Owl Trail at Muir Beach (8/29/2022)

Today I went Naturing in the North Bay, as I had a chat with an NPS wildlife intern at Rodeo Lagoon earlier in the afternoon. After learning about her internship at Isle Royale in MI assisting with wolf re-introduction there (!) and her internship at the GGNRA – and spotting a Woodland Skipper and Gray Buckeye near the Native Plant Nursery there, I ventured a bit further North to check out the Owl Trail.

When looking into nearby trails while we were at The Pelican Inn, I came across this short and easy-looking coastal trail. It starts at the Muir Beach Overlook and goes North to Slide Ranch then back again. Since we opted out of it previously, I decided to check it out today.

It’s a niceandeasy coastal trail! Definitely not worth doing on a foggy or overcast day. It shows off the Pacific Ocean quite nicely if given the right lighting, so.

Not long after I started on the trail, a number of butterflies appeared. Woodland Skippers and Field Crescents. And Dragonflies, though none landed for me to see up close. Even some Western Fence Lizards on the trail. These would pretty much be a common theme of fauna on the trail.

But! There were what sounded like and looked like two Red-tailed Hawk juveniles perched in one of the few clusters of trees. One would not stop crying!

There’s mostly Coyote Brush and Pacific Aster and some California Mugwort and even some Twinberry Honeysuckle along the trail, plus some Pacific Poison Oak. Oh, and even Lupine! And a newtome native plant, Elegant Rein Orchid!

And one spot showed off the greenstone basalt with some lovely rocks.

I heard a Wrentit here and there. And then I actually saw one. The one photo I took of it that came out in focus just cracks me up. It’s entirely enshrouded in Coyote Brush branches. Yep, that’s my typical experience with them!

As I was approaching a large group of trees, a Common Ringlet finally sat still for me. It even gave me a couple different backdrops and poses. So kind.

Spotted a Hutton’s Vireo eversobriefly. Did I get a photo in focus of it? OF COURSE, NOT.

As soon as I was among the trees, I started looking for owls. Ok, so I read on the most recent review of the trail on AllTrails that the reviewer “saw an owl.” THAT’S THE REVIEW. 5 (out of 5) Stars. Two weeks ago. Since this was the only spot that would have owls on the trail, I scanned for them. And right as I was thinking, “I’m not gonna find one…” I saw it! On a euc branch, right over the trail. Like fifteen feet exactly over the trail. Just past the tree was the beginning of Slide Ranch, with an expanse of grazed area ahead. Perfect spot for owls!

This was a Great Horned Owl. And it quickly turned to give me a look-over. Non-plussed, it went back to its persistent single cry. I’d heard the sound as I approached the trees and had no idea what it was! I’m not familiar enough with GHO owlet cries, I guess?

I walked a couple steps further and SAW ANOTHER GHO ahead on a further out euc branch. TWO! The owlet I saw first then flew out and perched right next to the other GHO. It made the same cry sounds and looked like it was doing that kissy thing to the stationary owl. I walked further on to see them from the front. And the owlet was still doing that kissy thing! The owl it was doing it to appeared to be perhaps smaller and definitely older in the face. I almost wasn’t sure it was a GHO as the face looked like it had lost so much color. And the feathers seemed weathered. Maybe it’s a pretty old parent!?

They stopped once they realized I was taking photos of them. And I got this one shot of them that I’m convinced is the owlet looking at me with a pouty face, as if to say, “WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM?” And the parent owl looking at me as if to say, “I’m not proud of him.”

The parent owl soon grew tired of the cry-baby, and it flew off to another euc branch further ahead and in the sun. Owlet remained. Single cries continued as I walked on. Owl photos below for the owl fans.

Further on the trail, I saw a Downy Woodpecker and another (or the same as before?) Hutton’s Vireo. And then I got to the official farm/ranch stuff, like wood fences and an enclosure for goats and sheep! I had made it to the end. After turning around, I heard two Northern Flickers and saw one briefly but not well enough or long enough for photos. It’s always the way with them!

That was the end of the trail. Apparently, you can keep walking to a tidepool trail of some kind. Figured I’d save that for another time. When I’ll be in the mood to keep walking downward to then have to walk back up even more. So. Yeah. I’m likely never going to come back for that.

So, I headed back. Seeing the same familiar faces I’d seen on my walk in. Plus some Velvety Goldenrod (?), a Mottled Pyrausta Moth, and more Elegant Rein Orchid I’d missed seeing the way in. Wrentits serenaded me here and there as I made my way back.

At the Muir Beach Overlook, I walked out to the vista point to take in the view since I was there. Two Mule Deer were slowly eating their way up the steep hillside. And two raptors (honestly couldn’t be sure if they were Peregrine Falcons or Red-tailed Hawks!) chased each other while flying-diving.

All in all, a nice coastal trail that absolutely lives up to its name! FIVE STARS.

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