Golden Gate Park (12/13/2022)

Today I had my second request for a tour fulfilled! Robert brought along two friends, including one Don W., and we walked along Stow Lake (North), through Squirrel Central, past the Fairy Door, on JFK, in and out of the Rhododendron Dell, and within the Secret Gardens.

While it’s true I never quite have the same kind of Naturing experience when folks are with me (so few photos!), I never tire of showing new things to people they might not see otherwise.

That actually began on my way to meet up! On my way, I stopped just before Squirrel Central to marvel at a couple Honey Mushroom explosions on and around a tree stump. While taking photos, two women walked up and noticed me there, and they stopped to admire the fungi villages. I was also able to show my tour guests this same display later. Such a sight to see.

Looks like some work is being done at the top of the staircase to Stow Lake. Can’t wait to see what they’ll plant up there! A Black Phoebe was flycatching nearby, and it kindly posed toward me.

Turtles were out sunbathing, and there were a bunch of birds on the lake. A good sign of things to show my guests! We met up at the Boathouse and began our stroll East. I never quite know how to start these things. I’m quite new at it! But I tried my best. Pointed out one of the few blooming flowers along the way, some lovely White Ginger. But, yeah. Maybe I should come up with a way to begin such things…

We stopped at the double park benches to enjoy the birds and talk a bit about the unnatural history of GGPark. A Bufflehead couple and a Ring-necked Duck couple and a couple Double-crested Cormorants and a couple Canada Geese and one American Coot and one Pied-billed Grebe and a TON OF GULLS were out. Sadly, the shoveling Northern Shoveler couple I spotted on the way in was no longer there.

After seeing the Eastern Gray Squirrels at Squirrel Central, I showed them the Fairy Door and spotted a Hermit Thrush before heading to JFK. After passing the Music Concourse, I started searching for signs of fungi along the sidewalk right there. I’ve seen fungi there before, and SURE ENOUGH. Newtome False Chanterelles were there! I’ve read about them, but this was the first time seeing them. Pulled one out, and a whole family came with it! They’re quite an amazing shade of orange. Some random tourist walked by and asked to take a photo of it as I was holding it to show my guests!

Walking through the Secret Gardens, I spotted some Blushing Rosette and California Agaricus and Red Edge Brittlestem (I think) and Scurfy Twiglets. Scurfy Twiglets really were the mascot of the day. Or, perhaps it’s a tie between them and the ever-present Ruby-crowned Kinglets?

We were taking this specific route to see about The Owls. Robert had mentioned being interested in seeing them, if possible. While I can never promise owls, I try to deliver. And I DELIVERED TODAY. We stopped to take a photo of all three guests, and as we were gearing up to make the approach to where they were last I saw them, A HOOT.

YEP, Pa Owl was in the same spot. At the crook of that big euc between the Secret Gardens and the Lily Pond. Got to show everyone where he was with my binocs. So not only did they get to hear very-early hooting, they also got to see him. QUITE PLEASED with my tour guide abilities today!

We all parted ways, and I continued on to the Lily Pond. Which was dang quiet. A male Hooded Merganser was way off in the East end of the pond. And a Ruby-crowned Kinglet bopped around in the bramble, like it likes to do. While watching it, and failing to get a decent photo, I thought I heard a hoot from that tall Monterey Pine Tree there. Where I believe was the first place I’d ever heard and seen the Great Horned Owls of the East? But then I didn’t hear it again and thought it was an echo from Pa Owl. Those hoots can be tough to place sometimes.

Walked back to the Secret Gardens and took my snack break up on Lila’s Hill. When Robert’s leg is better, I should show him that little hill. Two park benches and a nice place to be to enjoy the Golden Hour at. Two Ruby-crowned Kinglets kept me company up there. And I noted Conical Brittlestems (I think) and more Scurfy Twiglets on my walk out.

I hadn’t been able to hear or locate Ma Owl, so I cruised by the owl nursery. Nope. So I returned to Pa Owl, after stopping to look at some Slime Mold-looking stuff. Serpula himantiodes?

On my way, a ton of American Crows were gathering high up in the trees just West of the Lily Pond. Some Common Ravens, too. Another Corvid Conference! They went on and on and had so much to say. I was curious if Pa Owl would hoot while they were at it or not…

He was quiet until some of them started to disperse. But, yeah! He hooted even with all of them quite close-by! He also had the return of his hoarse hooting, poor thing. I should ask the Presidio Trust Wildlife Ecologist about that. I also wondered if he was in that particular spot because he has a cold? I have never seen an adult GHO in that kind of location. Owlets, yes. But they eventually outgrow them and want to be perched higher up, like the adults do. And he’s been there now for like a week?

Someone stopped to see what I was seeing. And we chatted a little about the GHOs. I must sound like such a weirdo when I go on and on about them! And then, a HIGH HOOT. From the Lily Pond area! I said goodbye to the gal and headed off to find Ma Owl. Took a while, since that dang tree at the Southwest corner of the Tree Fern Dell is so massive. But, there she was. Unobscured from the park bench right there. She hooted for a bit, to answer Pa Owl’s hoarse hoot.

I turned my gaze to the pond for like TWO SECONDS, and she was gone when I looked back. Such ninjas. Decided that was my cue to leave, and I headed up the path to the owl nursery to head home. Heard another high hoot near where Pa Owl was, so that’s where she went. Someone on a bike stopped to stand and watch for them. He told me he’d never seen them before, but he watched Ma Owl fly in there. Nice. Owl photos are below for the owl fans.

On my way out, I was almost to the CAS when I noticed two dead Botta’s Pocket Gophers. Laid out on a tree stump. Yeah. SO WEIRD. Who did that? And, WHY. Sometimes there are many mysteries in the park. Wasn’t sure what to make of it. Put it on iNat. Who knows.

All in all, my second requested tour was a success! And I may have a couple more in the new year. Robert even said he’d like to do it again! While I did have the fantasy some time ago that this, along with sales from The Book and associated merch, could potentially be that new career I’m working on formulating, it’d be a shame to compete with the free GGPark tours that the SF Public Library does.

That said, if it’s not obvious to you reading this, I’m happy to give anyone a tour that is reading this and would be so interested. While I know GGPark best, I’ve been everywhere worth Naturing (in my opinion) in SF. So anywhere would work. Just lemme know. I’d be happy to show anyone so-inclined the natural world of SF while I’m still unemployed, yep!

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