Monday, August 15, 2016

Birding Oso Flaco Lake

Oso Flaco Lake is a small fresh water lake tucked inside the vast Oceano Dunes.  The lake is located about 4 miles northwest of the town of Guadalupe, California USA.  Since it is a state park there is a $5 fee, but free parking is available before the entrance.  photo - Cormorants perched on posts - the dunes are behind the trees.  The lane that leads to the lake is dense with willows and is the habitat for numerous resident and migratory species.
For the last two weeks birders and photographers have been flocking to the lake, primarily to view two species, one quite small and one quite large, Sternula antillarum, and Egretta rufescens commonly known as Least Tern and Reddish Egret.   Reddish Egret photo by Roger Zachary
The seldom seen Reddish Egret is a great attraction.  It's feeding behavior is amusing, as it runs through shallows with long strides, leaping and raising one or both wings.  It does not appear to be bothered by the birders and photographers on the boardwalk.
The California Least Tern is local and endangered.  It is the smallest Tern in North America (above - Least Tern chick).  Like the endangered Snowy Plover, the Least Tern nests in depressions in the sand dunes.  Every year the Tern chicks perch on the boardwalk railing while they wait to be fed by a parent.  Between the parents and the chicks, the sound can be quite raucous.  Below - chicks waiting to be fed.  To the right adult Terns.   
Another fun sighting was watching three Green Herons, 2 juveniles and a parent.  The juveniles were fussing at the parent who was letting them know, in no uncertain terms, that they were big enough to feed themselves.
I doubt anyone could have imagined how important a boardwalk railing would become to an endangered species.

I highly recommend birding Oso Flaco Lake, as it is one of the premier birding areas on the Central Coast.