Golden Gate Park (1/10/2023)

Today was a tough day. For a couple reasons. So I was quite grateful the bizarro STORM OF THE CENTURY for SF (lightning and more thunder than I’ve ever heard in my life and HAIL STORM!) cleared up in time for me to enjoy some Naturing this afternoon.

But, first things first. Apparently, I’ve not likely been seeing Warbling Vireos lately. Bob pointed out to me the very unlikelihood of that being what I’ve been seeing. My current guess now is that they were Orange-crowned Warblers. Similar white eye makeup. I feel bad for assuming that’s what they were. Who do I think I am? An expert birder??

So, not only did the rain and hail stop, but the sun actually had crept out by the time I headed out around 3pmish. What luck.

I thought it might be a messy mess out there, so I just planned to visit the AIDS Memorial Grove and the Lily Pond. Simple. Easy.

Took the walk along Whiskey Hill, just ’cause it’s been a while. The place is particularly magical right now with all the darkened Coast Live Oaks from the rain and all the glowing green grass from the rain. First bird seen was near the end. A Hermit Thrush that quickly escaped from view once I spotted it. Pretty typical!

But just past there on the other side of the trail was a lovely lavender Blewit mushroom. Never seen one there before! And not many in GGPark, if any? Also got to use my new Fungi Knife that I received from Brian’s sister-in-law. Mmm-hmm. I must totally look like a Fungi Weirdo now!

Spotted some gorgeous Hairy Curtain Crust and a huge Scaly Rustgill another Fungi Fairy had already pulled between Sharon Studio and the Lawn Bowling lawns. Blueblossom was also starting to show. A Fox Sparrow appeared to be reaping worm benefits from the ground below. Some Tree Dahlia carnage from the storm. And a small cluster of old Honey Mushrooms.

Walked to what I should now call the New Secret Mushroom Spot on the way to the AIDS Memorial Grove. And there was more there than I’ve seen before! Along with many Pungent Slippery Jacks (including a particularly handsomely speckled specimen) and juicy-looking Chip Cherries (one of which with a very distinctive bite out of the cap!), there were Scurfy Twiglets here and there and even A TON of False Chanterelles a little further ahead.

At the AMG, I spotted a little grouping of Common Bird’s Nest Fungus, flowering Mophead Hydrangea, a tiny Meadow Slug (I think), the usual flycatching Black Phoebe, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet bopping around the Bear’s Breeches.

But what was most memorable was what I saw on my way out. I remembered that I’d seen Red-cage Fungus there before. Along the stone wall circle (the middle one). And lo and behold, they were there again! Just two dimpled golf ball eggs. One had a small hole! Does that mean no Red-cage baby will emerge?

Also there was an exquisite burgundy flower. And I have NO IDEA what it is. ID apps point to Black Geranium, but that has three lower petals. Ah, another flora mystery that will haunt me FOREVER.

Decided to take the back way to the Lily Pond. That alternate South trail was taped off for tree damage! Lots of random trees and tree bits all over the place over there. No fresh fungi.

At the Lily Pond, even some Fishpole Bamboo had come down! And was lying on the pond. Along with some bits from the Curly Willow. And my gawd was the pond FULL. Almost oozing onto the actual trail.

A large group of Hooded Mergansers and a couple Ring-necked Duck couples were occupying the pond waters. The Ducks were diving. The Mergansers were napping. And numerous Yellow-rumped Warblers were flycatching. The resident Black Phoebe even chased one off as it was competing right next to it!

The ferns seemed to have just VANISHED from the Northwest end of the pond. Do they go into winter senescence? I just learned that phrase from the Presidio Trust’s Wildlife Ecologist, who explained to me that the reeds and Silverweed over at the Sierran Tree Frog spot do that (die back in winter). So there’s nothing to be worried about! And check me out using it in a sentence on the very same day.

Weird thing is my memory is that those ferns are ALWAYS THERE. Hm…

Even the South trail of the Tree Fern Dell was taped off for tree damage! Those lucky fauna get it all for themselves for a spell.

I turned back around and thought I heard a faint and distant HOOT. Headed up the paved path to look for the Great Horned Owls of the East, and about half-way up A COYOTE sauntered onto the path ahead of me! As usual, it pretty much ignored me (save one glance) and continued on its route into the West end of the Lily Pond. COYOTE! Yes, no matter how often I see them it’s always worth ALL CAPS!

Tried to find the one hooting GHO I had heard and didn’t. It’s amazing how hard it is to find them by hoot alone when there’s still light out. But it hooted again, and I went straight back down the paved path. And then that thing happened that I love. I looked up, and it was right there where my eyes landed. Sitting on a crooked branch, somewhat in the open. Unobscured. Pa Owl. Hooting.

But I didn’t hear Ma Owl hoot back FOR SOME TIME. Thankfully, she did. And she was back at the tip-top of the supercrazytall Monterey Pine that I last saw them in. He slowly made his way over to her and disappeared under the top of the tree near her. I got one decent glimpse of her while she was hooting. And she looked right at me. She saw me. Yes, she did. Owl photos below for the owl fans.

It was getting colder and breezier and darker, and my neck was about to give up so I headed out before watching either of them fly off for the night. On my way out, along the Slime Mold Lab Trail, I noticed more fresh pink slime that someone on iNat believes is a fungus and not a slime mold. Perhaps newer and better photos will help this time?

Very happy to have gotten outside at all on a day like today. And seeing my owls always brightens my day. Thank you, my beloved backyard.

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