Golden Gate Park (3/21/2022)

Today I welcomed in the first official day of Spring in my backyard. I felt it fitting, as GGPark is my home base. And, the East side is absolutely the part I spend most of my time as it’s so close to home.

Ok, so you’re probably already seeing that one of my primary pics is of a FLIPPIN’ BABY GREAT HORNED OWL. But, I write my nature journal posts in chronological order (for the most part). So, skip to the end if you’re only here for owls. It’s ok. I’ll never know.

Started walking down my street and noticed new blooms before I even got to Lincoln. The Flowering Cherry and Kanzan Cherry trees had substantial blossoms today. Nice. And, that Anna’s Hummingbird that rules our block was making its noises above me on a wire. All seemed well.

I wanted to do the Greatest Hits, as my default route has a nice variety. And, it’s a classic.

Monarch Bear Grove was interestingly quiet. Not a handful of birds at the entrance, which is kind of odd. BUT! Black-tailed Bumblebees were EVERYWHERE. I’ve never seen so many in one place before. On Blueblossom and Pride of Madeira, along with Western Honey Bees. The sight of all these buzzing lovelies was an equally charming start to my Naturing.

Even spotted what looked like a Crane Fly! I only got a crap photo, but both of my ID apps point to Crane Fly. First of the year!

That Cherry-Plum tree there is BONKERS right now. JUST BONKERS. And, the Cherry Laurel along the meadow appears to be half fresh flowers and half dried up flowers. Sad to see them starting to fade away.

Decided to fit in a stroll through the CAS Botanical Garden on my way to Stow Lake. It’d be a mouthful, but it should honestly be called the CAS California Native Botanical Garden. CASCNB. Gawd. Forget it. But, I wanted to walk through it since it is all California native flora.

I noticed today just how many California Buckeye trees are over there. So many! And, right now, they are so wonderful to look at. I love their leaf clusters that look like flower petals. So excited for when they’ll bloom.

EVEN MORE Black-tailed Bumblebees and Western Honey Bees were buzzing around frantically on the Wartleaf Ceanothus there. Got to watch them for a while. I could stand and watch them for a long, long time. They make me so happy.

While there, I actually spotted a newtome flower! CA Native, Fragrant Evening Primrose! There were just two flowers near the back entrance to the CAS. They look an awful lot like Hooker’s Evening Primrose, but white. Pretty! Also noticed that Redwood Sorrel is at the base of that small cluster of Coast Redwoods. Wow! How have I missed that??

Further West, a perfectly intact Douglas Iris stood alone and proud. And, a cluster of Parasola mushrooms (maybe Pleated Inkcaps?) were huddled together like a small family amongst Beach Strawberry leaves. Their spots on their tops look like eyes, and I imagined them wide-eyed and thinking, “How did we get here? Wasn’t there supposed to be more rain? Are we the only ones here?”

Walked through the Music Concourse, and the American Sycamores that dominate the center are starting to show leaves. I don’t enjoy looking at their knobby ends all winter. It’s like someone cut their limbs or something! So, I’m happy that they’ll soon be full of happy green leaves.

A number of Marsh Marigolds were dotting that super narrow creek near the closed gate of the Japanese Tea Garden. So pretty to see flowers there. Like they belong there. Further West, the cherry blossom trees are showing more blossoms. It’s going to look incredible there soon. Especially if the Wild Daffodils below hang on for a while.

Spotted two Fox Sparrows among the Song Sparrows at Squirrel Central. Maybe first time seeing them there? The Squirrel Lady and some of her disciples were there. Of course.

Up at Stow Lake, it looked like a picture-perfect Spring day. The blossoms up there are starting to come out. Think they’re Yoshino Cherry trees. Took some photos and need to keep on with that research.

All the usual regular birds on the lake were there. A Song Sparrow was singing, visibly in an empty tree, so I got to watch the performance for a spell. Further West, I spotted three male Hooded Mergansers. Intriguing!

And, while counting what Great Blue Herons I could see in the rookery, a Canada Goose flew in and landed next to a Canada Goose couple on the lake. The male, presumably, got super ticked off and chased it away. Then, he just honked and honked at his partner. Sometimes just opening his beak wide to show his tongue! While the one that flew in and out returned to perhaps its partner, who just honked and honked. It was really funny.

While watching all this, a human couple stopped to ask if I was seeing the herons. After telling them, “Yep!” they asked if I’d seen any babies. WHAT! “Nope!” I replied. They said they’d seen two baby heads from the waterfall. Great Blue Heron babies are HERE, folks! Gotta make a point to look for them the next time I do the Stow Lake Loop.

I habitually rounded that Northernmost tip of the lake, where trees used to overhang with a variety of ducks and turtles underneath. No one was there. Without the tree shade, I guess this is the new normal? Sad. Might skip it going forward. Boo.

Started on the Pioneer Trail, and Rhododendrons were VERY OUT. And, the Sagewood there looked a lot like the Cherry Laurel, half in bloom and half dried out. Guess our Premature Spring has ended.

After passing the Log Cabin, I heard a Pacific Wren making its R2D2-on-crack sounds. I’m hearing these far more often these days. Are there more here all of a sudden? Or, is it JUST SPRING?

A big group of Cedar Waxwings were hanging out high up in a tree with some flowers at the top, when an uninviting bird sound prompted them to all jet out of there. My Merlin app’s Sound ID feature believed it to be an American Robin. And, given that I could hear familiar Robin sounds, that made sense. I swear, I feel like I’ll never live to hear all of the sounds a Robin makes.

Across the meadow, in another tall tree, an unsual group of different birds were just chilling. Some Cedar Waxwings, an American Robin, two Yellow-rumped Warblers, and a Dark-eyed Junco. They all seemed to be still and watching where the Robin sound was coming from. But, they didn’t fly off. They didn’t flinch even. Like they couldn’t care less or something, Made me laugh.

On the trail, the Horse-Chestnut trees are full with fresh leaves. Looking nice over there. Can’t wait for the Kanzan Cherry trees to join the party.

Walking back past the Japanese Tea Garden again, I saw the main gate entrance from a different angle. And, the blossoming tree just near it made a pretty picture. Still have to wait about a month to go in for free as an SF resident. Can’t wait!

Wasn’t going to have time for the Lily Pond, so I bee-lined to Lila’s Hill to check in on the GHOs.

Magnolias in the Secret Garden have started to truly bloom. So nice. And, that mysterious blossom tree near there is blooming again. Gotta figure that one out. Got better photos than last year. Hoping that helps!

Tried seeing if I could find the GHOs in their pine tree from the West side. NOPE. But, what was that gray bit of feathers? A weird side-view of one? Could hardly see it, so I climbed up the hill.

Looked and looked, and no owls. A girl walked up and sat on one of the benches right when I saw it. A BABY GREAT HORNED OWL. OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG. I first spotted it in my binocs, and I GASPED and then said, “Oh my GAWD!” And, the baby owl LOOKED RIGHT AT ME. I was frightened all of a sudden! Seriously! They have THAT POWER.

She asked me, “What are you seeing?” I told her. And, she was delighted. She asked if you could just see it with your eyes. It’s too funny how 99% of the time the answer is “NO WAY!” But, I let her use my binocs, and I told her where to stand and what to look for. “Try higher up,” and she found them. And, she gasped with glee. It was nice to share it. After talking a bit about the parents and the other pairs in GGPark, she asked, “How do you know all this?” I pointed to my Owl Witch pin and explained that I’m not quite a stalker, but I’ve been following them for two years. I am so one of those wildlife weirdos of the park!

But, I will not wear an owl (or any other bird, for that matter) feather on me. At all. Ever. Not happening.

Ren was in the area, so I then texted her about it. She was soon there, and she was able to see, as well. Yay! It appears to be less than a foot tall right now. Covered in downy feathers. TOTAL FURBALL! But, those GHO eyes. Gawd, are they piercing. Really wish I’d been able to get better photos, but it is damn well hidden in there!

I looked for any other owlets, but that was the only one I found. So far. No sign of the parents. And, the owlet was a couple feet from the nest. So, there could be more? Maybe Ma Owl was in the nest still? With another owlet?

REGARDLESS, I am feeling so happy and proud. Like I have been waiting in the waiting room, and allofasudden a baby was in front of me. LIKE MAGIC.

So, yeah. Obviously, I’ll be checking in on the newborn and its parents and any other siblings a bit more than usual. If you’re anywhere near the opposite of the owl fans, TOO BAD!

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