Golden Gate Park (12/15/2021)

Today I Natured in the morning! I saw the forecast for rain in the afternoon and HAD to fit in time to be outside today since I wasn’t able to Monday (rain) or Tuesday (acting gig) and won’t be able to Thursday (volunteering) or Friday (appointment)! Only one true day of Naturing this week, BOO.

I had a very specific thing I needed to check today, since I won’t be able to Nature again til Tuesday. And, that will be the first day of WINTER. I had to check to confirm if Lemmon’s Marigold was A) truly on Strawberry Hill as I believed I’d seen there before but stupidly didn’t note in my database, and B) that it was also blooming as I’ve seen it doing recently in other places in GGPark. And, IT WAS. More on that later.

It was so odd to be out in my park before noon on a weekday. Don’t think I’ve ever done that?? It was nice and quiet and cold out. And, Stow Lake was pretty empty compared to when I’m usually there.

My first stop was when I noticed two pairs of Northern Shovelers shoveling away at the lake surface. Then, I saw a male Bufflehead in the lake. I don’t think I have any decent photos of it, so I took some time trying to snap it in the two seconds it was above water. The iridescence on its head was so gorgeous. There were even two males that I had chances at, but alas. My camera, of course, failed to capture it.

Moving West, after spotting a Yellow-rumped Warbler that I got a decent photo of (!), I stopped again where there were a number of birds at the water’s edge, and I spotted the Lesser Scaup! Now, this one bird I saw often last winter. Wasn’t sure if it’d be back this time, but there he was! He was, just like last winter, hanging with a good sized group of Ring-necked Ducks. An old Asian man stopped to take notice, too. And, we talked about how that one is special as Scaups don’t come to Stow Lake that we’ve seen. He told me that there seemed to be less Northern Shovelers than in recent years. And, how beautiful the Buffleheads were. And, as we were chatting and taking photos, more and more birds came to us. Canada Geese were at our feet. A group of Rock Pigeons flew kind of into our faces to land below us. Even one of the Buffleheads joined in and got crazy close to us. We didn’t feed them a thing, but they didn’t seem to mind. And, it was really nice to talk shop with someone else who pays attention to such things!

I continued on my way to the pretty bridge, when I noticed a Townsend’s Warbler and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet seemingly following each other as they explored a tree right in front of me. I would’ve sworn they were buddies or something. As I was watching them, two older ladies stopped to ask me what I was seeing. The Kinglet had flown across the path just before, so I pointed out the Townsend’s Warbler to them. The one with binoculars said, “I’m so glad I brought my binoculars today!” And, I thought, “If you want to see Warblers well, you NEED THEM!”

After passing some newly planted trees on the lake side where blackberry bushes were previously, I saw more than a hundred red group clusters of mushrooms on the opposite side of the path. They kind of looked like Chip Cherries, but the clusters were SO LARGE that I wasn’t sure about it. A different pair of older ladies stopped to investigate with me. One of the ladies had her own mushroom ID app that stated they were something I was not familiar with. And, we chatted about mushrooms being out lately. They then told me about pulling mushrooms out of their own garden because they’re not good for a garden? And, they went on their way.

So, yeah. Maybe morning people are more friendly / outgoing / chatty / interested in talking to strangers? It was certainly way more interaction that I had in my first 30 minutes of Naturing than I’ve ever had before?

I crossed the pretty bridge, and my favorite path up was no longer blocked off with yellow tape. And, soon after I started on it, I saw why. Two large pine trees had come down in that first big storm we had some weeks ago. Their roots and earth they brought up was like the size of like eight or so people lined up? NUTSO.

Red-flowering Currant was blooming and coloring my walk up nicely. And, when I got to the waterfall, NO ONE WAS THERE. This was ODD. I think I’ve never been at the top of the waterfall without at least one or two people already there or coming through when I was there. It was kind of creepy? I looked up to a tree where I’ve often seen a Red-tailed Hawk before, and THERE IT WAS. Yep, that still happens.

I walked up the short staircase and confirmed the Lemmon’s Marigold was indeed there, and it was BLOOMING. So gratifying that I can confidently say it’ll go into The Book (Strawberry Hill – FALL).

Made my usual counter-clockwise loop around the reservoir and saw a variety of mushrooms (Pavement Mushroom, Panthercap, Trametes I can’t ID, Jelly Spot Fungus, Wolf’s Milk) and blooming California Manroot. Got to the west side, and there were two new informal gardens! Blooming Common Yarrow, Sea Thrift, Wall Germander, and Sulphur Cinquefoil. So lovely!

There was very little activity at the bee boxes. And, it looked like maybe two were dead (or passed out? Do they pass out?) at the entrance. Not sure what goes on with bees in wintertime. Gotta look that up.

I saw no Great Horned Owls in the tree on the north side that I’ve seen in there before. But, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet caught my eye, and I followed it a little as it hopped constantly from one shrub to another. It made me notice a handful of Crevice Alumroot plants nearby that were in bloom. So hard to see those tiny flowers!

As I noticed a Pygmy Nuthatch near the top of a tall dead tree trunk, two Steller’s Jays came in and scared off a group of Golden-crowned Sparrows which made me see a Townsend’s Warbler bopping around in a Coast Live Oak at the east end. After seeing it, I spotted a Ruby-crowned Kinglet nearby doing the same. Were these the same two I saw earlier?? I like to think so. I like to think they are besties and go on adventures together.

I made my way down the large staircase and saw a blooming Tree Dahlia near the bottom. Never saw that there before! After taking a couple more photos of the stacked mushrooms in the pine tree I’d seen at the end of October at the ugly bridge to help with my iNat observation, I saw two Muscovy Ducks hanging at the lake’s edge. Neither are the grand patriarch that I often see at Stow Lake. And, I’ve only seen one of the non-grand patriarchs before. Huh! Those ducks are so intriguing to me!

As it turned out, it didn’t rain in the afternoon. Yet another failed forecast, one of many in recent years. But, I admit it was a delight to spend time in my emptyish park before noon on a weekday. It’s a comfort to know it’s an option. When I don’t have pilates.

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