Oso Flaco Lake in October

A late start after not hearing the alarm meant a late arrival, and after driving through thick fog from Orcutt, thankfully found that the group was just starting on the walk when I got to the parking area. Phew! Fred and Larry were the leaders, and not too much later, the fog cleared for the most of the walk. A bad start; a good day.

On the path from the parking lot toward the lake, Sneezeweed, Hooker’s Evening Primrose, Marsh Baccharis, Western Goldenrod and California Aster were flowering. Twinberry were mostly in fruit, but a few had flowers. (Clicking on an image will open a window with a larger version.)

Sneezeweed, Rosilla, Autumn Lollipop - Helenium puberulumHooker's Evening Primrose - Oenothera elata ssp. hookeri
Sneezeweed/Rosilla/Autumn Lollipop and Hooker’s Evening Primrose

Marsh Baccharis - Baccharis glutinosaWestern Goldenrod - Euthamia occidentalis
Marsh Baccharis and Western Goldenrod

California Aster - Symphyotrichum chilenseOrb Weaver
California Aster and Orb Weaver

The lake was full of birds; I have never seen that many. The majority were Coots, followed by a large number of Northern Shovelers. Other birds included Cinnamon Teal, Redhead, a female Canvasback, Belted Kingfisher, Wigeon, Great Egret, Grebes, Gulls and Terns. A Sora was heard. The surprise of the day was a Bittern – a first for me, and it was close to the railing.

Mostly Ducks, mostly Shovelers

BitternWhite Pelican
Bittern and White Pelican

Beyond the lake on the path to the ocean, the vegetation on the sand dunes was wonderfully colorful, with large swaths of yellow Blochman’s Senecio. Seen here and there, purple Blochman’s Leafy Daisy and the mostly white Common Sandaster. Some of the Mock Heather (another yellow flower) has started to bloom and there should be more of it in the weeks ahead. There seems to be something blooming almost year round at Oso Flaco Lake.

Dune Lupine (grayish blue-green), Blochman's Senecio (yellow), Buckwheat (red)
Dune Lupine (grayish blue-green), Blochman’s Senecio (yellow), Buckwheat (red)

Larry showed us a few shells from a native snail, “Surf Shoulderband, Helminthoglypta fieldi”. The snail is not active during the day, and is thus seldom seen. However, the vacant shells are sometimes blown by the wind into small groups. Rodents often gnaw on the shells to add calcium to their diet. There is not a lot of information on these snails – some that I found:  “Coastal dune scrub plant communities. Range extends south of the San Luis Range to Pt. Arguello. Leaf litter under scrub vegetation.”

Silver Beach Bur, a native, is an interesting plant. It grows in a narrow strip of about 250 yards from the ocean, all the way from California, Oregon, Washington to Alaska. It originated in Chile, and was probably brought to California via the seed burs attached to migrating birds. (Larry has an amazing depth of knowledge of all things natural.)

Shells of native snailSilver Beach Bur - Ambrosia chamissonis
Native Snail Shells and Silver Beach Bur

After the walk, I went back to the car to change my lens to 400 mm for a few bird shots. I discovered that in my haste in the morning, somehow the  shutter speed was set to 1/100 sec. I usually shoot between 1/400 and 1/640, sometimes 1/800, to compensate for hand movement and/or a fast moving object. Thankfully, enough photos were shot, that some were salvageable, but there were too many blurry throw-aways. After that was fixed, a couple White Pelicans that had moved from far across the lake closer to the crosswalk were photographed.

As always, corrections are welcomed.
I have made them in the past, including corrections
for coastal sage scrub for the “Gaviota Soils” post.