Natalie Coffin Greene Park and Phoenix Lake (3/7/2022)

Today I finally went to visit Phoenix Lake! I’ve been wanting to check it out for a while. And, we tried (FOOLISHLY) to go on a weekend afternoon. So, this time, for my monthly day trip, I assumed (FOOLISHLY) that it’d be a piece of cake to park in the tiny parking lot at Natalie Coffin Greene Park.

I was FOOLISH, I SAY! However, despite the tiny parking lot being full on a Monday afternoon, I was able to park a half mile out. Only one spot on the street left, but it was all mine! And, I ended up being glad I had to walk on Dibblee Road to get in and out. Read on, and you’ll find out why.

Entering onto Dibblee Road, I was greeted by Ross Creek. And, there’s lots of water in there! It was a lovely sound to start with. Spotted a single Pacific Trillium on the creek side. And, noticed a bunch of Fetid Adderstongue (no blooms) on the steep hillside wall on the other side. If I had parked in the tiny parking lot, I’d never have seen these things.

Got to Natalie Coffin Greene Park, and it’s cute! It’s small! There are a handful of picnic tables, a covered space, and some portable bathrooms. And, that’s it? I need to look up who Natalie Coffin Greene was.

Started up Phoenix-Lake Road, and adorable Pacific Hound’s Tongue was the first thing that caught my eye. So nice they’re still out! And, they were everywhere around Phoenix Lake. Along with Pacific Pea, Blue Dicks, California Buttercup, and Milkmaids, of course.

Rounded a corner, and I spotted a white iris just off the path. Newtome iris! Fernald’s Iris! Who’s FERNALD? Beautiful purple lupine (Arroyo? Varied?) was ahead. And Hairy Vetch. Yellow-rumped Warblers were fly-catching above me. And, Acorn Woodpeckers were calling nearby.

Got to the dam, and I spotted a Lesser Goldfinch drinking from a large pipe end! It flew closer to me, where I watched it stick its head into a small hole in a tree. Then, spotted an Oak Titmouse eversobriefly in the tree next to it. Heard Acorn Woodpeckers behind me, and there they were. ALSO, FLY-CATCHING! Didn’t know they did that! Heard rustling above me, and a White-breasted Nuthatch was investigating the tree it was on. So many birds I don’t see so often all in one place!

Arrived to a good view of Phoenix Lake, and there weren’t as many birds out on it as I expected. A Western Fence Lizard eyed me approaching to get a better look. Ok, a handful of Double-crested Cormorants were there, mostly sitting in the sun on a floating thing. And, a Great Blue Heron was near them. Some turtles. That was it! Looked like a nice lake for ducks and whatnot, but who knows? I admired an Acorn Woodpecker doing its acorn business, then I continued on.

So, I was expecting to see Checker Lilies around Phoenix Lake. And, I spotted my first one on the hillside. It was the only one in bloom there, but I thought maybe it was JUST THE BEGINNING.

Turned the corner, and some Pacific Poison Oak (of which, there was A TON) was blooming. Wish I’d been able to get up closer to enjoy its pretty yellow flowers, but it was high up and coming out of a wall of rock. Nope!

Miniature Lupine was ahead. So tiny! And, Bowltube Iris (?) and Warrior’s Plume and Purple Sanicle led me to where Yolanda Trail began. It looked so inviting. I detoured onto it for just a little bit, in case Checker Lilies were there. But, no. Would be nice to explore it next time.

Rounded another corner, and the Porteous Log Cabin was there. It’s so neat! All redwood and curly redwood trimming the windows. I ventured toward it to see if I might be able to see inside the windows, but a flurry of mosquitoes kept me at bay. Next time.

A bunch of Pacific Trillium showed up. Spotted some Trametes mushrooms. And, I descended onto the Ord Trail, which crosses the west end of the lake. No newts that I could see, but a pretty in pink Pacific Trillium was there, along with a log being devoured by Turkey-Tail. A very different and hidden scene over in that corner. TONS of Fetid Adderstongue (no flowers) there, too!

Started on the south side of the loop, and the scenery changed. I could hear a Red-shouldered Hawk crying. And, a Northern Flicker. Remnants of Waxcaps. Caught sight of a solo Pied-billed Grebe out on the lake. Henderson’s Shooting Stars appeared.

AND, the true beginning of Checker Lilies. Now, I would say that only 10% were blooming from all the Checker Lily plants I saw. Some had baby buds. Some were close to opening. So, Phoenix Lake has definitely not hit Checker Lily peak yet. Nice thing is, on the south side of the loop, there are A BUNCH right on the trail. At shin/knee height! Saw so many right along the trail edge that I never thought to look up to see if more were above on the hillside. Even lucked out at seeing the only yellow-dominant colored ones!

Rounded the Southeast part of the lake, and I heard then saw a Northern Flicker high up and flying to another tree. Even when I don’t get the best looks, it’s always gratifying to actually see them after hearing them. It’s not usually the case…

Headed up the East side, and Common Star Lilies were EVERYWHERE. Something called Springbeauty (Pale Springbeauty?) gave pink notes to the hillside, too. After documenting the Springbeauty, I stopped to grab a snack from my Totoro backpack. And, I happened to see TWO black caterpillars near the ground! Variable Checkerspot?? I so rarely see caterpillars. It was crazy exciting, especially as I entirely lucked out in seeing them at all.

A Mourning Dove sang to me as I closed in on the lake loop. It was past sunset, and I hadn’t heard any owls. Didn’t expect to hear any, but I was just curious if I might.

Walked back down Phoenix-Lake Road (only because it was getting dark), so the Ross Trail back (while enticing) looked too dark for me. Next time.

Got close to the picnic tables, and I heard A HOOT. Heard it again, and it really sounded like a Great Horned Owl! Unfortunately, it was nowhere near me. And, it was getting very dark. But, it gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling to end my time there.

HOWEVER, walking back along Dibblee Road, I was closing in on the entrance when I heard OWL SOUNDS. It sounded like a Barred Owl, but without the long ending of their “Who cooks for youuuuuuu?” call. Used the Merlin app to Sound ID it, since there was no way I was going to see it, and it came back with Spotted Owl or Barred Owl. WOW! I could hear it really well, even though it was on the other side of the noisy creek. Sounded like MAYBE there was more than one owl over there?

Whether it was a Spotted or Barred Owl, it was SO EXCITING! I don’t have many newtome owl experiences on my own, so I was flippin’ THRILLED. And, I wouldn’t have heard it had I not walked that road into and out of Natalie Coffin Greene Park. Got home, and the Bob+Juli app came back with SPOTTED OWL. So, yeah. I heard a Spotted Owl at the end of my Naturing today. NOT TOO SHABBY!

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