Golden Gate Park (2/6/2023)

Today I was quite excited to visit my backyard.

Ok, so I actually visited last Friday, eversobriefly. After driving back from Quartermaster Reach Marsh. I had a hankering for Strawberry Hill for some reason, but when I got there much of the North end was blocked off with fencing. Apparently they’re fixing the sidewalk? Why this wasn’t in the Rec and Park newsletter is odd to me. The ugly bridge wasn’t blocked off, but they had machinery right there making a ton of noise. No, thanks!

I ended up at the Lily Pond, but I had barely an hour there. Was able to find one of the Great Horned Owls of the East, in that super tall Monterey Pine tree I’ve seen them in before recently. Couldn’t get any decent photos, it was so high up and obstructed. The whole thing wasn’t worth journaling about. But I was looking forward to returning for a decent amount of time!

And that was today. Noticed a California Buckeye tree with new leaves after entering the ballfield area. Have I never noticed that there before?

Made my way to the Monarch Bear Grove, where White-crowned Sparrows and some American Robins and one Anna’s Hummingbird were. I bothered to stop and smell the flowering Cherry-Plum tree there, and I’m glad I did! After stopping to smell some of the Flowering Plum (I think) blossoms on the CCSF campus last week, and discovering they smell AMAZING, I’m now compelled to know all blossom scents! Why I never bothered to smell them before is beyond me.

Turned out to be foreshadowing of many lovely scented flowers I’d encounter today.

Decided to walk through the CAS Botanical Garden. There’s new wood chips on the trail now! AND, in the same spot I’ve seen them in before, I noticed THREE eggs of Red-cage Fungus! I touched the largest egg, and it WASN’T ATTACHED. I got to have it in my hand and admire it lovingly. Did it come off from its rhizomorphs? Or did someone pick it up? Will it still hatch?? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

Blueblossom and Wartleaf Ceanothus were blooming, along with the ever-present Red-flowering Currant lately. And a Lupine bush at the West end is going BONKERS. No flowers yet, but it is SO BIG.

Got to Anne’s Garden. Have I mentioned that’s what I’m calling the new garden South of the Shakespeare Garden? It looks a mess right now, but a number of things are still blooming. Some lovely blue Cornflower and Farewell-To-Spring were notables. Also spotted a single Chip Cherries mushroom. Still worth stopping by that little garden!

Took a trail route to the Music Concourse that I haven’t taken in forever. And I happened to notice what I thought were a cluster of Scurfy Twiglets in the grass. I picked one up, and a pine cone came with it! It was growing right smack-dab out of the dang thing! Uploaded my observation to iNat, and Scurfy Twiglet wasn’t at the top of the list. Maybe it’s Gymnopilus aurantiophyllus? Alan?

Took another route I haven’t done in a while, through the parking lot West of the Music Concourse, and I’m glad I did! Happened to spot a good number of Agaricus of some kind under a Coast Redwood tree. Thought only Redwood Rooters grew under them, but these were unique and segmented out the ends of its cap as it got older. There was a variety of different life stages to look at. And some other Fungi Fairy had plucked some already for me to look at.

Spotted a couple blooming Lavender-cotton button flowers. Also got to watch a Yellow-faced Bumble Bee almost disappear into a Sage flower. Looked like it was hiding or wearing a large and funny hat.

Walked past the Cherry-Plum garden alongside the Japanese Tea Garden. Nice to see some Daffodils starting to pop up under them. Looking at the trees made me wonder if fungi grow under Blossom trees. So far, I haven’t noticed it. Do fungi grow with cultivated trees? Something to look up later.

After stopping to enjoy an Anna’s Hummingbird resting in a Fuchsia (I think) bush, I headed up through Squirrel Central to arrive at Stow Lake. The Carp at the East end were visible and owned the whole area. The Northern Shoveler couples are still near the Great Blue Heron rookery island. Ring-necked Ducks and a Bufflehead were in the distance.

And as I was enjoying a Double-crested Cormorant stretching out on a branch end not big enough for both of its feet (!), I noticed two Short-billed Gulls swoop in. Haven’t seen them in a while! Also miraculously spotted a Hermit Thrush on the island. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to ID small birds on that island! I took my snack break on a bench across from it. And I wondered when the Great Blue Herons would start arriving.

Up on Strawberry Hill, a Black Phoebe was flycatching from the edge of that notdivingboard. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet made its noises but never showed itself to me. And an assortment of baby plants looked ready for planting near the beehive boxes.

Was expecting to see some fungi, but NO. Not a one. Did appreciate smelling the Garden Heliotrope there, though. And a different Cherry-Plum blossom as I left Strawberry Hill. I do invite you to get your nose into one if you pass by a blossom right now. Really.

After admiring blooming African Hemp, I made my way to the Pioneer Trail. Took in some deep inhales of the blooming Sagewood and started on the earth trail down. It was nice and quiet and damp, just how I like it. Fruit-scented Sage and Manzanita Tejocotera fruit all over the ground and two adorable Bleeding Fairy Helmet mushrooms were the highlights.

Until I got to the East side, where all the blossoming trees have started up. I think every single Cherry-Plum tree has blossoms on it there. It’s a lovely walk when they’re all out having a party.

On my way to see the GHOs, I saw the gorgeously large Magnolia trees blooming outside the Friend Gate of the SFBG. Gotta visit soon for Magnolia Madness!

Took another route I don’t often take to get to the Secret Gardens from the Music Concourse (through the South tunnel), and I’m glad I did! Got to see all the California Buckeye trees there sprouting leaf clusters, and I got a sweet whiff of newly blooming Cherry Laurel. Ahhhh.

Stopped to take in some stunning Magnolia sprengeri (?) cups, which funnily made someone else walking past me do the same, as well as some Willow catkins before making my way to the owls.

As I approached that same tall Pine tree, I heard both hooting from further away. Toward the Lily Pond. Followed the sounds, and a lady was there. Standing and looking up into a euc. I got close and started looking up, as well. She said that she wasn’t able to find it. I looked and soon found Pa Owl on a large euc branch, against the trunk. Ma Owl was in a tree over and higher up, but I couldn’t find her. Sounded like she was also in a euc, but that seemed odd. That’s not normally a tree she favors.

A young man showed up with a large recording mic with a mic cozy on it. And we kept looking for Ma Owl. Pa Owl has that wheezing sound again. Kinda concerned about that! He hopped out nearer the end of the branch then eventually flew away and into the darkness of a tree closer to the Lily Pond. I chatted with the woman about them a bit. And she thanked me for pointing the owl out to her as we parted ways.

I headed out, hearing them continue to duet hoot behind me. I turned around one last time, and Pa Owl flew back right then and seemingly right near where Ma Owl must’ve been. I’m thinking it’s time for them to nest soon… I hate when they first nest since it’s so hard to find them when that happens. But, if an owlet (or MORE?) is a result, it’s worth it. Owl photos of Pa Owl below for the owl fans.

It really feels like it’s been SO LONG since I’ve had quality time in my backyard. Always so grateful to spend time in it. Good Monday, yep.

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