Lands End (11/11/2021)

Today was another sunny day, so I went and visited Lands End. The ocean / bay always look amazing on a clear and sunny day, so I took advantage of it again. And, I hadn’t been out there in even I don’t know how long.

There’s not A TON of biodiversity out there, so I had low expectations. Yeah, I’ve seen Hermit Thrushes out there, and a couple Northern Flickers. And, there’s a spot West of Fort Miley that was a mushroom bonanza one time I was out there. But, it’s mostly a nice walk with gorgeous views on a clear and sunny day. And, that’s all I was really hoping for.

The ocean was as beautiful as I’ve ever seen it. And, there were a couple blooming Seaside Woolly Sunflowers on that steep staircase from the parking lot to the Coastal Trail. A handful of White-crowned Sparrows were hanging around, as well. Not too shabby a start.

Heading East, it was a pleasant walk. Not TOO crowded and a little cool and shady. I decided to investigate a small side trail I’d never checked out before. It was ultimately a dead end, but now I know! Then, I took the paved path up to the golf course. I hadn’t gone West from there and figured now was the time. It turned out to be a lovely detour!

First, a welcoming official staircase that led to a wood plank boardwalk bridge. How had we not covered this stretch of trail before? And then, I started seeing Scurfy Twiglet mushrooms here and there. And then, I heard water streaming. And, I noticed a tiny stream crossing the paved trail. It was coming from fenced in and packed earth on the left. Totally bizarre to see water seeping out like that.

And THEN, I noticed a California Banana Slug on the tree in front of me! Ok, I always get really excited by these banana slugs. Not only are they my college mascot, which is when I first even heard of them, but we used to encounter them often down at The Land while doing surveys to prep for our shows. We’d scope out the route and playing spaces in the spring, and we’d often see these adorable slugs when we were there at that time. They are so special to me. First time seeing on in SF!!!

I crossed the stream (never thought I’d say that in SF) and continued to see Scurfy Twiglets here and there. Made it to the trail juncture, and I was finally in familiar territory. I headed West and heard a Northern Flicker and a woodpecker, heard and saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and spotted some brilliantly red Chip Cherries hiding under small branches on the ground. I don’t think I’ve been to Lands End after the rain. Not A TON of mushrooms, but far more than I was expecting.

I completed the West end of El Camino del Mar and made my way up toward Fort Miley. The picnic area at the top has often been a nice spot to see raptors. And, sure enough, a Red-tailed Hawk was waiting for me there, along with a Black Phoebe and a dozen or so White-crowned Sparrows. The top looked quite nice with fresh and glowing green grasses. Also, there was a very simple labyrinth in that meadow that I don’t recall noticing before.

I headed down toward the ropes course area, where I’ve seen great mushrooms before. Some brackety looking mushrooms were on a number of those logs down there. I noticed a small group of birds flying about high up in the trees above me. Western Bluebirds! Never saw one in SF before! And luckily got one good photo of one. There were males and females all flying about, appearing to be flycatching. I so wish I had seen them in better light, but sunset was imminent.

While getting photos of them, I heard A HOOT. Soon followed by A HIGH HOOT. Another Great Horned Owl pair! Never heard them there before, but I don’t know if I’ve been in that spot at/near sunset before… So exciting!
Took me a while to find them, as they were high up and almost impossibly blocked by leaves. I stuck around, listening to their hooting back and forth. Finally, one flew out and into a nearby tree. Totally unobstructed view. And seemed a large size. Waited to hear more hooting, and it was the female I was looking at. Eventually, the male flew out and into a tree to the north. The female stayed, in absolutely no hurry. I had to get a move on, so I had to leave before watching her make her next flight. But, they both duet hooted my entire walk back to the parking lot. Photos below for the owl fans.

As I approached my car, I caught sight of a bat flitting about above me, which is now such a familiar and always comforting sight. And, a small group of bats were flying about in a frenzy as I drove out of the parking entrance. All doing the good work. Thank gawd for the bats.

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