Today I finally visited Stow Lake.
It was sunny and oddly balmy out, and I’ve been meaning to visit for some time. On my way there, I caught sight of two orangish butterflies duking it out along MLK. A badly eaten up West Coast Lady (SO MANY BIRDSTRIKES) and a Red Admiral! I’m not sure where the hell I was in the first two years of the pandemic when I hardly saw any butterflies in GGPark.
After passing the Squirrel Lady at Squirrel Central, I was there. The lake was full of turtles in Turtle Cove. And one looked like maybe someone crayoned on its shell?? Is that possible? I don’t know what the heck happened there. Nearby, a feisty Carp splashed out and back into the water. And one juvenile Pied-billed Grebe cruised along.
While stopped to watch the Grebe, I heard a Wren kind of sound in the reeds just in front of me. The Merlin app’s Sound ID feature believed it to be a Marsh Wren! Never heard or noticed that sound before there! Have definitely never seen a Wren of any kind at Stow Lake. Need to look up how often they appear there on iNat.
Further on, a handful of lovely Bunchleaf Penstemon had been planted somewhat recently. Nice surprise! Anytime I see newly planted native plants in GGPark, I am so dang happy.
They’ve likely been around a while since I haven’t visited Stow Lake in some time, but there were migrants there today! One Northern Shoveler was the first one I spotted. Shoveling away! And a Great Blue Heron (juvenile or first year?) was perched on the Rookery island, which was an unexpected sight.
Violetbushes that I don’t recall seeing there before were quietly blooming inbetween the hedge row thing on the South side. But what got me terribly excited was seeing blooming Orange Clockvine, above the blooming Japanese Honeysuckle. It seems to bloom a couple times a year, but it’s so rare to see one in perfect bloom that’s not obstructed. And there were a couple prime specimens! Don’t know why I so enjoy that flower. I think I love its hollow center. Like something should be there. Just unique to me, I guess.
After delighting in seeing some American Coots on the ground so I could delight in their awesome feet, I spotted the Hooded Merganser of Stow Lake! He’s back! And, as usual, hanging with Mallards. I wonder if he’ll remain a bachelor forever.
Across the way, I happened to see two Black Phoebes very near each other. Now, this is ODD. At least, for me. I mean, have I EVER seen two together before?? Maybe once before. MAYBE. So weird.
I was approaching the pretty bridge when I heard or saw something in the reeds on the Strawberry Hill side of the lake. Got a bunch of GAWD AWFUL photos, but they were enough to ID it! Common Yellowthroat! This is a tough bird to see. At least, for me. And thus, photograph. But I did get some wide angle shots of it for some photopaintings, which I quite like!
A bit further down from the reeds, I noticed a set aside spot for new plantings next to the pretty bridge. Looked like California Bee Plant, perhaps? Will need to cross the bridge and check that out next time.
There was another set aside spot for new plantings near the Southwest island. What looked like tiny baby Manzanitas and some FLIPPIN’ GORGEOUS gothy red wine Geraniums. Ok, so I’m not so much a fan of Geraniums. I’m not. Don’t know why exactly. But, THESE. They’re kinda the same size and shape of Peppermint-scented Geranium. But THAT COLOR. I’m sure there’s a better way to describe it, but I cannot do it justice. Seek and iNat couldn’t help me, but Google Photos believes it to be South African Geranium. Yeah, it’s stunning.
And further on from THAT, there were more new plantings on the West side! Lots of succulents. But the spot where the Summer Snowflake has been looked torn up. So, they may no longer be there? I love that flower. Hoping it’ll show up in late Winter, but it’s not native so I’ll not cry too much if it’s gone for good.
Divine Sagewood is starting to bloom again. And I got a good long inhale of some when I passed by. I’m honestly shocked I don’t pass out from smelling nirvana when I get the chance. True story.
That Scarlet Monkeyflower spot is still doing well! Just past it, I saw a Mallard couple in the lake. The male was head bobbing to the side of the female. I thought it was courtship, but no. It was a request or a check-in for breeding time. It was brief, and she immediately gave herself a bath as he cowered-swam around her. So Mallards mate this late in the year, huh?
As I was admiring some blooming Weeping Bottlebrush across from the Northwest island, I heard it. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet on the other side of the path. Yes, I’ve heard them SEVERAL TIMES now that they have started to winter here. But today I finally and for certainly SAW IT. Even got a couple photos in focus/ish. No small feat, I’m telling you. But how I love them and look forward to their companionship through the Winter.
Followed a Townsend’s Warbler into a tree where something odd was happening. A Pacific-slope Flycatcher was being slowly chased through a tree by a Song Sparrow. Weird! Ok, likely not, but I haven’t seen that before! Interesting how some migrants seem to be pushed out by the locals. Even by a Song Sparrow.
I decided not to round the rest of Stow Lake and headed to the Pioneer Trail. Maybe I’d have enough time for the Lily Pond to complete the Greatest Hits?
Pygmy Nuthatches were feeding off a eucalyptus tree before I got to the actual trail. And the Sagewood there was also about to bloom. I didn’t get far onto the trail when I heard a Pacific Wren on my right. I even saw it, though it was entirely obscured. If they ever manage to remove all that invasive Ivy in GGPark, I wonder if the Pacific Wrens will leave? I’ve never seen them not near Ivy in GGPark. Hm.
I passed the Log Cabin while noting what was blooming on the right side of the trail, and I turned around to look for American Robins on the meadow since I had just heard one. A COYOTE happened to be trotting along in the middle of the flippin’ meadow towards the Log Cabin! I’ve never seen a Coyote in that area! It quickly disappeared into the tons of foliage that surround the cabin. It was about an hour before sunset, so it seemed on time.
Now, I know there are three Great Horned Owl pairs that breed in GGPark. I’m not so sure about Coyote pairs. I used to think the same of Coyotes. But I don’t know about that pair at Elk Glen Lake. I don’t think I’ve seen “Active Coyote Den” signs in that area. And yet, there’s just one alpha pair in all of The Presidio. Hm…
The rest of my walk on the Pioneer Trail was quiet, which is how I like it. Very few people. And leaves on the ground. And some fungi here and there, already pulled up and looked at. And that giant Horse-Chestnut tree is going to be glorious all over pretty soon.
Didn’t end up having time for the Lily Pond today, but I was there recently. And I had a couple minutes to spare, so I checked the owl nursery before heading home. No owls. Maybe I missed them heading out? Can’t wait for PDT to end soon.
No owls is always a bummer. But I got to see so many old friends today, both flora and fauna. Good Monday.