Glen Canyon Park (1/30/2022)

Today I had a spurish of the moment decision on where to go Naturing. The chill in the air at my home in the Inner Sunset directed me to visit a place with lots of unshadedness that I haven’t been to since the early times of the pandemic. Glen Canyon. So glad I went!

I’ve been thinking about visiting this place again lately. I’ve only ever been the once. We went, for our first time, sometime in mid-2020, perhaps? It was a REVELATION that there was a canyon in our city. And, my second visit being on a weekend day had me a bit nervous, as I prefer Naturing without hoardes of people around. Especially my first time somewhere. But, the first unintentional eavesdropping I had upon my arrival was overhearing a woman tell a man with her that, “This is the best time to go to Trader Joe’s. I’m going right now.” And, this made think maybe today was the Super Bowl? Other indicators helped this deduction. And, this remark helped put me at ease that, despite it being a sunny day, maybe it was a good time to be at a park in my city on a weekend day. And, it was true!

The last time we went, we did a clockwise loop. So, this time, I tried the counter clockwise loop. And, it was nice to get a slightly different persepective than last time. I think last time it was summer. Or something. It was dry. This time couldn’t have been more different. Grasses and invasive plants made all the hillsides green. And, THE CREEK. I can’t wait to tell you about it later.

Spotted some Coastal Rosemary in the community center area I walked through first. So, that was my first flora sighting. And, I love that little bunny rabbit flower! So, I was pleased.

Before I even got onto any trails, I saw two Red-tailed Hawks soaring, heard a Steller’s Jay’s squawking, watched a California Scrub-Jay fly into a bush, and heard a White-crowned Sparrow singing. So, it was good from the start.

Heading up to the hillside trail, TONS of blooming Bermuda Buttercup were covering the hillside along with grasses. Some other mustard flowers were helping turn everything into a pretty yellow hue. BUT. I spotted some newtome yellow flowers soon after! Woollyfruit Desertparsley and Sun Cup and California Buttercup!

A handful of California Poppies showed themselves. Common Vetch were also on the hillside. And, a Yellow-faced Bumblebee led the way north.
I got to a rocky spot (one of many on that trail), and I was able to watch a White-crowned Sparrow eating in the grass about ten feet in front of me. Didn’t seem to mind me standing there, smiling at it. For some reason, it thought a eucalyptus fruit would be something it could eat. Silly sparrow. That fruit is bigger than your head!

Blue Dicks (yes, I wish that wasn’t its common name) and Silver Lupine and Western Blue-eyed Grass helped color the hillside with purple compared to the blinding yellow everywhere. And, I soon spotted ANOTHER newtome flower, Purple Sanicle! It’s my fourth Sanicle flower spotting. And, all have been native. How bout that.

I was about halfway (?) along the hillside when I saw a chunk of dirt missing from the hillside. Water was seeping from it and onto the trail and into a long stretch of median between two trails. What do you call that? When a long and narrow bit of land captures runoff water? Hm. It was bizarre. Not something I’ve seen from an otherwise completely looking dry hillside. But, the watery median looked very happy to have the water. Pink Honeysuckle and Pacific Aster in particular appeared to enjoy the mini oasis. Little did I know that this was foreshadowing for later…

I got to a fork in the trail, and I took the lower trail. Turns out, I hadn’t been on it before! I came across a Coast Live Oak tree growing right out of the chert wall. Spotted some Coyote Brush Bud Gall Midge (I think), recognizing it from my last trip to Tilden. I’m recognizing galls now! Exciting!

I realized the lower trail was a shortcut down, so I looped back to continue on the higher trail. Up there, the hillside was covered in Wild Radish plants, which the Golden-crowned Sparrows were enjoying. Looking up at the plants entirely dominating the hillside, I wondered what that hillside would look like without the introduced species there. What would be there instead?

I was prompted by another Yellow-faced Bumblebee (or the same one from earlier??) to take a rest at the next rocky spot and have my snack. It was here that I noticed some white cottony stuff on some sagebrush. As of now, iNat makes me think it’s Sagebrush Woolly Stem Gall Midge. We’ll see if anyone helps me with that ID…

I descended down into the floor of the canyon, where all the willows are. Spotted another gall there on a willow that I’m waiting for ID help on at iNat. Turkey-Tail and False Turkey-Tail started showing up in many spots. And, then I heard sounds of A CREEK. Now, last time we visited, there were no creek sounds. There was no sign of a creek, other than the center of the canyon bed where lots of trees/foliage were. I think I’d seen “Islais Creek” on the map there before. But, I figured it had dried up or was underground or something. Certainly not VISIBLE and AUDIBLE and FLOWING AND WHATNOT. But, it was FLOWING. It’s a small creek, but it was PRESENT. It was awesome to hear and see.

Didn’t see many other mushrooms, even though that part of the canyon was close to water and covered with many willow trees. But, I did see some bizarre black stuff on the side of a tree trunk. Peppered Moon Lichen? We shall see. Oh, and there was some small bits of evidence of Yellow Fieldcaps. Perhaps I was just too late after the rains to see the mushroom offerings in the area.

I got to a spot along the creek where you can see plantings with flags. What I could see looked like ferns. Would love to know what all theyr’e planting so close to the creek! There’s even a little bridge that goes over it. And, I can’t help but be dumbfounded as to how we missed this our first time. I could not wait to get home and read up all about Islais Creek!

I approached a fork in the trail, where there were three options to continue. One was along the creek. One had an interpretive sign on it with the abandoned school building behind it. And, one was along the west hillside. I didn’t recall seeing the sign before, so I headed up to see it. And, it was all about the Islais Creek! Definitely missed this last time. But, last time, there was no creek to be heard or seen. So, I forgave myself.

Turns out the creek collects water from the higher land around it, like Twin Peaks. And, it all of a sudden made sense to me that I saw water seeping from the hillside earlier. This creek collects it all! And, originally it ran all the way to THE BAY.

I was about at the end of the loop. And, I heard A HOOT. Now, our last visit involved Great Horned Owls. At about the exact same place, we had a man with binoculars inform us that there were Great Horned Owlets high up on the hillside above us. And, because he told us this, we were able to see THREE OWLETS that day in 2020. We never saw or heard the parent owls. So, that was all my experience was with owls in that area. Needless to say, I was so happy to hear an adult owl at that moment.

Being a Certified Owl Witch, I have aspirations of knowing all of the Great Horned Owls in my city. To start. Getting to know the Barn Owls will be a major task. But, once I’ve met all the established GHOs in SF, I’ll move onto that goal.

This one was the only one I heard hooting. And, it took some time to find it. The area is predominantly eucalyptus. And, I’m still not certain they roost in those trees. So, I looked in the few cypress trees around. But, nothing. I had to wait for it to get darker to isolate where the hoot was coming from.

And, it wasn’t just the light that wasn’t helping. American Robins were chattering away. Chesnut-backed Chickadees were at it, too. And, car noise from O’Shaughnessey Blvd. It was tough. But, I killed some time noting some blooming Osoberry and a couple mushrooms I spotted nearby (Funeral Bells and Shaggy Parasol). And, as I was about to give up in finding it, I checked one unlikely tree top, moved my binocs over to the left, and THERE IT WAS. Like a cat perched on top of a eucalyptus branch. I kind of couldn’t believe I found it! Didn’t get great photos. It was dark. It was far. But, I got enough to submit it to iNat.

It stopped hooting. And, it was still and quiet for A WHILE. No other hooting heard. Made me wonder about the pair here. Where was the female? Were they still together? WHAT’S GOING ON. Guess I’d have to come back more often to know. These GHOs aren’t often reported in iNat. Might be because they’re tough to see so high up?

I gave up on seeing movement. Was hoping to see it fly, even to just another tree. But, it was getting pretty chilly. And, it wasn’t going to be so easy to see much given the density of all those eucalyptus. But, it was a thrill to see what I suspect is one of the established GHOs of Glen Canyon. So nice to meet new owls in my city.

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