Today I visited a lot of places in my backyard.
After passing through a very quiet Monarch Bear Grove, I walked through the CAS Botanical Garden. It can have fungi here and there, and I’m Fungi Focused right now. And, sure enough, I took two steps onto the East entrance trail, and there they were! Oh, and those Red Edge Brittlestems turned out to be Conical Brittlestems, as Alan on iNat corrected. These looked to be the same ones! First saw three all in a row, and I am not kidding that I immediately heard “Three Little Maids from School” pop into my head. Adorable.
More of those were scattered nearby. A couple Chip Cherries, too. And a handful of large California Agarcius in the distance. But there was a Mica Cap explosion ahead! Super exciting, as I don’t think I’ve seen that there before. I mean, could that little community be any cuter?
Had to check on the tobenamed new garden outside the Shakespeare Garden, just in case fungi had found their way there already? Only spotted a solo Chip Cherries and a couple Conical Brittlestems, but there were new flowers in bloom! And just tons in general. In bloom. Right now. It’s still SPRING OVER THERE. New blooms I saw were Prairie Sunflower (maybe?) and Annual Toadflax (different color?) and Plains Coreopsis and Rocket Larkspur (THREE COLORS!). That garden is just TOO MUCH. That must be what that Ruby-crowned Kinglet above was yapping about.
Took the path alongside the CAS to the Music Concourse and spotted a number of bright white California Agaricus under the Coast Redwoods there. Where I’ve often seen them before. Most of them had already been plucked and observed by Fungi Fairies.
Walked to Stow Lake and decided to take the shortcut through the Redwood Grove. Hadn’t been there in some time. Not much was going on, but it’s a usually empty secret path to get up to the lake. And I heard two (I think) Pacific Wrens in there! Under all that Garden Nasturtium. No sightings. And no recordings, as just when I tried to record there was no end to car noises from nearby MLK. Boo.
The Southeast end of Stow Lake was entirely EMPTY. Didn’t even spot a turtle. Headed along the North path and saw that the lake was low. I could see a tiny bit of the exposed lake bed right where some White Ginger was blooming. Saw tiny fish in the water! Western Mosquitofish, I’m guessing. Plus two shapes I in no way recognized. Nothing helpful from Seek or iNat! Hm. Might remain a mystery unless I get a way better photo of it next time.
There were a handful of birds near the Heron Rookery Island. Canada Geese and American Coots and Mallards and Ring-necked Ducks and even a Bufflehead. But there was a Mallard-sized (or slightly bigger?) duck that caught my eye. Definitely hadn’t seen it here before. Could it be a Northern Pintail? Got home, and that’s what it appears to be! Always exciting to see a new bird in an old place.
Noticed two new (but not newtome) flowers along that path, too. Pale Flax, which I’ve never seen there before. And Miniature Grape Ivy (?), which had berries on it. Random!
A Pied-billed Grebe and some Yellow-rumped Warblers made appearances before I left Stow Lake for the Pioneer Trail. More Sagewood flowers are coming in over there. And American Robins were all over the Log Cabin Meadow. Returning to the trail, I heard A HOOT. It sounded like it came from Strawberry Hill or that South direction. Nice to hear one of the Great Horned Owls of Stow Lake, as it’s been supercrazylong since I’ve heard or seen either of them. I thought it’d be nice if I were up there to try to find them, but I’d passed the point of no return.
While taking a snack break on my usual bench spot there (where more Conical Brittlestems were), I happened to catch sight of a Nuttall’s Woodpecker on one of the Hawthorn trees. This one made no noises, so it was a treat to have managed to spot it and get some decent photos.
Continuing on, the Roseleaf Sage is going bonkers right now. Mexican Sunflowers are popping up again. And I saw a Hermit Thrush in the distance past that garden. The Pioneer Trail may often be quiet, but things are happening here and there.
I passed the huge Horse-Chestnut tree, and ANOTHER HOOT. From AHEAD. Sounded like the male of the pair was in his favorite tree there! And, HE WAS. Can’t tell you how nice it was to see him and hear him continue to hoot and watch him preen and hoot some more. Like seeing an old friend. As you spy on them from a distance with binoculars. Yeah, a little weird. But, WHATEVER. I’m an Owl Witch. I’ve got The Pin. I’m good.
I did wonder about the direction it hooted. It was hooting toward Strawberry Hill. Was it trying to hoot in the direction of the female? I guessed she was over there since I didn’t hear her high hoot in response. I was able to wait long enough to see which direction he’d fly off to first. And he flew just a tad West to a euc. And seemed to continue hooting Southward. Couple owl photos for the owl fans below.
I have such fond memories of watching this pair start off their evening on Strawberry Hill and fly East, just like the Great Horned Owls of the East do. And walking home in the twilight along Stow Lake to go home. Looking forward to more of that soon.