San Bruno Mountain (and GHOs of GGPark East) (4/8/2022)

Today I discovered another Wonderland within San Bruno Mountain, via the San Bruno Mountain Ecological Reserve Trail. I am simply BLOWN AWAY by this place.

Now, I hate to do this. I truly do. But, this is going to be a super brief post. I must get to bed early so that I can be in Point Reyes tomorrow at 9am for the first class of my California Naturalist course. Maybe I should refrain from Naturing on Fridays while I’m taking the course so I don’t have to compromise my nature journal entries… But, this one must be BRIEF.

I had to pick up something in S. San Francisco, so I thought I’d just stop by the San Bruno Mountain Ecological Reserve Trail. Just to check it out. Just to walk up it for like maybe 300 feet or so. See it, look for any butterflies, then move on. But, that didn’t happen. After being greeted by a Western Fence Lizard (I think), who did push-ups right after standing frozen from seeing me approach, there were A HUGE TON of butterflies about 10 feet in! Variable Checkerspots and Common Ringlets and newtome Common Checkered-Skippers and newtome Gray Buckeyes and small blue butterflies that never sat still. SO MANY!!! I was in awe for a while. It was magical.

Ok, this is already longer than I intended. Let’s sum up.

I ended up walking up to almost the top of the mountain. It’s ANOTHER WONDERLAND up there, with a number of narrow trails not on the map. I crossed a dry creek bed with a bit of water still coming out of the mountain. There was poison oak everywhere, just like along Firth Canyon Trail. Got to a spot full of Checker Lilies, mostly gone. I walked into an open meadow chock-full of Western Blue-Eyed Grass and Blue Dicks and other wildflowers.

And, GET THIS. I was going up and up, and I took a step toward a switchback. And, ALLOFASUDDEN a large raptor flew up from the ground in front of me (but behind trees)! AND, IT WAS A FLIPPIN’ GREAT HORNED OWL, PEOPLE!!!!! It flew onto a Coast Live Oak tree branch in perfect view and LOOKED RIGHT AT ME. I quickly apologized, and it flew off and down and into another Coast Live Oak and out of my view.

OMGOMGOMG. Had NO EXPECTATION WHATSOEVER that I’d see an owl of any kind out there! Yeah. That HAPPENED.

Got to ALMOST near the top when I realized I was going to be late for Happy Hour at the GGPark bandshell (with live jazz music!) if I didn’t turn around and head back down asap. So, I sadly did that. Saw more of the same butterflies at the base PLUS an Anise Swallowtail (?) and random bunny and coyote scat on the trail. That beaten-up Gray Buckeye was still fighting with every butterfly it could. Just NUTS.

Anyhoo, so much more happened. But, I don’t have time to write about it.

After enjoying Happy Hour with Brian, we went looking for the Great Horned Owls on our way home. They weren’t in the same tree I saw them in last, but an iNat observation showed one in the area in a euc. Hm! Got a text from Ren that she heard hooting and was seeing them in the eucs South of the owl nursery. WOW! They’ve already moved there!!

We went over and saw all three in the eucs. Ma Owl was above Junior. Pa Owl was in the euc next, facing away. Owl pics below for the owl fans.

We enjoyed watching them all. We talked to passerby folks about them. It was great to see them. I can’t believe where they are already. I sure hope they don’t bypass the owl nursery this year. I’m not sure my neck can take it if they do!

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