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Coming Up in the Elfin Forest

Text and photos by Jean Wheeler

Flowers and fruit both adorn the Elfin Forest in August and September. Along the boardwalk, lizards dart actively in the warm sun, pausing to do their “pushups”. Resident birds are weaning their young and migrants are already moving in for the winter or passing through on their way to winter homes to the south.

Along the boardwalk between Bush Lupine Point and Siena’s View, Hollyleaf cherry shrubs have bright red berries. In the same area are California coffeeberries (pictured below). Colors of their berries vary from yellow as they begin to develop turning to red and then shiny ebony black as they fully ripen. Often all colors of berries appear together on the same branches.

California coffeeberry photo
California coffeberry

Mock Heather, its yellow flowers brightening much of the Elfin Forest for these two months, blooms almost exclusively in August and September. Also providing golden blooms now as they do much of the year are California poppies. California goldenrod, another plant with yellow flowers at this season, is pollinated by insects rather than wind, unlike the species known for causing major allergy problems.

California asters are coming into full bloom with ray petals of white to light pink or lavender around a central yellow disk. They will brighten the Elfin Forest all the way into December. Flowers on Dune buckwheat that opened white are now aging to pink, and then rust in color.

Black Phobe
Black Phobe

Resident birds continue to be active all year, often feeding second broods of fledglings in late summer. Among the larger species easy to spot are California Quail, Western Scrub Jays, and California Thrashers sporting their long down-curved beaks. Among the many year-round medium-sized and smaller resident birds are the Black Phoebe (pictured above), both Towhees (California & Spotted), many species of Sparrows and Finches, Bewick’s Wren, Wrentits, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and four species of Titmice and Nuthatches including Bushtits (below). Over a dozen raptors are active in our area all year and may be seen flying or gliding overhead as they search for prey.


Summer or transit-only avian visitors include five species of Swallows, Swainson’s Thrush, the Black-headed Grosbeak, Wilson’s and Yellow Warblers, and the Western Tanager.

By September, year-round resident ducks and shorebirds begin to be joined by aquatic species from the north passing through on their way south and by species arriving to spend the winter in Morro Bay. Look for early arrivals by Pied-billed Grebes, Gadwall Ducks, Northern Shovelers, or Blue-winged Teal, for instance. And rejoice in the anticipation of the thousands more birds that will nearly cover the Bay in the months ahead!

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: oakleaves@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.