Golden Gate Park (12/23/2021)

Today I snuck in some Naturing inbetween the rains! Lucky me, there was a brief break with some random light drizzle/mist here and there. It’s the only day I’m able to spend outside this week! Feels like it’s been so long since I last Natured. I decided to see if I could find the Great Horned Owls of the Lily Pond with only the hour and a half I had to work with. I’ve been curious to know if they hoot when it’s wet out. I read that they don’t when it’s windy. Figured I’d spend a little time looking for them there and in the Secret Gardens, and that there would be enough mushrooms to occupy my time otherwise. And, I GOT MUSHROOMS ALRIGHT.

It was my first time Naturing since the official start of Winter. All Fall research for The Book has thus been concluded. And, this is great, as I’m feeling like I can nail down all Fall species at this point! And, it was my first time Naturing with it being a little wet out and with an umbrella. I don’t recommend it. Navigating it and my phone or camera for photos/IDing was not fun.

I started at the south entrance to the Lily Pond and decided to loop clockwise. First thing I spotted was The Prince mushroom! Second time ever seeing it. And, there were tons of Chip Cherries around the area. I don’t think I’ve seen them there before. And, there are new plantings in that spot now, so lots of wood chips to make the mushrooms that like it happy.

Taking the back trail, I stopped to see if there was any Laetiporus on the large log. Nope! All gone! But, Common Bonnet and Shaggy Parasol were there instead. No signs of Yellow Fieldcaps.

I stood up to turn back to the path, and I saw a large dog on the trail – NO. It was a COYOTE. Casually sauntering along the trail, not concerned with me. It stopped further up, looked back at me a second, shook its fur, then continued on. It went exactly where I’d planned to go, so I super slowly continued on my way – hoping it was far ahead or off the trail. I came up to the crest, and there it was. Still on the trail. And, now, a man with his dog (on a leash, thankfully) was on the opposite side. The coyote turned to look at him, then me, then him, then decided to trot off the trail. I felt bad. Like, we should yield to coyotes making their rounds for the night. The man with the dog said to me, “Some standoff, huh?” And, I thought, that coyote was probably annoyed it had to go around the humans. It could not have appeared to me to be eager for a fight in any way.

So, that happened something like 15 minutes into my Naturing time? Exciting! I assumed that’d be the highlight of my day out. I had incredibly low expectations of seeing wildlife, given how wet it had been and was at that point.

I was on my way to my Slime Mold Lab (that huge tree trunk on the trail where the GHO nest tree is), and I spotted Candlesnuff Fungus on a small dead tree bit. Super amazing! Half of the mushrooms I’ve seen look like they belong on another world, and this is one of them. I’ve only ever seen them once before, in Russian River!

My Slime Mold Lab was no longer a slime mold lab. Instead, I found what might be Fairy Bleeding Helmets. Alan on iNat will likely help me with that ID. Chip Cherries were also in the Secret Gardens, along with some strange fungusy stuff I won’t likely be able to get a firm ID on.

I walked up the short path toward the Lily Pond and saw a coyote dart from the ivy and toward the main path ahead. Second sighting of it!

On the path down to the Lily Pond, Nitrous Bonnets and Scurfy Twiglets were hanging out. And, when I got to the Lily Pond, a hummingbird was feeding from the blooming Mountain Grape tree/shrub/thing. Can’t remember if it’s a tree or shrub, hm. It calmly sat still for me, but the low light gave me terrible photos of it.

No sign of the GHOs in the tall pine tree. And, that huge nest up there is now half its size. Looks like it fell apart in the rains. Perhaps the GHOs have given up on it.

Only a couple Mallards and Ring-necked Ducks were on the pond. Where’d the Hooded Mergansers go??

At the Tree Fern Dell side, Bear’s Breeches leaves were way more than I remember from last time. Lots of holes in the leaves! Also, Calla Lily leaves are out and big. And, what I think is Gentian Sage is starting to be quite noticeable! Also saw some neat mushrooms over there, like Stereum and Red Edge Brittlestem.

Gave up on the GHOs there, so I returned to the Secret Gardens to see if I’d hear them there. It was getting close to sunset. Near the top of the path, I heard woodpeckers. I finally spotted a Northern Flicker and a Nuttall’s Woodpecker. It is REALLY HARD to find them when it’s so dark and gray out!

I felt like it was pure chance I happened to find them both. I have pretty bad luck with woodpeckers. Didn’t hear any hooting, and the light seemed to stick around longer than I thought it would. And, Renate Elster and Mike were at the Lily Pond, so I headed back to see if I could catch them. While watching a solo Yellow-rumped Warbler, they both appeared. We exchanged a bit of what we saw and went on our ways.

I decided to head back to my car from the owl nursery, and as I approached the top of the path I heard HOOTING. Coming from the Secret Gardens. Heard a second hoot but could not place where it was for the life of me. I followed the first hoot sound, which seemed to come from the pine tree where I’d seen them before. But, it stopped. I went back to the nest tree spot, and a coyote was ahead at the end. It casually crossed the path and headed left. I couldn’t believe how it never once looked at me. I was pretty close to it! It crossed around and came back to the trail to continue on its way. I would’ve yielded! I just get so dumbstruck when I see them that I stand perfectly still, hoping not to bother them. Guess deer aren’t the only ones?

So, THIRD sighting of what is likely the same coyote?? It was definitely a Coyote Day for me. Not too shabby for my only Naturing day of the week. I’ll take it.

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