Cobwebby thistle produces large pink blossoms at this time of year. Cardinal catchfly has small flower tubes opening bright red petals with edges jaggedly spiked as though cut by pinking shears. Because of those “pinking-sheared edges” they used to be called Indian pinks, but that was confusing given the brilliant red flowers. Look for their little red trumpets with the spiky edges in shady spots under the oaks.

Silver dune lupine usually continues to show blue flower spikes close to the estuary as late as early July. In the understory we can hope to spot the lovely blue flowers of wooly star. They were most notable last year near the junction of 13th Street sand trail with the boardwalk near the Fairbanks Monument. Purple Nightshade should also be in bloom.

Most of our year-round birds are being harassed by their hungry offspring at this season. Most often seen and heard are, of course, the avian sentinels of the Elfin Forest, our large blue California Scrub Jays. They perch on top of shrubs looking, yelling the call for which they are named, and then following any intruder they spot. Listen also for a loud buzz to locate the Spotted Towhee calling from the top of a shrub. He’s very distinctive with his black head, rust-colored flanks and rump, and white-spotted wings. His drabber cousin, the totally brown California Towhee, may be seen darting between shrubs or on the ground among them.

Other birds to be observed over or among the shrubs or oak trees include Anna’s Hummingbird; flycatchers such as the Black Phoebe and the Western Kingbird; wrens including Bewick’s Wren and the noisy but elusive Wrentit; Chipping, Lark, Savannah, Song, and White-crowned Sparrows; and chattering mixed flocks of tiny gray or brown birds including fuzzy gray Bushtits and Bluegray Gnatcatchers, flitting through shrubs and stirring up insects for their dining pleasure. The large brown bird with the big down curved beak is the California Thrasher. The fat brown and gray bird with head plumes is our state bird—California Quail.

Bewick's Wren pix

Bewick's Wren

Other residents especially active on warm summer days are Western Fence Lizards (look for them doing their “push-ups"!), Brush Rabbits, Ground Squirrels, and Coyotes.

On a leash, your dog is welcome. The leash is required to protect our plants and wildlife from disturbance and to protect you and your dog from potentially dangerous action by our coyote packs. They can get aggressive, especially in spring and summer, near canines they consider invasive and potentially harmful to their pups. Feral pigs protecting their young can also be deadly to loose dogs they perceive as a threat

Summer is such an active and exciting time to visit the sand trails and boardwalk of our small wilderness area!


Please Report Elfin Forest Sightings

Have you observed any unusual birds in the Elfin Forest? Mammals? Reptiles? Amphibians? Insects? Interesting activities or footprints of wildlife in our Elfin Forest? Unusual plants? Taken a good photo?

Please report any interesting sightings to your Oakleaves editors at: oakleaf@elfin-forest.org for inclusion in future issues under “Elfin Forest Sightings.” You can also leave a message on SWAP’s answering machine, (805) 528-0392.