Today I had an ENTIRE AFTERNOON for some much-needed Naturing. I still had a number of places on my list for The Book for Summer. And even though today is the official start of Fall, I figured whatever I saw today would’ve likely been there yesterday. So. Cut me a break. I had a full Summer!
I started at Mallard Lake, where there were crazytall (taller than me!) Narrow-leaved Cattails and Ngaio flowers AND fruit and a Nuttall’s Woodpecker (first time seeing/hearing that there, I think?) and Saltcedar flower catkin things and a Black Phoebe (or two?) and California Buckeye fruit, plus some decently ripe blackberries all along the trail.
I spotted a couple interesting birds eversobriefly, but I didn’t have to stick around for them to come out. Anything that’s really tough to see (or hear) shouldn’t be in The Book.
Got to the East end and spotted an Umber Skipper! This was very exciting, as I’ve never seen a Skipper at Mallard Lake before. But, it turned out that I saw an Umber Skipper at EVERY LOCATION I went to today. BIZARRE, INDEED. Lucky for me, as I never tire of seeing them!
Nearby, the little waterfall was getting much use! A Dark-eyed Junco and a California Towhee and a Pygmy Nuthatch were all enjoying it. I even got to watch the Pygmy Nuthatch drink from it, which was flippin’ adorable.
Over at The Oasis, things were slightly livelier than usual! I always am dumbfounded by how little I see fauna-wise there. They must all be out and about in the mornings… But, Violetbushes were out and another Umber Skipper and Indian Strawberry fruit and Indian-shot and a Cabbage White and Crinum Moorei. And some weird thing was growing out of that Banana tree. I feel like I can’t share a photo of it. It’s TOO DISTURBING.
After noting that ivy was taking over the middle island of Fuchsia and Abutilon, a butterfly fluttered past me! Again, I’ve seen so few butterflies there that I was terribly excited. Turned out to be a West Coast Lady! It was feeding off of what looked like Sagewood flowers. Thrilling to see!
Headed over to Elk Glen Lake, and there was a mysterious cluster of Lupine bushes by the huge Eucalyptus. Where I am quite certain were not there before. OR WERE THEY?? Maybe they were so small that I forgot they were there? REGARDLESS, there are about FIVE or so of them at a good height and size! Love Lupine. Love to see it EVERYWHERE.
A bunch of Mallards were in the lake, but that was it! A White-crowned Sparrow or two were the first things I saw on the trail. More ripe and almost-ripe blackberries. Some Twinberry Honeysuckle flowers still holding on. AND, something NEW. A hand-crafted sign of “Birds of Elk Glen Lake Scavenger Hunt” was on display! Hand-drawn birds, in color. With a QR code, to boot! I’ll be checking that out soon…
I rounded the Northeast corner and heard a bunch of Jay squawkings. I found some guilty Steller’s Jays and looked for what they might be squawking at. Then, allofasudden a RAPTOR flew onto the ground below a tree housing one of the Jays! Cooper’s Hawk, I think! It just looked entirely perplexed as to why the Jays were all in a huff. It flew up and just watched them, as if to say, “WHAT?”
That went on FOR A WHILE. Eventually, it flew off! The Jays annoyed it enough, as they tend to do. Crazy exciting! I’ve never seen a Cooper’s Hawk there before, and I started to wonder if I just haven’t looked up enough at the eucs on the North side.
I walked along the North side, and I spotted a Dragonfly near the water’s edge. OOH! I headed over and stood still to see about maybe getting a photo of it. Looked like a Blue Darner. But, then there was a rustling in the leaves at the water’s edge. A mouse! I watched it make its way along the edge and into a large pile of leaves, where it appeared to be doing some work on it. I was there for a while, hoping it’d come out enough for me to get a decent look. One brief moment, that I of course didn’t have my camera ready for, and that was it.
While there, I noticed a newtome flower growing there. Watermint, perhaps? Wasn’t able to get great photos. Maybe I’ll return for that when the mouse isn’t around.
Also near there was yet another Umber Skipper, feeding off one of the few Broad-leaved Sweet Pea flowers. I kept going along the water’s edge and went in to another spot to see what might be there.
TONS of tiny fishes! Western Mosquitofish? SO MANY. SO TINY. I’ve seen the same-looking thing in Stow Lake before. But this spot was absolutely a perfect fish nursery. I had no idea!
Walked through the Elk Glen Lake garden, but not much was happening. I did notice they had planted new Eucalyptus trees in the area they cleared recentlyish. I really want to know what kind they planted. Gotta make that phone call to SF Rec and Park.
Next on my list was the Pioneer Trail. After walking past Squirrel Central, I made it to the top and crossed the street to Stow Lake and was immediately confronted by a Red Admiral! It landed on the path right in front of me and took its En Garde! stance. Again, haven’t seen them there before! As mad as it was, I couldn’t help but smile at it.
The lake was pretty quiet, save for some Canada Geese and Gulls. But then, a Pied-billed Grebe came over to the edge where foliage was. And a juvenile PBG emerged! So delightful to see a juvenile right now! Fuzzy and spotted and funny-looking, just like they should be.
After spotting YET ANOTHER Umber Skipper near the African Hemp, I descended onto the Pioneer Trail. I noticed what looked like a Hutton’s Vireo in that empty corner and followed it. It left quickly and was out of sight. HOWEVER, I spotted a HUGE growth of Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf fungi coming out of a massive log on the ground! First one of the season for me! I was hoping I’d see some fungi treats after that Sunday rain. And this was just fantastic!
Right as I got back onto the trail, I saw ANOTHER Umber Skipper near the Log Cabin. It was getting to be surreal how many I was seeing at that point. I looked up from there, as some birds were up above. Western Wood-Pewee! Two of them! Super good looks at them, wow. They are incredibly cute. And, I’ve seen one along the trail before, so it’s nice to know they might enjoy returning to this spot.
The rest of the trail was quiet. But when I got to the Fairy Door, I saw a small growth of Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf up high on a euc. Fungi Season is here!
I had just enough time to visit my owls. So I did. Got to the edge of the owl nursery, and a West Coast Lady appeared. Landed and was soon battling another West Coast Lady! I was feeling quite spoiled by all the butterflies I’d encountered in the day. I grabbed my camera to get a shot of it, and the battery died right then. No warning that I could see of it being low! DANG. Had to go forward without a digital camera. Not cool.
No owls in the nursery itself. No Pa Owl in his favorite spot. BUT, a Great Horned Owl was up high in the fakenesttree. I always thought Ma Owl liked it up there, so I thought that might be who it was. No signs of other owls. So I began to head out.
And then I heard SQUAWKING. And you know what THAT might mean! I hustled to where it was coming from. Jays, yep. Somewhere in the owl nursery but closer to the grass below. And there was a GHO! Couldn’t see it from the trail, but there it was. In a Coast Live Oak that was right at the edge of the grass. I now know I need to check there as well going forward.
It was doing that “Look how TALL I am!” pose as it watched the Jays squawking at it. I had to use my old iPhone-against-binocs trick from olden days, and my photos came out ok! Can’t believe I had to do that for so long before realizing I actually had a digital camera gathering dust in the closet.
The Jays didn’t squawk for long. And, the GHO comfortably turned back to face South. Now, I don’t know which GHO this was. Could be Junior, but the calm it displayed with the Jays was quite mature. And, this owl didn’t seem to be on the larger size? Hard to say.
I’ve often ruminated on what goes on when the parent GHOs kick out their kids. Maybe they do this? Stand guard to ensure they don’t come back? Or, was this Junior? Trying to keep out of sight of the parents? You have no idea how much I wish I had time to come every day to find out. Then again, if you’ve been reading this blog, you probably do know.
Anyhoot, it was a comfort and a joy to spend so much time in my backyard today. So dang happy to be back, folks.