Today I went to my park and tried out my new camera.
Okokok, I don’t typically post two primary photos of the same kinda thing. I don’t. BUT, these two were the highlights of my day. So, I made an exception.
Oh, and that new digital camera I was planning to buy myself for my birthday in August? I realized my tax refund was practically the same amount of $ I was planning to spend, so my birthday present became a tax refund present! Just putting my money back into the economy, folks. Still have A LOT to learn about how to use it (not a huge difference from old camera, honestly, and yet, there’s still enough new stuff to learn!), but I just had to take her out for a spin.
I’ve been meaning to visit Middle Lake and South Lake and check in again on the Great Horned Owls of the Chain of Lakes. So, that’s where I headed first. And, first things first, those GHOs.
Sometimes even I am amazed that I can spot a GHO in massive pine trees. And, I did just that. Way high up, with its back to the sun. I pretty much blinded myself getting looks and bad photos of it. Likely not the new camera’s fault. That sun was BLAZING. But, found one adult. No other. And, no owlet. Still hoping. Maybe the female is on that nest? Oh! And, I somehow managed to see the nest! Don’t know how I’ve missed it before, but there it was. Can’t see into it at all, of course. We shall see what transpires…
I haven’t been to Middle Lake in forever. And, it really should be renamed if they’re never going to fill it with water! Middle Hole. Middle Basin. SOMETHING. It was mostly quiet. But, Pride of Madeira lined the entrance. The bees were enjoying it. And, the Red-shouldered Hawk that I’d heard crying while I was looking at the GHO just happened to be high up in a euc when I looked up at some point. Love when that happens. Right past it, a California Towhee and a Black Phoebe were sharing a log.
The “lake” was not the dry and beige wasteland that I’ve come to expect. There was actually green grass in many spots! And, in the middle, you can now see large stones that look like steps where the bottom of the lake bed is. Neat! I walked in toward the lake, where I first saw and heard a coyote in GGPark. And, I saw that blooming Sagewood was right there. Another place it can be found, yay!
Rounded the Southeast corner, and I noticed a shrine nestled in a tree spot. Felt like I was on Mt. Sutro! Just past it, Cultivated Tobacco was in full force. I feel like it’s been in bloom every time I’ve been by there, like perhaps all year long or something??
That spot with the many sages is lit up with purple sage (don’t even ask me exactly what kind) and Scarlet Sage (?) and some leftover Lemmon’s Marigold. In that corner, I got to watch an Allen’s Hummingbird in full bright orange-necked glory. Just DAZZLING.
Common Hawthorn and Bird’s-eye Speedwell and a pink camelia tree and Calla Lilies were out in that secret meadow over there. That was the end of my Middle Lake loop, so I headed to South Lake. JUST in case something was going on over there.
Borage and lovely scented roses smiled at me on my way. And, as I suspected, nothing was going on at South Lake. As usual. EXCEPT, a Black Phoebe was cracking me up by diving onto the lake’s surface a couple times for a bath. Oh, and some Yellow Irises were there. That’s it.
Walked past the Equitation Field, and I spotted some gorgeous Pot Marigolds all by themselves. Random!
Got to the Chain of Lakes Garden, and things were happening! Douglas Irises were about to open, and some further in already had. Pot Marigolds were blooming there, as well, along with Western Blue-Eyed Grass and Perez’s Sea Lavender. The place is starting to get into the Spring of things! I made it to the other end of the garden, and an Umber Skipper popped out and landed. First of the year for me! How I adore them.
Just past it, I saw that fresh wood chips were laid out for a new trail. WHUT! I followed it, and there are new trails under those trees next to the garden. Yay! But, even better than that, the Pacific Wren I was hearing while walking through the garden was SUPER LOUD in there. I stopped and actually saw it! Exposed! It was on the top of a log, singing its heart out.
Ok, so this is MOMENTOUS. I often hear Pacific Wrens, but I RARELY see them. In fact, I think I’ve only seen them a handful of times. Maybe just three?? And, never for very long. So, this was SUPER EXCITING for me. It soon flew closeish to me into clover and out of sight. I just stood there, watching where it went and thinking how great it was that I got to SEE IT and even get some photos. THEN, it popped up onto a low part of the tree above it. And, it started to call. No song. But, a call. And, it kept repeating it. And, it started to HOP CLOSER AND CLOSER TO ME. I just stood frozen, initially delighted it was showing itself to me until I realized it was UPSET BY MY PRESENCE. It actually got about FOUR FEET FROM ME and kept sounding its alarm and looking at me! I slowly backed away, and it popped back down and out of sight. Guess I was close to a nest? Or nest site? Or, I was hurting its chances of attracting a mate? WHATEVER IT WAS, I was sorry. And, I quietly made my exit.
I even spotted some interesting white mushrooms under a tree in the area, but I continued on my way out for the Pacific Wren’s sake.
Walking away from the garden and into that bizarro five corners spot, I spotted a medium-sized butterfly that looked like it was flying IN A PANIC. Best guess is Red Admiral. But, it’s truly a guess. Was wondering if I might see butterflies at the garden! One butterfly and one skipper. Not too shabby. Plus, a Stubble Rosegill mushroom just happened to be in front of me as I looked down from watching the butterfly in its maddening flight. Nice!
Took one last look for GHOs in their pine tree across from the Bison Paddock, and that one was still there. I think in the same spot. But, the light was a bit better to see it. And, as usual, two different people without binoculars asked me if I was seeing The Owl. Owl Enthusiasts, please get and bring binoculars with ya!
I had a little time left, and my new camera really wanted to meet my GHOs, so I swung by the Secret Gardens for a quick visit. Found another spot where Spanish Bluebells were blooming. And, some Star Magnolia I haven’t seen there before.
Walked up Lila’s Hill, and no sign of them. Not surprising, but had to check there first. Walked down to the North base of the hill, where I saw them last, and no sign of them. Walked to the West base of the hill, and no sign of them. HUH.
Walked back to the North side, thinking, “How can I possibly give up when I just posted ‘Never give up. Never surrender’ about these owls??” I looked for A WHILE. I even took a break to watch a Townsend’s Warbler for a bit in that same popular willow tree. But, I was about to not give up but surrender to my bladder, when I heard A HOOT.
Ok, so I had JUST finished chatting with an older couple who asked me if I was seeing The Owls. The lady said that she hadn’t heard hooting in a while, to which I replied that they don’t hoot as much when they have a baby in tow. Because I read that. That they hoot most in the Fall to establish and protect their territory and to find/keep mates. So, when I heard this hoot, I felt pretty dumb for saying such a thing. Thanks for making me look bad, GHO!
But, the hoot was not coming from the nest tree. It was further South. HUH. I went up the hill again to look. And, I saw movement in a tree South of the hill! Ran down the staircase, and low and behold. In the super bendy pine, right out in the open was a GHO AND FURBALL!
Ok, so Furball isn’t really Furball anymore. That thing frickin’ FLEW from the nest tree and across the paved path and high up into this tree! It’s also so much more like a teenage GHO at this point. It is now officially Junior. It was about a foot from the adult. Then, I heard hooting again. And, the adult GHO I was looking at wasn’t doing it. Pa Owl was right nearby in the same tree! So, Junior was with Ma Owl, which makes sense from what I observed last year. Junior was trying to eat pine needles or cones at one point (!), then it stretched out its right wing right into Ma Owl’s face! She quickly looked at it, not pleased, then saw that it had a little trouble getting it unstuck from her shoulder. She grabbed the wing tip in her beak and gently moved it back to Junior. And, all was well. More owl pics below for the owl fans.
So, yeah. All three GHOs were in the same tree. Furball is now Junior. And, they’re closer to the owl nursery now. So much has happened since last week!!!