An Amtrak train announces its arrival at Grand Avenue Station. The familiar whistle tells us it is 7:10 am. At the same time, I can hear the waves of the Pacific Ocean crashing in. I take a walk on the Boardwalk.. it is early… fog is drifting in from the Ocean in large sweeps. Silver Dune Lupines are growing en masse on the Dunes, flowering a soft, pale lilac color. For these west coast native plants, the sea breeze provides all of the moisture they need between rains.
I am revisiting a favorite place, Ocean Dunes Campground in the Pismo/Grover Beach area. I spent the night sleeping next to the Oceano Lagoon where the night air was filled with the sound of frogs croaking “Ribbit Ribbit” all night long, blending in with a chorus of crickets so that, at times, they were indistinguishable. Such odd sounds they make if you are not used to them. Could this be their mating season?
I also visited the native plant garden here at the Oceano campground to see what’s in bloom for May. Last time I was here was very early spring. Silver Dune Lupines won the contest for the biggest May bloomers hands down! Not only were lupines blooming in the native plant garden, but they were growing wild, gracefully blanketing the vegetated dunes with their soft blooms.
Besides the Silver Dune Lupine, Lupinus chamissonis, there is a yellow Lupine blooming and forming seed pods already, namely Lupinus arboreus - Yellow Bush Lupine.
Another plant with yellow flowers in full bloom right now is the Fremontodendron californicum, California Flannel Bush. This drought tolerant chaparral plant seems to be a favorite of lady bugs, as I saw several of them visiting the blooms while I took pictures.
Another low growing native plant I had not seen flowering before was Abronia maritima, Sand Verbena. This plant loves the sand, and acts as a dune stabilizer. It grows just inland from the ocean and thrives on the salty spray of the ocean alone. (Do not give it garden watering.) It is also a favorite of many butterflies.
There was no sign of the Monarchs under the towering Eucalyptus trees that had been their home all winter. Looking up in the branches, it was as if they had never really been here at all; they left no trace. I wondered how far the females had to fly to find Milkweed to lay their eggs.
I wish I could have followed the Monarchs to see where they headed. The monarchs are individuals, of course. They don’t fly off in big groups like birds heading north in the spring. Even though they huddle together for warmth when they are overwintering, each decides on its own when its time for him/her to leave the overwintering grove.. and where to go..
There’s so much wildlife here! That’s what I love about this campground: marine birds at the sea, such as the endangered Western Snowy Plovers, and waterfowl such as ducks & geese at the fresh water lagoon. The mornings are full of bird song. The evenings belong to coyote, beaver, frogs & owls. And at dusk, the deer may come to call, slipping silently through the campground. Being here makes you feel like you are really Living With Nature.
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