Today I had a yearning to visit Stow Lake. Which is odd, since I always lean there when it’s sunny. And it rained earlier today!
I think I must’ve internally known it was a good place to go, because I found SUCH FUNGI BOUNTY pretty much EVERYWHERE. Now, don’t freak out. I certainly don’t mean around Stow Lake itself. Oh, no. That doesn’t really happen.
I was drawn to the North side of the parking lot. I mean, who isn’t? And I was first greeted by an Anna’s Hummingbird going to work on a Baby Sage bush. I happened to be at the perfect angle to see its brilliant hot-pink head as it kept busy.
For those of you who’ve been reading these for some time, you may (but really shouldn’t) recall that I’ve seen those amazing alien fungi called Red-cage Fungus (aka Red Latticed Stinkhorn!) over there. Near the shed behind the bathrooms. Nothing was there today, but I decided to take the back trails to the picnic area, as it’s been a while.
And I found fungi after fungi after fungi and fungi over there! Get this, I saw Chip Cherries and Conical Brittlestems and Honey Mushrooms and newtome Pholiota spumosa (clearly needs a common name) and more Conical Brittlestems.
Also found a new (or newtome?) treetrunkslice walkway that was behind the Coast Redwoods and along the fence. Super fun if you’re so inclined.
After admiring the Red Angel’s Trumpets and regular Angel’s Trumpets, I caught sight of a Townsend’s Warbler in a shrub behind. It would not stop. Appeared to be eating things (insects?) off leaves, as I’ve been seeing so much of lately. I’m honestly shocked a handful of my photos came out somewhat in focus, given how infrequently Warblers stand still.
Just past the glorious Manuka blooming, I happened to look to my right on the ground. AND THERE IT WAS. TWO Red-cage Fungus fruiting! I wish they weren’t so far underneath foliage that I could’ve gotten closer. But you get what you can get, folks. Spotted two white eggs nearby about to burst open, as well! Even spotted ONE MORE fully formed a couple feet away. That is Red-cage Fungus HEAVEN, folks. Or a portal to some Marvel Universe. Can’t be certain.
Got up to Stow Lake itself, and some St. John’s Wort cheered me on to start. Things were quiet. No one at the snack booth or on the lake in boats or even walking right then. Even the one group of ducks there were all keeping still on the dock. Maybe the lake is quite cold? One of the ducks didn’t quite look like the other Mallards. Unfortunately, it never came out of its napping position, so I can’t say what it was! Right next to it was a sleeping male Mallard that had a funny pose while he napped. Like he was ready for a dance move at any moment.
Started walking toward the ugly bridge, and I stopped to see a small foliage somethingorother growing between the path and the rocks over there. I looked at its leaves, and they were familiar. Hey! Looked like American Coot’s feet! Which I had just seen when one hopped onto the dock near the Mallards. And Ironwood has those leaves! It seems like a small thing, I know. But I was so happy to have remembered it right then. It was one of three small Ironwood tree growths right there. Just nuts how plants can pop out of anywhere.
Passed that group of trees/shrubs I’ve yet to ID. And I noticed a fallen and cracked open fruit on the path below! Tiny black berry/seeds inside! It wasn’t in good shape. Covered in sand. So it won’t likely help me ID it, but so good to have another data point to help me get there someday.
Just past THAT, I noticed newtome flowers on a pine-looking tree. Newtome Common Pin Spiderhead, I think! Love the pincushiony flowers. Don’t think I’ve seen that thing blooming before. Neat!
Saw three random yellow fungi nestled next to a log, but they didn’t quite look in good enough shape to pull. A woman asked me, “What do you see there?” I stood up and replied, “Oh, just fungi,” as I assumed she was likely interested if it were a creature. And she said, “Oh, fungi.” And I felt like I read that right. Next time I should be more enthusiastic with such a response. I shan’t hide my Fungi Joy again.
Crossed the bridge and onto Strawberry Hill. Seems like it’s been months since I’ve been. And I don’t believe I’ve ever been so soon after rain? The main staircase was A MESS. Gawd, it’d be so fun to watch when the rain is really pouring and that staircase is transformed into a river!
Near the top, a very large tree had fallen across the stairs and had recently been cut up. Some of the log pieces had Veiled Polypore fungi growing on it. I love how they look like little moons attached to tree bark.
Made my way to the reservoir level, my favorite part of Strawberry Hill. Lemmon’s Marigold were blooming along the stairs there. Started my usual clockwise loop around the reservoir, looking for fungi. None were out, but I stopped to note a former river path that had come down the hillside. I said something like, “Huh!” out loud, and a bird came flying in from the right and around my legs and onto the fence behind me and to the left. Hutton’s Vireo?? It was on the lower fence post about three feet from me. SO CLOSE!! It soon flew a little away from me and bopped around along the fence and ground on the trail. Which was ODD! I’ve never seen a Hutton’s Vireo (or Ruby-crowned Kinglet, in case that’s what it was) not in a tree or bush. Close encounter, indeed!
Some of the Red-flowering Currant shrubs are showing new baby leaves. And the one bush near the picnic table is flowering LIKE CRAZY. Took my snack break there, like I do.
Sniffed in the delight that is the scent of a Mexican Mock Orange flower, and I continued my loop. Happened to spot another large cluster of Honey Mushrooms, PLUS a cluster of Armillaria solidipes on a large tree trunk right near there. It’s kinda newtome, as I don’t have photos of this already. But I think I’ve seen these before… I know what they are because good ole Alan on iNat soon confirmed my observation after posting it! He’s back, folks. All is right with the world.
While documenting the fungi, I heard A HOOT. OMG! Okokok, I had hopes of hearing the female Great Horned Owl up on Strawberry Hill. Since I heard the male recently on the Pioneer Trail and didn’t hear her. Thought she might be roosting on the Hill. Turns out they were both there! They duet-hooted while I quickly got the fungi photos I wanted.
But DANG, was it tough to find them. Turns out they were both in a super tall Monterey Pine that was almost entirely obstructed by other super tall Monterey Pines. From pretty much every angle I tried. I was able to see the male near the tippy top through a tiny hole of branches and leaves of the tree in front of it.
Walked down, passing very fragrant Garden Heliotrope, in hopes of having some chance of seeing them fly out at least. Got to the bottom of the staircase, and the male owl soon flew out and into a nearby tree. Closer to the reservoir. Two other folks (not together) were also watching, as the owls had been hooting for some time. The male then flew out and South, across the reservoir. DANG! If I’d waited a bit longer, it would’ve flown right over my head!
Soon after that, the female flew out and to about the same spot the male left. She was unobstructed, but there’s no way you’d see her without binocs or a zoom lens. Behind me, as I was watching her with my binocs, the man watching chimed to the woman watching, “Wouldn’t it be nice if they landed on a single bare branch?” with a chuckle. The woman replied, “Sometimes they do.” The man tried to indicate he was making a joke. And they chatted a little about how this was a pair. And there was another pair at the Bison Paddock.
I considered also adding my favorite pair to the conversation, the Great Horned Owls of the East, but I was too busy watching since I had binocs! It was too dark, so no owl photos for the owl fans. Apologies.
But, a pretty satisfying day that came together with no pre-conceived plan! Sometimes it’s rewarding just to follow your instincts.