Sycamore Grove Park (11/4/2022)

Today I tried out a different park that was very close to my staged reading location in the evening in Livermore!

I actually stopped by this spot yesterday after Shadow Cliffs, as my Google search for the nearest public bathroom was at this park. Looked super enticing to me, so it was at the top of my list on my next Naturing adventure in the Livermore area.

Pretty much all the curated trails on AllTrails in this park were on the long side, and as I had just about an hour and a half to explore, I opted to just wander. Turns out, you can easily do so at this park. I opted for the Magpie Nature Loop. Ended up a bit on the Creek Trail, too.

The place has this sprawling quality with Western Sycamores (I think) scattered throughout. Some Coast Live Oaks. A couple California Buckeye and Northern California Black Walnut. I didn’t end up getting very far, but what I did see (the Northeast bit) was birds, birds, birds. Aside from the eversobrief look at a Brush Rabbit running away from me, I pretty much just saw birds. And LOTS of them.

After hearing Yellow-rumped Warblers at the parking lot, a Red-shouldered Hawk swooped into my view and posed for me. Pretty nice way to start!

After noting a small botanical garden circle and bat box soon after starting on the paved Sycamore Creek Trail, I began the Magpie Nature Loop. It runs alongside a dry creek (that I can’t find the name of) for about the first half. I could hear a variety of bird sounds almost immediately. I stopped inbetween two large Sycamores, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet bopped into view. It flew to the tree closer to me, and it just hopped around in the branches. About THREEISH FEET FROM ME before it realized I was perhaps too close for its comfort. I don’t think I breathe when these wildlife close encounters happen, so it’s likely a good thing they don’t stay near me for too long.

Two Nuttall’s Woodpeckers were pecking nearby. And European Starlings high above were making the wackiest noises. I mean, was that A FROG or a Starling?

Further on, I started to see tracks and scat close to the dry creek. Deer! Never saw any, but this was definitely where they like to hang out. I soon thought I heard a Great Horned Owl hoot, but it turned out to be Eurasian Collared-Doves. I confess that I was wondering if Western Screech Owls were in the area, since I know they like Sycamores for nesting. But I only saw GHO observations on iNat in that part of the park. So I thought I might hear or see one. But. Not this time.

Once it was confirmed I had not heard a GHO, I found myself on the other side of the dry creek and on very narrow trails. This spot was FOR THE BIRDS. California Quail and Acorn Woodpeckers and California Scrub-Jays and White-crowned Sparrows and SO MANY Northern Flickers. Like, easily the most I’ve ever seen in one place. Maybe 8 or something? And maybe 10 including the ones I’d heard near the parking lot?? It was thrilling to see them fly near others. With that brilliant red flashing on their tail feathers when they do. Even saw two kinda together once. Is this where they come to hook up?

No great photos, as they were quite far away and often in shade. And this made me wonder why they are so skittish. They’re about American Robin size. Maybe a touch larger even? And Robins are not skittish. Confidence in numbers? It’s just odd that a bird that big would be that shy. Nuttall’s Woodpeckers seem smaller and often couldn’t care less about you. Just interesting.

While scanning for owls, I did notice a good number of tree cavity holes that’d look perfect for a Western Screech Owl. But, with GHOs around, maybe they don’t stand a chance there?

I eventually made it back onto the Magpie Nature Loop. And I started seeing more scat. I think Bobcat and more Deer and definitely Coyote and something that just loves to eat berries!

Crossing the dry creek to get back to the Magpie Nature Loop was weird. There’s this white stuff all over the rocks. What is that? I turned to my right while crossing the creekbed, and it looked like snow-covered ground. Seriously. WHAT IS IT. Dangit, I should’ve taken photos. Algae, maybe?

While admiring an Acorn Woodpecker (perched high up and leaning into the wind, like a determined sea captain) and an Oak Titmouse (that I got to see for a full second), I heard A HOOT. But I just heard it once. Okokok, I know, I know, I know. It was kinda in the same area I’d heard the Eurasian Collared-Doves. But, I know this. It was a hoot. Though I wasn’t able to find it, which was REALLY ODD since there was only one Coast Live Oak in the spot I heard it from. And it was pretty spotty with leaves, so nowhere near as much shade as they like. But everything else was a Sycamore. And I saw no furry football shapes in those.

I was bummed I had to leave for my show and couldn’t stay longer to hear for more hoots. But, I heard it. I know what it was.

Hoping to explore the South side of this Sycamore Wonderland on Sunday before my last show. There’s ponds and ruins of a winery and whatnot! And maybe, with the Fall Back on Sunday, I’ll be there a lot closer to sunset for owlspotting?

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