Tilden Regional Park (2/8/2023)

Today I again had rehearsal in Eastbaysia in the evening, so I once again went Naturing over there! This time I tried out something called the Vollmer Peak Trail Loop with some modifications.

I thought MAYBE I might see a Newt crossing on South Park Drive, as it’s currently closed for their safe crossing. I am not sure why bicyclists are still allowed, as they for certain are not watching for them from what I could tell. But, at least there were no cars.

No, I did not see a single Newt in my time there. But I did see a handful of neat things.

First, upon arrival, I saw two bunnies running after the other in the Brush right near the trailhead. And some sweet Sugar Bush was flowering. Yet, it had no discernable smell I could find.

After a distracting walk alongside a maintenance yard (where someone was playing their drums QUITE LOUDLY), I got to the short side trail to South Park Drive. My plan was to avoid the steep descent of the first half of the loop by taking the road, while looking for Newts. Then complete the loop on the way back, which didn’t seem TOO INCLINEY.

The road was empty on my initial start, and the whole place felt kinda spooky. Like it had been abandoned. I started to wonder if people and bicyclists weren’t allowed, but eventually I saw people here and there. And the number of bicyclists increased dramatically the longer I was there.

I opted to walk on the grass and among the Coast Redwoods to start. And, I honestly don’t know how I saw it, but I saw something moving in the California Bay trees near Wildcat Creek. A Varied Thrush! I saw it in decent light! I got ONE decent photo!! It unfortunately vanished as I got a teensy bit closer. But I got very close to the noisy creek below and found a notoftused trail through the Redwoods that looked inviting.

Along the way, I started to hear Red-breasted Nuthatches, which I now know the sound of (a car alarm), thanks to hearing them recently in Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park. And just ahead, I happened to notice a Banana Slug on this very small trail! Button’s Banana Slug? I’ve never seen one with this particular coloring before. So awesome! It was absolutely still, so I walked carefully around it and decided to head closer to the road to avoid stepping on any more that might be out.

The rest of the walk down wasn’t anything special, really. I learned that the road essentially takes you along a string of picnic sites, including one I’d been to before for Carol and Dan’s anniversary party! But there were a couple highlights.

Spotted an old Russula fungi below a Redwood. And some Coyote-looking scat on the actual road. While looking for a Northern Flicker in a euc (that I never found), I caught sight of a Red-shouldered Hawk swooping down in a failed attempt at dinner. Got some serene views of the babbling brooks all headed North. A Hermit Thrush was out in the open for me. A Scurfy Twiglet here. A Golden Ear there. Cramp Balls. A small and white flower that neither Seek nor iNat knows what to make of.

And then it was time to head back via the actual trail. And that part was DANG MUDDY in parts. I had to walk on the earth wall on one side, holding onto thin branches of Coyote Brush! I’m kind of amazed I didn’t slide into any of it.

After the worst of it, I heard A HOOT. And then a HIGH HOOT. But these hoots were behind me. So I sadly could not investigate as I didn’t have enough light left and so didn’t want to traverse mud again. But it was a delight to hear a newtome Great Horned Owl pair nearby and now know where they roost in the Winter!

Got to about halfway back up, and I heard ANOTHER HOOT. Ok, this time I tried finding it. Nope. I had a hard time telling if it was East or West of the road. Realized finally that it was West of the creek even, and therefore not possible to find. But it was ANOTHER PAIR. Very exciting!

After way too many encounters with mountain bikers (on the trail that I had to wait to fly by me or on the road, gabbing with their bike buddies), which ultimately means I’ll likely avoid such trails in the area again, I made it back to where I started. Approached my car, and I heard ANOTHER FLIPPIN’ HOOT. This was closer to the entrance in the distance. South of where I was. I had a smidge of light left, so I investigated!

And I didn’t find them! Again, had a hard time locating them. And this was A THIRD PAIR OF GHOs. Went to where it seemed they were, then heard only cars driving by, and saw one pair of BATS seemingly chasing each other above me for an alltoobrief moment. Waited in near-darkness a little, and no more hooting. So I headed back.

Nearing my car again, I heard both of them hooting to the West of me. Guessing near the creek. So BIZARRE! Heard three distinct GHO pairs all equidistant from each other. So wished I could’ve seen JUST ONE, but you can’t always get what you want.

Since I’m not THAT FOND of this trail loop, at least I know there are some fantastic creatures that call the place home. And I got to see some and hear some today. I’ll take it.

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