Golden Gate Park (11/23/2021)

Today I walked around Stow Lake. Plus, a handful of other spots, but that was the primary plan. Much of the park was way more crowded than a normal Tuesday. Are folks on Thanksgiving vacation already?? Felt like it!

Just before getting to Stow Lake, I walked through Squirrel Central. A large family group was ahead of me. And, one of the kids threw something near/at one of the many squirrels nearby. The squirrel responded with interest, then it scampered pretty close to the kid. The kid shrieked a little, then it said, “It must have rabies.”
: /
It is very sad this ridiculous concept persists into the current generation of children. Very SAD.

Up at Stow Lake, the sunshine was doing its part to show off the lake. And, I spotted a handful of Northern Shovelers! Shoveling away! I even saw a couple doing some up-and-down head-bobbing. Courtship ritual? It was adorable! They were mixed in with a bunch of Ring-necked Ducks.

And, while I was taking pics of the shovelers, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet was hanging near and with a flock of Bushtits. They all seemed to be working through a Beaked Hazelnut tree. At that spot are several bushes of Japanese Honeysuckle, which were blooming. Just past them, that one Hooded Merganser that I suspect is the one that winters on Stow Lake and hangs with the Mallards that I saw last winter was oddly just chilling near the edge of the lake. Normally, they don’t seem to get close at all to where people could possibly be. But, I got a couple decent shots of it!

Walking westward, I noticed those two big trees that fell into the lake were gone, yay! While noticing this, I saw a smaller Muscovy Duck swimming quickly eastward, with the larger well-known Muscovy Duck right behind it. Was this a juvenile? Vagrant? I have to read up on this.

Then I started seeing blooming flowers around the south and southwest corners, like St. John’s Wort, Sagewood (YAY!!!), and a brand newtome flower, Wild Sage (I think). How had I not seen that before? It’s been so long since I’ve seen a newtome flower in GGPark! It was thrilling, I’ll tell ya.

Also, a number of mushrooms were in the area on the non-lake side of the path, like Honey Mushroom clusters and newtome mushrooms, Firerug Inkcap and Flocculose Inkcaps! I’m feeling like there is no end to newtome mushrooms, even in one end of GGPark. And, that is awesome.

I opted to head down the Pioneer Trail instead of making a complete loop around Stow Lake. I was curious if any Great Horned Owls were in that one pine tree. NOPE. But, I got to see the same Bleeding Fairy Helmets on that one huge log where I saw them last year. Love those little pink helmets!

Mexican Sunflowers were entirely out, AGAIN? Or, STILL? After passing them, I saw what looked like a chicken on the meadow ahead of me. A Red-tailed Hawk was on the ground with something in its claws. It soon flew up holding what looked like a Botta’s Pocket Gopher and out of sight. I walked over to the spot where it was, and I found the only open hole in that area. Didn’t quite look like a gopher hole (no mound of dirt around it), but seems like that’s what it was…

I thought I might have time to catch any GHO action over at the Lily Pond, so I booked it down JFK. As I passed the Tree Fern Dell and approached the pond, two raptors flew together out of the pine tree above me. They both swooped down at me and then the Red-tailed Hawk flew up into the pine tree behind me. And, the other raptor (that didn’t look exactly like this typical Red-tail) flew east. Bizarre! It was so close above my head, I all too clearly heard their wings flapping loudly above me. Scared the crap out of me! Wish I had been looking up just before to have caught a glimpse of what was going on!

At the pond, an even larger group of Hooded Mergansers were hanging about. Looks like they own the place now! No sign of any owls nearby, so I walked toward the Secret Gardens.

On my way up, I heard, “Hey!” from someone coming the opposite direction. It was that mushroom guy! He stopped mid-run to say, “Hey!” I asked if he’d seen mushrooms, implying he really should have… He had! He asked if I’d seen anything good. I told him about the Bleeding Fairy Helmets, and he said he’d try to find them. He then asked if I had cut any Honey Mushrooms nearby that he saw. “Nope! I wouldn’t do that!” And, he replied, “Oh, right!” I wonder if many/most mushroom hunters cut them down?

No sign of the owls in the Secret Gardens, so I stuck around to see if I’d hear them. And, I didn’t. It was past sunset. Weird. But, I just looked up for a while and admired the bats above me.

I gave up, thinking they must be at the Lily Pond after all. Walking back there to head on home, I heard A HOOT. It was super hard to place where it came from. Then, I thought I heard a faint hoot east of the pond. I stood there for a bit trying to isolate where they were coming from, but a small yet very loud plane flew overhead. Then, I didn’t hear anything for a while. WEIRD. Maybe they were already far east enough to be out of earshot? That’s my guess.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a rodent run out from the ferns toward the bench opposite. But, it didn’t run and hide on the other side. It just hung out near the edge. And, it just hung out there for a bit. It was pretty dark, and all I could see was a super long tail. Must be a rat since its body was larger than a mouse. Tried to get pics, but they came out crappy. My best guess is a Black Rat. I watched it through my binocs, and it was just sitting there eating what looked like a twig.

I couldn’t believe how out in the open it was and how close it was to me. Seven feet? A person walking from the south side even walked past me and it. No movement! Maybe the rat wasn’t aware I was a person. It was odd! Then someone on a segway kind of thing (with a single wheel) whizzed by, and the rat ran back from whence it came.

And, that was my wildlife close encounter of the day! Sometimes you look for an owl and end up with a rat. And, that is a-ok.

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