China Camp State Park (11/29/2021)

Today was my monthly day trip day. And, I returned to China Camp! I covered the Miwok Meadows via the Shoreline Trail and Chicken Coop Hill.
It was lovely see the place post-rains. Green grass was everywhere that pickleweed wasn’t. Mushrooms were everywhere. And, FROGS WERE ALL AROUND. Very exciting!

When I arrived, a man was softly playing a guitar seemingly to a Valley Oak in front of him. Yeah, it’s not so weird for some reason out there.

I took a couple steps onto the trail and heard FROGS. Not just one. And, not even just in the marshy area. They were in the marshy area and on the other side of the trail and under a bush in front of me and somewhere behind me. Did I see them? NOPE. But, they croak-sang to me pretty much the entire time I was out there. And, it was awesome. Based on iNat data, it must be the Sierran Tree Frog. And, having now seen photos of it, I REALLY WANT TO SEE ONE SOMEDAY. If anyone has pointers on how to actually see them, please share. Thanks.

The first bird I heard (then saw) was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. These guys follow me all fall/winter-long! I love it! I am amazed I got two decent photos of it. Out in the largest pond amongst the pickleweed were a collection of Mallard pairs. But, I spotted a shorebird looking thing I didn’t quite recognize. Then I noticed there were a handful, all hiding very well in the pickleweed. Kind of looked like a female Mallard but with a dark and long bill. IDed it when I got home. LIFE BIRD! It’s a Wilson’s Snipe!

Mushroom-spotting began almost immediately. And, most of what I saw were newtome mushrooms! Life Mushrooms! There were Oak-loving Gymnopus and Fragrant Funnel (which I’ve seen before) and Liver Bolete, all before the trail got deeper into the oak woodlands. A single Bull Thistle flower was blooming in the area. And, I also spotted a White-tailed Kite (maybe the same one I saw last time?) sitting at the top of a large tree surrounded by crows in that area, all the while still being serenaded by the frogs.

While trying to locate the Northern Flicker I was hearing, a California Sister butterfly came into my view. Life Butterfly! Ok, MAYBE I saw one eversobriefly before, but I don’t think so. Not enough that I could see it well and for long. It even posed for me.

After passing a California Buckeye tree, entirely bare except for its fruit/seeds that hung like xmas tree ornaments, I came upon the picnic site. It’s nice! It even has horseshoe posts for playing that?

Over a small bridge to pass it, I came upon more newtome mushrooms, like Western Jack-O’-Lanterns and Jewelled Amanitas. The amanitas were particularly special to see today, as I had just marked Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) mushrooms as a taxon to follow observations of in SF County on iNat. Had amanitas on my mind, and there they appeared before me!
The trail got darker and cooler and more woodsy and lush with flowering Manzanita (Common Manzanita?). The nice thing about this part of the trail is that it ran alongside the creek, so the frog chorus was never silent.

At some point after the second bridge, the trail moves away from the creek and into more open space so you can see the meadow and then marsh below. One more bridge, and small hills were all of a sudden all ahead. I ended the trail where it meets the road and continues through Back Ranch Meadows (where I visited last time).

Walking along the road, I spotted another Ruby-crowned Kinglet and two Downy Woodpeckers (I think). Also, the White-tailed Kite was out and hunting over the marsh. Got a great view of Turtle Back Hill (where I went for my CCSF Ecology class). It looks much better with green grass all over it. But, hm. Is that grass native? Should’ve IDed it! Next time.

While approaching my car, I caught sight of the kite back in its tree. Crows were still all around it. Looking through my binocs, I noticed it had something in its claws. And, it was eating it! Then, it swallowed the meal whole. The crows just watched. Wow! I’ve never seen a kite with prey or even eating. Exciting!
I still had time before sunset, so I returned to where I started and continued on the Shoreline Trail eastward. I noticed that Chicken Coop Hill had a trail around it, so I ventured there. Not terribly exciting, but I did spot one more newtome mushroom there, Bleachy Entoloma! Also, you can see the coastal edge of the salt marsh a little better from there.

I went back one more time to where I started to record some frog chorus. While getting that, I think I heard a California Scrub-Jay make a very bizarre sound. Need to confirm that’s what I was hearing…

Driving home, I think I spotted an owl fly over my car. Something very owl-sized flew over my car from behind and landed in a tree pretty close to where it flew from. Great Horned Owls do that when they start their evenings. But, it was so dark that what I saw was entirely silhouetted. It’s just a guess. But, maybe at this point it’s an educated guess?

Looking forward to returning to China Camp for a free Naturalist-led walk on Dec. 12. Let me know if you’re interested in joining!

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