Mount Davidson (3/5/2023)

Today I needed some Naturing time. Planning to work on homework in the next couple days, so this will carry me over until Wednesday! After seeing what I think might be only the second time I’ve seen an iNat observation for a Checker Lily in SF County, I decided to go investigate this new observation on Mt. Davidson!

I’ve only ever been once before, and I wasn’t wowed. It seemed like it was mostly the same kind of stuff as on Mount Sutro (eucs and ivy), but it appeared, at the time, that there was very little else. Apparently, I didn’t go at an ideal time? There was much more to see, flora-wise, this time. I wouldn’t say I was wowed, but I was delighted!

Started off at a different trailhead than last time, just to mix it up. The one with the bus stop in front of it. And it’s a much quicker way to the vista point. Spotted Wall Germander and Blueblossom right at the road. Already a good sign there’d be flowers ahead. Past the entrance and up the initial climb, I started seeing Red-berried Elder. Turns out that stuff is EVERYWHERE, and it’s ALL BLOOMING right now. It may not be anything especially unique or special, but I’m fond of it. So it was a comfort to see it in so many places.

One flowering Orange Bush Monkeyflower along the way to the main mound of chert. A number of Dwarf Checkermallows, lots of baby Lupines that won’t yet flower, California Golden Violets, Varied Lupine, Footsteps of Spring, Red-flowering Currant, and even Douglas Irises all were scattered in the open area with all THE VIEWS. It might sound impressive, but it’s such a large open space on that Northeast corner that you actually kind of had to look for the flowers to see them.

I didn’t think the Checker Lilies were up there. From what I’ve seen, they like shady areas mostly. And, I’m the kind of Flora Chaser that likes to first try finding it on my own. Without consulting map coordinates. So I tried to use The Force.

Decided to wander to find the Checker Lilies. There’s only so much actual trail up there that I figured I was bound to see it. At the top, I started on a South trail heading West. And it was all eucs and ivy. I kept thinking that it seemed so strange that some Checker Lilies managed to find a spot they liked with all those eucs and ivy. But I so enjoy walking on chert trails that I didn’t mind so much. Ahhh, that crackling chert underneath your feet! Can’t get enough of it.

Noticed a pretty wet wall of rock at one point. And wondered where the water from Mt. Davidson empties? Need to look into that.

Ended up on the North side at some point, and I started seeing native flowering plants. Like Twinberry Honeysuckle, Osoberry, and non-flowering (yet) Coffeeberry. Got to a spot in the middle of it all when an Anna’s Hummingbird swooped into view. Got out my old digital camera (since my new one is with the nice man from Icamera in Oakland right now) and used it! It actually managed to get a decent shot of the Hummingbird in Mid-Hover with the one photo I was able to snap of it! But how the heck did I use a camera for so long during the pandemic without a viewfinder??

Continued on, after giving up on the Hummingbird coming back, and I actually stopped to take in The View. It was a pretty clear day, and I was looking at a 180 degree view of the San Francisco that’s North of Mt. Davidson. I could see the ocean water just before the Marin Headlands. And downtown. It was kind of neat. I even took a panoramic photo. Who am I?

Ended up taking a low loop around the East side and spotted more of the same wildflowers. Unfortunately, there’s tons of Bermuda Buttercup over there, but plantings are happening as evidenced by flags. I wonder if a controlled burn would kill Bermuda Buttercup?

After returning to where I had started, and noting some flowering California Beeplant (first of the year for me!), I realized I was going to need to consult the map coordinates after all. Where was this elusive patch of Checker Lilies??

Turns out, it was back where I first started. In the open space. Just past the only flowering Pacific Pea plant I saw up there, I saw it. Right where the map coordinates were for it. It was a SINGLE Checker Lily. One of those particularly lovely purply ones. It was actually just off the trail, and that made me nervous. They often seem to be very close to trails, but this one was not on much of a sloped hillside. Just out in that open space ALL BY ITSELF!

I honestly thought the observation was representative of a group of them. Had no idea it’d be JUST THE ONE. But it was there. Drooping gracefully, like they do. I spent a little time with it. Wondering how it managed to be there at all. Peering into those magical anthers and inner petal sides that make you feel like you’re looking into a fantastic time warp in progress. SO SPECIAL.

I finished up my admiration session, and I moved on. I had found what I was looking for. A Checker Lily within my city limits. Next time I’ll have to go find out where they are in Bay View Park.

On my way out, I spotted a couple Blue Dicks on the cherty hillside. And they seemed to be hinting at more to come, which will look so nice when it happens. I thought it was a perfect way to end my time there.

And then I got to maybe five feet from the trailhead when I heard A HOOT. Oh, YES. Why this couldn’t have happened when I was back up where it was coming from? Just a minute or so prior??

As I have never met the Great Horned Owls of Mt. Davidson, I HAD TO GO SEE.

Took the South-most trail and headed West. It took a while to narrow down where BOTH of the GHOs were hooting from. Yes, A PAIR. Made my best guess, got a decent recording, and I waited to see if they might fly out so I could see them. I had spotted a large nest somewhat close to the hooting sounds. Hm!

As I was wondering if I’d ever see them, one flew out and landed on a tree branch over the trail ahead. Unobscured. Not good light. But, WHATEVER! I was going to get goodish photos! Until I whipped out my camera, turned it on, and had it immediately turn off from a LOW BATTERY.

Now, JUST ONCE, I’d like to own a camera that gave me SOME KIND OF ADVANCE NOTICE on matters like THIS! I mean, we can put cars on Mars, folks. It can’t be THAT HARD.

So I had to give up on that and use my iPhone camera. Why is there even a zoom option on that thing? It is SUCH CRAP. I had to resort to the ole iPhone-in-front-of-my-binocs method. So annoying, but I got IDable photos. And, that is what’s most important.

Watched the male sit on that branch for a bit. While the female continued to hoot from the original location. A Russian-sounding couple with a baby and dog stopped to see. The woman asked me something about them, and we chatted a little. Informed her it was the male we were seeing, and how I knew that. They come often, as this is their backyard (her word!), and they’ve been interested in these owls.

After some info transfer, she thanked me and continued on. A British-sounding man came by from the other direction, who stopped to see what the family was stopped for. And then he and I started chatting about the owls. And I told him how I knew it was the male, and he was thrilled to know. I think, if anything, that has been my greatest gift of knowledge to total strangers that are interested in GHOs. Yep.

After all that, I was alone with the male still in front of me. Looking around quickly at everything. What was odd was that he didn’t hoot for a while. Just the female. Then he started a tiny bit of preening and stretching. And resumed his hooting to complete the duets. And the world made sense again.

I was hoping to see him fly off or see her fly in, but no. It was getting colder and darker. And I had to pick up dinner. So I headed back to my car. Hearing hooting along the way. Can never complain about that exit music.

So happy I found that Checker Lily and met a newtome GHO pair in SF! Great Sunday.

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