Today I had a mission to finally go see the supposed “Magnolia Peak” at the SFBG.
Turns out, it’s a better idea to go see “The Peak” before crazy winds come through. Stupid me, I thought, “It’ll be peak, AND there will be gorgeous Magnolia petals everywhere, too!” So, yeah. Not quite what I had expected.
Though, there are still PLENTY of Magnolias still up and blooming, and there are actually a fair amount that haven’t yet bloomed. I totally enjoyed seeing what was there, I must say. I think there hasn’t been a Magnolia I’ve met that I didn’t think was just STUNNING. And, I loved looking up at the sky to see their canopy.
But I’ll say this. I was way more thrilled to see the beginnings of flowering happening on that huge California Buckeye in the CA Native Garden. Guess I’m more partial that way?
After getting to most of the Magnolias I knew, stopping by the CA Native Garden to see if there was any change to the Pipevine area yet (NOPE), and strolling past the Moon Viewing Garden, I came upon a small trail intersection and happened to look up and see a VARIED THRUSH!
It was underneath a tree and on a bare branch. SUPER CRAZY EXCITING! My best looks at it this Winter!! And it was even IN SHADE. It happened to be in about the same area as when I’ve seen one there before. But this time, there were LITERAL HORDES of American Robins in the large tree I’d seen the Varied Thrush in before. They were also all over the lawn, where I’ve often had friend picnics. And one was PARTICULARLY VOCAL. And it would not leave the Varied Thrush alone!
Every time the Varied Thrush popped out for a bit, the Robin would chase it away. At one point, ANOTHER Varied Thrush swooped in and landed on a bare branch almost right in front of me! Must not have seen me as I was in shade and was wearing black and was standing still. It was bigger than the first Thrush, and it soon flew off to a nearby tree when it realized I was there.
I pretty much watched the drama between these Thrushes and the one bossy Robin for SOME TIME. I was absolutely indulging in seeing a Varied Thrush without obstruction, FOR ONCE. It spent a while flicking aside dead leaves off the ground with its beak and feeding on whatever was underneath them. While it was doing its business, I got a great look at its undergarments, which are shockingly just as ornate as the rest of it! Amazing. Even their legs are perfectly colorful and matchy.
After getting my fill, I strolled back through some Magnolias to head to the ones in the North. But I stopped to watch a Yellow-rumped Warbler and a Townsend’s Warbler bopping about in the Magnolias. Even an Anna’s Hummingbird was close-by, apparently yelling at them.
Heard a Pacific Wren behind me, so I turned around to find it. Didn’t, but I ended up getting good looks at the Townsend’s Warbler, who had moved to a different tree. It did its usual bopping around for a little bit, then it seemed to find a perching spot it liked. A LOT. Nicely nestled in leaves. And it just SAT THERE. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve so rarely seen them be still. It looked around, maybe wondering if anyone was watching it do this very un-Townsendy behavior.
Walked to the lawn, and I startled one of the Varied Thrushes, who was on the ground just ahead of me. Saw where it landed and slowly creeped alongside. And I am still surprised it didn’t move one bit as I got into position to take likely the two best photos I took (or will ever take??) of a Varied Thrush. SO AWESOME.
But then something odd happened. After all the sass it got from the Robin before, it flew off to join a whole group of them that were all on the ground. Moving dead leaves and eating underneath. HM! I had wondered if the Varied Thrush was so easily scared off by the Robin because there were so many Robins. But maybe it’s just this ONE ROBIN? Regardless, they all peacefully went about their business.
While passing the Waterfowl Pond, I noticed both a Great Blue Heron (that I caught yawning!), a Black-crowned Night-Heron, and some Hooded Merganser couples. Rounding the East side, I got to watch a Black Phoebe adorably perched on the tiniest branch. Could those feet be cuter? Nope.
After cruising by the remaining Magnolias and hearing a Song Sparrow sing a song I’ve never heard before, I headed to the Friend Gate. Where another Song Sparrow was seemingly defending a Weeping Bottlebrush tree from a Hummingbird.
WAIT! It was an ALLEN’S HUMMINGBIRD!! I haven’t seen one in so long. So this was A TREAT. Wish I’d gotten better photos, but hey. I saw one!
Had just enough time to stop and see the Great Horned Owls of the East. Or, at least try to. It’s been a bit since I’ve seen them, so who knows where they’re at these days?
On my way, I walked through the CAS Botanical Garden. The California Buckeyes all have leaves out now, yay. But when I got to the East end, it was taped off! A huge tree had come down right onto the trail (near the Chocolate Arion’s domain), and there was a sign saying they were working on it. Couldn’t even get to the spot on the other end to see any remnants of the Red-cage Fungus there. Hope they re-open that trail soon.
As I was leaving the area, a Black-tailed Bumble Bee buzzed right in front of me to get to a flowering Blueblossom then almost immediately buzzed back around me and out of sight. And I realized I wasn’t going to stop and smell the Ceanothus. So this Bumblebee helped remind me to do so. And it was good that it did.
The small Manzanitas are flowering along that East fence. So small but with so many flowers!
I walked past the owl nursery on my way to find the GHOs. It was on the way. And I fondly looked up for them, like I can’t help myself to do, and I thought of all the times I’d seen them… AND WHA!? One was there! High up. By itself. And I can’t even tell you how freaked out I was. I’m so glad no one else was around because I said out loud to it, “Who are you??”
At first I had a crazy thought that it was Junior. But, no. It had Pa Owl looks. WEIRD, though! I hurried over to the last spot I saw them in, at the edge of the Secret Gardens and the Lily Pond. They weren’t in the same eucs as last time. And nowhere where I’ve seen them recently.
Visited the Lily Pond briefly, since I was right there. Some Brown Creepers were creeping up the Coast Live Oaks. The usual suspects were on the pond. And the Great Blue Heron of the Lily Pond was there! And it was cracking me up, because they are usually so stoic when they’re hunting. Looking like they couldn’t care less about finding a meal. But this one had its flippin’ head poking into bushes! Just standing there with its head directly in bushes. As if it were saying, “Hey. I see you. Come out already.” Made me laugh.
Headed back for one last pass, and I thought I heard faint hooting. Now, I sometimes hear this. And it’s not hooting. The wind can do that. Or my mind. And I didn’t hear hooting when I got to the familiar spots. I had to head home to make a somewhat elaborate dinner, so I reluctantly started for home.
Stopped by the owl nursery to see if the GHO was still there. Yep. Sleeping. BIZARRE. Owl photos below for the owl fans.
Just as I was steps away from leaving GGPark, I noticed a ton of blooming Cherry Laurel on MLK. So happy I looked up to notice because it smelled intoxicatingly sweet, as always. Ahhh.
So, yeah. Some learnings. 1. See the Magnolia peak before the winds come. 2. All these times I’ve struggled to see Varied Thrushes in Eastbaysia, and here were two in my flippin’ backyard. Not hiding sodangwell in forests! 3. One of my owls hangs out in the owl nursery in wintertime. Ok, that’s not so much of a learning. It’s now an UNSOLVED MYSTERY, FOLKS. So glad I squeezed in some Naturing before the rains come, but now I have to wait fartoolong to investigate this owl nursery mystery!