Golden Gate Park (1/28/2022)

Today I was looking forward to walking around Stow Lake. And maybe up Strawberry Hill.

On the way there, along MLK, I inhaled a delightful scent and thought, “Is that Cherry Laurel?” And, it WAS! I guess after recognizing bird sounds, the next thing for me is flower scents?

Up at Stow Lake, there was a new handful of birds I haven’t seen yet this year, Ruddy Ducks! Two males and one female that I could see. The males were far from me and tucking their beautiful sky blue bills into their sides for the most part. So nice to see them again! Wish I had been able to get a better photo, but I quite like the ones I got of the female.

The usual crew were out. Even the couple pairs of Northern Shovelers are still around, along with that one Hooded Merganser and that one Lesser Scaup. Such rogues.

I stopped to admire the variety of birds in the water when I noticed a Great Blue Heron flying above me, carrying some twigs in its beak. Beak or bill? Gah, I need to look up the difference again on that. But! It carried the twig to one of the nests in the rookery tree, and it passed it to another GBH waiting in the nest. It was passed then immediately used in the nestmaking! Watching bird parents nesting. It’s fantastic.

THEN, right in the nest behind, another GBH hopped up onto another GBH. I watched two herons mating! It was something like 3 times as long as when I’ve seen Great Horned Owls mating. Weird! Is it because they’re more gangly? So, yeah. I can check THAT off my list now. I’m so kidding. I so don’t have THAT LIST.

Moving on, I noticed blooming Sagewood across the street from the lake. Didn’t know it was over there! Feeling good that I’m including it in The Book now. It’s nice to know my readers will have good chances of seeing what’s in The Book. It’s also nice to know where all the Sagewood is in GGPark, so I can point it out to friends to share the dreamy scent.

Gone are the blooming Orange Clockvine, but now blooming Japanese Honeysuckle is out. Purple-leaf Plum trees are showing bits of leaves. And, I hate to say it, but it really does look like one of my favorite GGPark flowering plants is gone – Marmalade-bush. I saw that it’d been taken out some weeks ago, along with A TON of blackberry bushes on the south side of the lake. I had hoped on future visits I’d be able to find the bare bones of the plant still there, but nope. Looks like it’s gone for good as far as I can tell. Boo.

Over at the southwest corner, the familiar Muscovy Duck was there with some other Mallards and Ring-necked Ducks. As I was admiring him and his gorgeous iridescent back feathers, a guy came up holding onto the leash of his desperate dog. Desperately trying to get as close as possible to the ducks. The guy let his dog get pretty close, which I did not appreciate. The ducks all slowly waddled over toward me, eyeing the dog nervously. The Muscovy Duck got closest to me. And, it kind of looked up knowingly at me. I tried to send it my thoughts, and I said to it, “I won’t let that dog harm you.” I think it knew.

Rounding the corner, I saw a couple newtome flowers on the lake side. Whut! A Grevillea (to be IDed) and Paperwhite. How did I miss them last year? Also nearby, Summer Snowflake was already blooming. That name should really be reconsidered.

Passing the boathouse, that cove that used to always be a place to find a variety of ducks has been entirely cleared of the tree mess that was there from cutting down some very large trees that provided a canopy over there. Looks so bare now. And, hardly any ducks. Just a Red-eared Slider turtle, looking as if it was about to face-dive any second. I wonder if the Wood Ducks will come back and hang out there again later this year.

Willow catkins are out, and some Yellow-faced Bumblebees were enjoying them. Just past them, a hybrid duck couple wondered if I might feed them. They were both quite lovely to look at. And, the female (I’m guessing) gave me a stare down that I won’t forget for some time. Seemingly asking, “Are you going to feed me now? How about now? Now?”

Even though I’d taken my sweet time walking around the lake, I had time to visit Strawberry Hill. Singing Song Sparrows greeted me along the main staircase. Seems like they’ve started singing in general lately? Or, maybe I’m catching them more recently when it’s been sunny out? And, they sing more then? I don’t know. But, I’m liking it.

I took in the view from near the top of the waterfall, and I saw that you get great views of the Great Blue Herons in their nests from up there! You’re actually ABOVE THEM! Good to note for the future.

After taking some photos of what looked like white slime mold on a large log, I heard a coyote howling from far away. It sounded like it was coming from way down on Pioneer Trail or something. That’s FAR. It soon stopped, but I always have a concerned reaction when I hear them howling now. And, I worry they are being pricked by blackberry bushes!

The Wartleaf Ceanothus was giving the Blueblossom a run for its money at the reservoir level. Blooming California Manroot is lining the reservoir fence. And, as I was checking in on the new plantings on the west side, a COYOTE trotted in front of me along the back of the new garden. Like, ten feet from me. Just passing through! I’ve never heard or seen coyotes on Strawberry Hill before. It continued on the path south of the reservoir. And, I got nervous when it got to the end, as a lot of folks would easily be in its way. It headed down the south trail. And, I was relieved as that trail is not very popular. So, Coyote sighting!

After taking in an amazing baby Red-flowering Currant plant, with blooming flowers already on it, and an Anna’s Hummingbird, I decided to head up to the top of Strawberry Hill. Haven’t been up there in a while. There’s not that much up there, especially in the winter. Most of the flowers up there are likely not blooming yet, and it was too late in the day to see any butterflies. But, the sunset was nice to see up there. And, blooming Baby Sage and Island Snapdragon are out and starting to color the place.

While checking on the butterfly-friendly bushes, I looked down the south side of the hill where the trail below can be seen. And, the coyote was down there! It looked up at me! And, I got the sense that maybe it wasn’t sure how to get off the island. Both bridges are often with people on them. It headed off. And, I hoped it would just hunker down until it got dark, so it could more easily leave and avoid people in doing so.

I headed back down to the reservoir level. There, I heard a biker coming down from the top fast, so I turned to get out of its way. As it whizzed by me, the coyote ran across and onto the trail, heading up! Poor thing! It got halfway up, looked at me for a second, then peered intently down the hillside. I watched it and got some photos, only one of which was barely in focus. It turned and trotted up to the top. I had just seen a woman with her unleashed dog up there, and I wished for the best. I wish more dog owners would keep their dogs on leash.

I thought maybe I’d hear the Great Horned Owls of Stow Lake at that point, but nope. Giving up on that, I headed down the hill. And, I heard a super faint HOOT. But, it was incredibly difficult to tell where it was coming from. I’d have followed the sounds to find where they were, but Happy Hour was calling me.

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