Showing posts with label bird watching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bird watching. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos
Photo of Elfin Forest from Boardwalk, Los Osos, California, © B. Radisavljevic

The Elfin Forest is a natural area in Los Osos. It's named for its "pigmy" live oaks which have been stunted by growing where they do. The forest looks out over the southeastern shore of Morro Bay and covers about 90 acres. 

Should You Visit the Elfin Forest?

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos
Sign at Entrance of Elfin Forest, Los Osos, Photo © B. Radisavljevic


Every traveler or tourist has unique interests. I, for example, am much happier walking a nature trail than I would be walking in downtown San Francisco. I know, because I've done both. I'd rather be surrounded by nature and have a camera in my hand.

One winter day we decided to play tourist while out doing errands. We had time to kill after our medical appointment in San Luis Obispo. It was too soon to take advantage of the lunch special at our favorite restaurant (now closed).  After twenty years in this area, we’d never stopped in Los Osos. I thought it was time. I wanted a photo walk, and Hubby couldn't take his usual swim at the gym because we were away. We both needed exercise. We decided to go see the Elfin Forest in Los Osos.

Before we left for San Luis Obispo that day, I'd checked the sites that listed tourist attractions. Although the AAA Tour Book for Northern California did not consider this attraction worth mentioning, I had passed signs along the road before. So I looked it up and discovered we could walk the entire trail through the pigmy oak forest in less than an hour. We decided to see what was there and walk off a bit of the buffet lunch we would eat afterwards.

We took the Los Osos Valley Road exit west from the 101 Freeway in San Luis Obispo. Below is a scene we passed on Los Osos Valley Road once we were out of the commercial area. I made my husband stop the car so that I could snap the photo I used in this canvas print. It's also available as a greeting card, poster, postcard, and iPad Mini case. In fact, once you are on the Zazzle site, you can transfer the design to any product you choose.



What We Saw at the Elfin Forest

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos
Shot from Elfin Forest, Los Osos, Photo © B. Radisavljevic


As mentioned above, we toured the Elfin Forest in winter, but Los Osos is on the coast and the climate is mild. The weather was just right for taking a walk outdoors -- not too hot or too cold. But the season did give us a different experience than we would have had in spring or summer. We were still experiencing the drought of 2014 when we took our walk, as well. 

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos - View of Estuary
Estuary, with Morro Rock in Distance, © B. Radisavljevic


 I took the photo above from a lookout on the trail called Siena’s view. It looks out toward Morro Bay, and you can see Morro Rock off in the distance. Do you see how the drought has affected the estuary?

This is another view of the estuary from the boardwalk, looking toward Baywood Park. I made a puzzle of it on Zazzle with the same design as the postcard below. The text is easy to remove with the customize button.




Fauna I Saw During My Visit


I'm sure there were probably some fauna around, but I didn't see anything in the Elfin Forest itself the day I visited. The creatures must have seen me first. In other reviews I've read, people mentioned seeing rabbits, lizards, and even a fox. All I saw was birds. In one of the photos above there was either a hawk or a vulture in the sky. There were many water birds I could see in the estuary from the boardwalk. To get a good view one would need binoculars. This is what I was able to capture with a zoom lens from quite a distance. It would have been better if I'd been zeroing in on the birds, but at the time I was more interested in the overview.

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos- Water and Shore Birds in Estuary

Many people enjoy bird watching from the Elfin Forest. I recognize the ducks, but not the birds with longer legs. Here is a complete list of the birds that hang out here. Unfortunately, there aren't any photos. If anyone recognizes the two wading birds near the center of the photo below, please let me know in the comments.




Flora of the Elfin Forest


I have seen photos taken in spring when the forest's many plants are in bloom, but not much was blooming in January. I did see coyote brush in bloom. You can learn more about coyote brush here - Coyote Brush: Blessing or Curse.

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos- Coyote Brush
Coyote Brush in Bloom,  © B. Radisavljevic
I did find something else in bloom, but I haven't been able to identify it yet. I'm quite sure it's a berry, but the blooming times and/or leaves didn't match what seemed to make sense from the list I checked of the flora of this forest. Or maybe my eyes are bad. If you recognize it, please let me know in the comments. 

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos- Flora
Mystery Plant in Bloom at End of January,  © B. Radisavljevic



Poison Oak also lurks around the Elfin Forest. Be careful of it, especially in winter when it's harder to see. In the photo below, the very bright leaves are oak leaves. The leaves that show some red are poison oak. Do you see their bare stems? Those are just as dangerous to touch as the leaves are. Sometimes in winter there aren't any leaves to warn you. So stay on trails and don't touch bare stems unless you know it's not poison oak. Find more help with poison oak identification in this article: Oak and Poison Oak in Photos - Can You Tell the Difference? 


The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos: Poison Oak
Oak and Poison Oak in Winter,  © B. Radisavljevic
The pigmy oaks are live oak trees that are stunted by their environment and can't grow as tall as the live oak trees you find in other places. It appears many of them are dead or barely alive. Some appear to be skeletons offering a place for Spanish moss to establish themselves. Below you see one such tree with what appear to be suckers or fresh baby branches near the bottom of the tree. A healthy tree sits to the right displaying branches full of deep green leaves. 

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos: Pigmy Oak and Spanish Moss
Pigmy Oak in Winter with Spanish Moss,  © B. Radisavljevic
To get things into perspective, here are some photos to help you gauge the size of the plants in relationship to the boardwalk. Usually when one thinks of walking through a forest, one imagines looking up at the trees which block the view of what's beyond them. The Elfin Forest is different. Everything that grows there is short -- elf-size. Here's my husband, a giant among the pygmies.

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos: Hubby on Boardwalk
Giant Among the Pigmies,  © B. Radisavljevic


But sometimes the trees and shrubs along the boardwalk do grow higher, as did the oaks in the previous photo. The photo below shows that they can often go over one's head and block the surrounding view.

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos
A Tunnel through the Elfin Forest,  © B. Radisavljevic
There are many other photos of the flora that I snapped from the boardwalk, but there is not room for all of them here.

Amenities in the Elfin Forest


There really aren't many to speak of. There are no restrooms or drinking fountains nearby. If you plan to stay long, bring water. Most people would not spend more than an hour here. The boardwalk loop is only 4/5 of a mile long. It is flat and wheelchair accessible. There are several benches for resting along the way. Here is one resting place. You can find out where the nearest restrooms are here.

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos: A Resting Place
Benches along Boardwalk at the Elfin Forest,  © B. Radisavljevic
Some benches like these, do have backs.

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos: A Resting Place
More Benches along Boardwalk at the Elfin Forest,  © B. Radisavljevic


Along the walk there are also signs to point out attractions or help identify some of the plants. Some just let you know where you are on the walk. I showed one such sign near the beginning of this post. Although sometimes as you go through a "tunnel" you may feel like you are in a maze, there is little chance you will get lost.

The Los Osos / Morro Bay Chapter of Small Wilderness Area helps maintain the Elfin Forest and also sponsors nature walks on the third Saturday of each month. You can find more information about visiting the Elfin Forest here.  If you are ever driving south on Highway 1 or 101 from Paso Robles or Cambria or points north, The Elfin Forest is a quick place to stop and stretch your legs and get a dose of nature. 

Hungry people can take a short drive to the San Luis Obispo Costco afterward for an inexpensive snack. Pizza, hot dogs, frozen treats, and more are available to the public -- not just Costco members. Purchase the food outside the store and eat at the picnic tables provided. There are also several restaurants nearby.  


If you are in the area with some time to kill and would like to take a quick nature walk or do some birdwatching, stop by the Elfin Forest. It's also a good place to walk your dog. And admission is free. I plan to go back in a couple of days when we again have a medical appointment. I'm hoping to find all the plants that were dormant in January in bloom in June.
The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos:
This collage was created with Fotojet. See review by Contributor Dawn Rae

Related Posts


Dawn Rae reviewed one of my favorite places that also appears to be one of hers -- Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. She has done a lot of hiking there. I've only been there for a couple of hours at a time on my way to and from other historical sites. If you're ever near it, don't hesitate to stop and explore.

Contributor Mary Beth Granger reviews some tips for taking photos while hiking.


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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

What You Need to Know about Basic Birdhouse Construction

birdhouses, building birdhouses, learning about birds

Basic Birdhouse Construction, What you Need to Know.


For years I have built birdhouses for friends and family and for myself.  Why?  Well let's just put it this way, I love my garden and I love nature.  When I'm working outdoors there is nothing more special than being able to watch the birds and the bees while taking a short break.

To say that I enjoy their antics would be an understatement.  You will find me out in the garden at almost any hour of the day, just to see what there is to see.  Most of the time it is the birds and the insects that I purposely attract to my garden that give me the thrills of the day.  And because I love them so much, I want my friends to enjoy them that much too!

I want to focus on birdhouses in this review, because, while everyone loves birds, enticing them into your garden is a special thrill!   Seeing them rear their babies is even more fun.  If you have children or grandchildren, it is also a wonderful time to teach them some nature lessons and life lessons too.


Birdhouse Basics

If you have a yard, you have a great place to start.  Flowers, shrubs and a tree or two would be ideal as well.  A water source or a bird bath will surely entice some lovely feathered friends to come for a visit.  After that, if you want to build some birdhouses, that will help them to target you for their next place to live!

It is said that if you build it, they will come! (Taken from the movie ............The Field of Dreams.)  This may be true for birdhouses and it may not be true.  Some birds really don't care what their homes look like, but they are particular about the size and the placement.  Other birds will readily nest in any dry and sheltered spot, Robins in particular will nest in a dry space and not really need or want a birdhouse.

If you are hoping to attract certain kinds of birds to your yard, you need to build a house that they will really like.

Placement of that birdhouse will also be important.  Some birds require homes set at a certain height and proximity to other essentials  for their welfare.  Water and food sources being the most important ones.

Some birds are solitary nesters and others need to live in community.  So again depending on the birds you want to attract, you will need to take these things into consideration as well.

I have found this book on Amazon will help you build birdhouses, but also takes into account each different species likes and dislikes.  Working with an ornithologist, these plans have been made for specific birds.  It doesn't help you to build a house that no one wants to occupy.  So build something that you know they will appreciate and you will be rewarded with the lovely sounds of birds thanking you.


Here you will find plans to make up to 19 different types of birdhouses. Each one can be executed by the novice as well as the expert woodworker. These are great projects for Moms and Dads to make with their children.  The basic houses are wooden and can be left plain or dressed up with colors.

Three things that you should never do!

While we are on the subject of attracting birds to your garden, I want to make absolutely sure that you don't do these things:
  1. DO NOT put out lengths of yarn for birds to use as nesting material.  
  2. DO NOT put out dryer lint for the birds
  3. DO NOT put out pet hair for their use either.
You may ask WHY NOT!
Here are the reasons,  yarn, unless it is cut up into tiny (less than an inch long) pieces, can actually act as a noose that works it's way around baby birds necks.  When they try to fly out of the nest, they strangle.  Birds are used to  scavenging for nesting materials and they know what they want in there.  If you feel inclined to help them, rake up your grass and leave little piles of dried grass for them to find.  

Dryer lint is also a definite no-no.  Most people use fabric softeners of some sort with  their dryers and the chemicals in those sheets or liquids also ends up in the lint.  These chemicals may harm the babies either by contact, or by ingestion.  Don't do it!

Pet Fur is also a no-no.  If your pet is taking medications, or you use flea powders or flea shampoos on them, their fur is also "contaminated".  Baby birds are naked (just like human babies) when they are born.  Anything that cause a reaction to their tender little bodies should be avoided at all costs.
birdhouses, building birdhouses, watching nature
Naked baby birds!


It would be much better for you to spend your time reading a little about what they would appreciate and then building a nice house for them to enjoy.  The most perfect part of this whole idea is that you will build one house, but that two families will get to enjoy it.  The bird family and your family too!

More about Birds from the writers at Review This Reviews:


You can read more about the life cycle of a Robin at Tracey's Review of that incredible sight at her home.
Birdwatching and Photography go hand in hand.  One of Review This Reviews writers, Mary Beth Granger, has shown and taught us how to capture some beautiful pictures of the birds in her area. If you love Bluebirds you can read up right here!  Or if Woodpeckers tickle your fancy, you can check out some great pictures and facts Review of Woodpecker Facts and Photography 





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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review of Backyard Birdbath

Meeting Place

Creating a Bird Friendly Backyard

My husband and I really enjoy watching the birds in our backyard and in the past year I have become passionate about bird photography.  I have always had a feeder or two in the backyard but never really thought about the rest of the environment for the birds until this year.  In researching the best ways to have a bird friendly yard, I realized what I was missing was a bird bath.  



 


After spending some time looking through Amazon and reading all the reviews on various birdbaths, I decided on the pedestal bird bath shown above.  It had several features that fit my needs.

  • It is made of a lightweight  resin that is frost resistant and durable
  • It is 28.25 inches high and 20 inches in diameter...just the right size for my patio or flower bed
  • It holds 8 gallons of water
  • You have the option of adding sand to the base for stability.  I have not done this at this point and have had no issues with it tipping.
When I got the birdbath delivered I found it came in three pieces and was very easy to put together.  I decided to locate it on the edge of my patio and set it up and within hours I had birds visiting.


Robins

I knew there were Robins around our area, but since they do not normally come to feeders, I rarely saw the in our yard before I got the birdbath.  Now they come regularly both to drink and to take their baths.  They are very entertaining as they splash around in the birdbath.  Below are a few photos of a Robin enjoying his bath.



I was able to capture these photos while sitting at my kitchen table and photographing through the sliding glass doors.


Other Birds Enjoying the Water

While the Robins are the birds I've seen taking a bath most often, many other birds stop for a drink of water.  This Yellow Bellied Sapsucker stopped in our yard for the first time after I put out the bird bath.
Even the Mourning Doves enjoy the water.

Birdbath

I got the birdbath about 6 months ago so it has made it through the winter and seems to be very durable.  I love the design and the way it shows up in my photos.

Birds

Birds need water for both drinking and bathing, so if you don't already have a birdbath for your yard I hope you will consider adding one both for the birds and for your enjoyment.




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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Review of Guide for Bird Watchers

Blue Jay in the Snow

Favorite Bird Guide

I have always loved to photograph birds, but only recently have I gotten really interested in identifying the birds in my backyard.  I have looked up birds online to try to find out what species of bird I have captured in my photos, but was never completely satisfied with my searches.  So my next step was to look for a paperback book that would fit my needs.  I found just what I needed in a delightful book by Jonathan Adererfer and Paul Hess National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America.

 


Bird Identification

This delightful book has a detailed guide to 150 species of birds of North America.  The photo below is one example of a bird I identified from the book.  I knew the bird was some type of sparrow so I first looked up sparrows in the index of the book. This brought me to a series of pages with over ten different types of sparrows. As I looked through the photos  I narrowed it down to several that looked similar.  When I looked closer only one was exactly like my sparrow.  The white throat and small yellow spot above the eye were my biggest clues. Besides looking at the photos I read the identification section and checked the range to make sure this sparrow came to my area.  All of these things agreed so I concluded that this was a White-throated Sparrow.  The page on this sparrow also gave information on the food and nesting habits of the bird.


Here are two more birds I identified using the same general steps that I used above.  The first is a Tufted Tit Mouse, which I learned is native to my area of the country (mid-west).  I also learned it is a very vocal bird and that its' song is a loud peter-peter-peter, repeated over and over.
The next bird is a Carolina Wren. It is common in my area and I found out that it is the only wren that commonly feeds at feeders and suet feeders.  I have seen this bird often at our feeders.  I also learned that it is a year round resident.

Additional Features of the Book

In addition to the bird identification features I found several other sections of the book that were very interesting and helpful.
  • Basics of Bird Watching- this section gives you hints on where and when to watch for birds.  It talks about migratory birds and those that are year round residents.
  • Feeding Birds- this section gives hints on the types of feeders to use, where to place them and what food to put in the feeders to attract different birds.
  • Birdhouses- If you are wanting to place a bird house for your birds this section is a must read.
  • Bird-Friendly Yards-This is a great section that gives you hints on planting your yard to attract birds.
  • Birding Skills-If you want to increase your skills at watching and identifying birds this is the section for you.
  • Citizen Science- This section talks about the birding community and ways that you can help.  It also talks about keeping a birding journal.

Bird Journal

Here is a journal I have created using my photographs.  You can order it on Zazzle by clicking on the link below the photo.




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