Sign Hill Park (2/20/2023)

Today we visited Sign Hill Park. My second visit, and Brian’s first.

I wasn’t expecting huge changes from my last visit. Just little to no fungi. Figured it’d be a chance to complete the Sign Hill Park Loop. And show Brian a hill he’s long been curious to see.

While I was right that there were very few fungi around, there were LOTS OF CHANGES. Like Lupine flowers and California Manroot blooming on every ivy I saw. A flippin’ fungi growing out of ASPHALT. And the first sighting of BUTTERFLIES so close to SF for me.

A West Coast Lady appeared soon after we descended down the very long trail to the bottom of the West side. I’d have honestly been thrilled if that was the only butterfly I saw today. Honest.

Nearby, blooming Hummingbird Sage and Pacific Pea dotted the corners of the switchbacks. And we got to the spot where I’d stopped on my last visit. And the same group of birds were hanging out in the formerly burned areas. Many American Robins and a Yellow-rumped Warbler and House Finches and maybe two Northern Flickers and Mourning Doves and California Towhees.

But right in front of us, an Anna’s Hummingbird calmly perched and called out. Not at all bothered by our proximity to it.

After continuing our descent, I spotted a Veiled Polypore colony on the way to the groundish level. Once there, exciting things started happening. My first Douglas Iris (I think?) of the year. More California Golden Violets. A super small cluster of Splitgill Mushrooms. A succulent-looking plant without flowers that I didn’t recognize. A couple Suncups! A shriveled up community of Honey Mushrooms?

And then we started the walk up. And after passing the South San Francisco sign on our left, we reached a meadow. TONS of Hummingbird Sage that was mostly not in bloom yet. And bunches of California Poppies and Varied Lupine (?) all sprawled out in front of me. Even some scattered Dwarf Checkermallow. It was kinda glorious.

Some people rave about “the views” from this park, but this view is really where it’s at.

AND THEN, IT BEGAN. Spotted a yellow Swallowtail-looking butterfly (which turned out to be an Anise Swallowtail, despite me thinking it was a Tiger Swallowtail since it seemed smaller?) patrolling over it all. And a couple of Bumblebees. And then ANOTHER Anise Swallowtail butterfly. And the two fought or courted for a bit! THEN two Red Admirals swirled in, also fighting or courting. And we stood still for a bit, watching them zoom and swirl around us. I had no expectation of seeing any butterflies today, and here we were trapped in battles and/or courtship displays!

On our way up from there, I spotted some Purple Sanicle and Ookow and a supercoollooking hover fly on one of the Ookows. Newtome Diamond Spottail! So pretty!

We started heading Northwest to the summit, and I had to stop and take a photo of Brian standing in the distance, looking toward San Bruno Mountain. It doesn’t even COME CLOSE to how gorgeous the meadow was in front of me. But it’s SOMETHING.

After reaching the summit, there was some INTENSE DRAMA. We saw many, MANY fights and/or courtships of butterflies up there. All the ones we’d seen before, plus even a Painted Lady? I don’t know why I didn’t get A SINGLE decent photo of them. Am I out of practice? Did I just never manage to catch them in the right light? Ah, well. At least I got decentish photos for IDing on iNat.

And that wonderful thing happened, where after standing still long enough to try and get photos of the butterflies, one of them ensured it stopped for a pose near me. I think I was marveling at that and ended up not snapping a photo of it before it flitted off to fight and/or court some more.

We finished watching all the drama and headed back. Stopped one last time in the area where the Great Horned Owls last were, but no sign of them. No hooting. It was 4pmish, so. BUT, I spotted a lovely gathering of Milkmaids. And a Red-tailed Hawk swooped into our view for a superbriefvisit before flying off.

Near the parking lot, I noticed huge fungi across the way. Agaricus of some kind? Incredibly short stems for the size of those caps about as big as my hand. Nutso.

So even though I wasn’t expecting much from this visit, I received SO MUCH! A true Spring-like outing filled with wildflowers and butterflies just before the weather changes drastically. Not too shabby for a Monday.

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