Golden Gate Park (6/27/2022)

Today I had planned to do a day trip. But, I had too many things to do after interning for five days straight! So, I had just under 2 hours. Thus, my backyard was my Plan B.

I was excited to check in on my Great Horned Owls. But, first was a stop at the Barn Owl box. A white nose was inside and moved a bit while I watched it with my binocs. Grabbed my digital camera, got it set on the box opening, and I got a message that the SD card was missing.


I had left the dang thing in my laptop. ARGH. So, change of plans. AGAIN. Plan C was to focus on things that just my phone camera could capture. So, FLORA IT WAS.

But, while at that Barn Owl box viewing spot, I turned around to see what looked like Artist’s Bracket on the Western Australia Peppermint tree. And, there were TWO of them! Spotting new fungi while out Naturing was not something I’d anticipated anytime soon. So, exciting start!

In that same spot, I happened to see a Squirrel asleep on a tree branch. Pretty sure I’ve never seen that before! Ok, not asleep. But, lounging and about to fall asleep? Looked like it was watching me with sleepy eyes. Then, a Black Phoebe chirped and flew up into the Peppermint tree. I started to appreciate all the things I was able to see and enjoy while not even moving. Sometimes being still is rewarding.

I decided to visit the Shakespeare Garden and the CAS Botanical Garden for my outing. First, I checked in on how the new plantings were doing on the Pelosi Dr. side of the SG. Blooming California Flannelbush and Redflower Buckwheat and Seaside Woolly Sunflower and Coulter’s Matilija Poppy (I think) were all doing nicely. But, they could not compete with the Common Yarrow lining the garden wall. After admiring how well they were doing, I spotted a cluster of MUSHROOMS!

I think they’re Pale Brittlestems? But, I haven’t seen them in this stage before, I think. I plucked one out, as I’m now confident to do, and the stem was hollow. No sign of a veil or ring. Looking forward to Alan’s help on iNat… But, MUSHROOMS. Flippin’ DELIGHTFUL.

After noting the Cherry Laurel fruit along MLK, I entered the Shakespeare Garden. Sweet-William was blooming right under where an American Robin flew into a nest in the crabapple trees! Wondering if it’s part of the same pair that had a nest there a couple years ago…

Further in, Western Columbine was blooming among some lightly scented roses. How’d that get there? No way is that mentioned in a Shakespeare play or sonnet. Saw Japanese Honeysuckle and a fruiting lemon tree (!) and dark purple Violets along the East side. None of which I recall seeing there before, but I don’t visit the SG that often. Upon leaving it, I saw a handful of crabtree blossoms. Can’t believe some were able to stick it out this long!

On the walk to the CAS Botanical Garden, I spotted a number of small, white mushrooms. They were all quite small, but since there were a number of them, I plucked one out. Not sure if it’s enough to ID it, but my guess would be California Agaricus? They were growing under a California Buckeye tree. And, I’ve learned from my Fungi class that it’s helpful to note what tree fungi grows on or under or nearby. So, perhaps that’ll be helpful info for Alan.

Some Phacelia (didn’t quite look like California Phacelia…) led my way out. And, soon I was at the CAS Botanical Garden. I soon fell in love with a Coulter’s Matilija Poppy (I think!) that had lost most of its petals. I was able to get super close to the center. And, it was like staring into another world. Those flowers are so fun to look at and into.

Blooming Coffeeberry and Redwood Sorrel and California Sweetshrub were all lovely to see out. Got to the East side, and I had a sit on the long log bench under the California Buckeye. Had my snack, watched the Hummingbirds fight, saw some bees on the California Bee Plant, and it was all so relaxing.

I happened to look to my right on the trail behind me, AND A FLIPPIN’ SNAKE WAS ON THE TRAIL!!! It was LONG! It was RED! Longer than a typical garter snake? AND, IT HAD A SMALL MOUSE IN ITS MOUTH. I was SHOCKED. I’ve so rarely seen snakes, and I’ve never seen one that was still.

Right about then I was cursing myself for forgetting that dang SD card. But, I slowly took out my phone camera and snapped one photo from where I was and another with the crap zoom. The snake wasn’t going anywhere, so I slowly stood up and slowly approached it, getting better and better photos. I was about 4ish feet from it when its head jerked eversoslightly, noting that I was near it. I made the tiniest movement, and it slithered to the edge of the trail and under some shade. I made another ohsotiny movement, and it quickly moved above some foliage and under a large bush.

And, OMG OMG OMG, it was so exciting!! It was sooooo beautiful. Seek and iNat believed it to be a Western Terrestrial Garter Snake. I was allofasudden wondering how often snakes are seen in GGPark. I would’ve guessed that none were in the park. Given how often I’ve walked trails on sunny/warm days, I thought I’d have seen one by now if any were there! Checked out observations of snakes, and there are FEW. Like, only TWO OTHERS aside from mine. WOW!

Someone soon IDed it on iNat as a Coast Garter Snake and said, “cool find.” HECK, YEAH!!!

I was feeling pretty ecstatic about the encounter as I walked through the Monarch Bear Grove (where Purple Akeake and super tall Sulphur Cinquefoil caught my eye). I then took a route I’ve only walked once before, the path East of the ballfield. Nothing interesting is there, as I was reminded of, HOWEVER. I saw a Red-tailed Hawk soaring above the trees in front of me. Then, I heard a crying raptor sound. And, a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk flew up and kind of toward the adult. Wow! I think I have rarely seen juvenile Red-tailed Hawks in GGPark??

So, yeah. Went out to see owls and came back having seen a snake! I’ll take it!

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