Golden Gate Park (12/1/2021)

Today I did what I call the Middle Loop, which consists of Mallard Lake, The Oasis, and Elk Glen Lake. In that order.

It was another warm day. 72 degrees? In the middle of GGPark. 72 degrees is a balmy day any time of year in SF. And, it is now officially December. Very disconcerting. I wore my summer Naturing cargo pants and Naturing vest. And, I never got cold or even close to it. Sigh.

It felt like forever since I’d been there. I started at the east edge of Mallard Lake and noticed blooming Luculia pinceana. Has that always been there? I’ve seen it at Stow Lake and the AIDS Memorial Grove before. And, even the SFBG. Did I just see it at North Lake, too? Guess it’s everywhere. I love that pale pink flower with the white doily in the center. Doesn’t look real.

I walked counter-clockwise around the lake (which seems to be my usual now) and spotted a handful of mushrooms. I don’t remember seeing any or many here before. Is it that I’m seeing them more often now?? Or, I’m looking more on the ground after the rains? I spotted Yellow Fieldcaps, a couple large white Agaricus (?), and maybe Sulphur Tufts. We shall see what trusty Alan on iNat tells me…

I got really excited when I saw a tiny white and pink bunched flower at the west edge of the lake. Seek told me it was Pinkweed, and I was giddy at seeing a newtome flower. But, after looking into it more, it appears it is likely Dotted Knotweed. I’ve seen it there before, but these flowers had pink tips at the petal edges. Ah, well. Cute little flowers, anyway. And, I adore flowers that love to grow right out of the water!

While passing by blooming Kangaroo Apple and an American Coot and Pied-billed Grebe in the lake, I noticed pink-purple flowers right at the water’s edge. Sage! But, it was too far to get close. And, the photos I took are not very helpful in IDing it further. Ah, Sage. Why you gotta be so elusive?

I then heard a flute being played softly at the east edge. Yep, someone was softly playing a flute at the lake’s edge. I tend to really mind people blasting their music in public places, but live music has yet to bother me.

Nearing the waterfall and creek, I couldn’t help but notice a bunch of American Robins in the trees above me. Weird. I’ve rarely seen robins there before. But, then a Hermit Thrush jumped into the cotoneaster tree (Silverleaf Cotoneaster?) that was fruiting like crazy next to me. And, this one robin WOULD NOT HAVE IT. It chased the Hermit Thrush around the tree til it was out of view. Guess those berries belong to THE ROBINS.

I noted the Fuchsia denticulata blooming near the lake edge before heading east to The Oasis. And, The Oasis was BLOOMING. Violetbushes and Glory Bush and Pale Pink-Sorrel and Sinningia and Indian-shot and Fuchsia Begonia and Hardy Fuchsia and Redvein Abutilon. Indian Strawberry was also blooming and fruiting. And, I even spotted Red-cage Fungus. The warm weather fit the tropical surroundings all too nicely.

I made it to Elk Glen Lake and took a look around the mushroom spot near the Gnome Altar Tree. And, it did not disappoint! Bolbitus aleuriatus (?) and Chip Cherries. While mushroom hunting there, I realized the large tree that had gorgeous orange leaves that I’d seen there last year was right in front of me. Sugi! I’ve seen these at the Lily Pond and near the Fairy Door, and now here. These are what give EGL such lovely fall colors on the south side! I love figuring this stuff out.

After passing a small group of Golden-crowned Sparrows eating in the grass and hearing the cry of Red-winged Blackbirds in the reeds across the lake, I got to a pine tree that I’ve seen mushrooms on before. And, sure enough, Mustard Yellow Polypore (?) was going bonkers on it. I am finding that I delight in both a single, solitary mushroom (that’s a phrase, and yet, it’s redundant, no?) and group mushrooms. There, I’ve said it. BOTH DELIGHT ME.

What I think is Western Deer Mushroom was hiding under the blackberry bushes on the other side of the trail. The Norway Maple had absolutely let go most of its gloriously yellow leaves – I really should’ve come earlier. And, the Fairy Door there was still standing. Oh, and an Anna’s Hummingbird was hanging on the edge of a reed near the Red-winged Blackbirds.

After kind of being annoyed that all the benches were taken, I got a treat. Ahead, in a eucalyptus tree, was Laetiporus! A big and fresh chunk of it! While admiring it, an older couple approached me. And, the man asked me what I had found. He immediately looked and sounded like a Fungi Expert. I said, “It definitely looks like Laetiporus.” He said, “Let’s feel underneath and see.” And, he did! It was a little odd! Do Fungi Folks do that?? He said, “No gills. I think it’s a Bolete.” He went on to explain something about evergreen trees, but I didn’t catch it. I was too busy thinking, “It REALLY looks like Laetiporus to me!” We said our goodbyes, and they were on their way. Seek and iNat believe it’s Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf (Laetiporus gilberstonii), which I have now seen many times. So, there you have it.

A Red-shouldered Hawk was crying nearby as I made my way to the Elk Glen Lake Meadow. Large clusters of Honey Mushrooms were out. I IDed a Chinese Pistache tree, which I’ve seen in many places in Berkeley before. Those colors are amazing right now. Chip Cherries were there, too. And, I saw a Common Manzanita on the walk to the picnic area. I think the only other place in GGPark I’ve seen them is at the AIDS Memorial Grove. Huh.

I approached Mallard Lake to finish my loop, and as I took one last look at the lake I thought I heard a Belted Kingfisher. Ok, I believed that’s what I heard. Like, I was ready to bet money on it. I checked a bit further west, but it wasn’t on the island. Just a single, solitary male Hooded Merganser. So, either the Belted Kingfisher was hidden somewhere ahead, or that Hooded Merganser was having fun imitating it.

Walking back to my car, I saw bats flying overhead. I really want to know where they are in the day. Gotta look that up. I tried to get sight of them in my binocs, but it was impossible. Perhaps frogs and bats are just creatures I’ll never get good looks at. Unless I get night vision goggles for Xmas?

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