Point Reyes (4/5/2023)

Today I went on another day trip. I’ve decided that while I’m in Wildflower Chaser mode, I’m going to indulge on more day trips now that the rains have calmed down a bit! And next on my list was Tolmie’s Pussy Ears.

I felt my odds were best at finding it this week up at Pt. Reyes, given what I was seeing on iNat. It’s fortunately not obscured! On the Chimney Rock Trail. And I got what I wanted.

But, WOW. SO MANY WILDFLOWERS out there!! Wayyyy more than I was expecting. Nothing like those Super Bloom photos you see, but this was about as lovely and delightful as I have seen in the past. Like at the San Bruno Mountain Ecological Reserve. With different flowers!

First off, there were some female Tule Elk hanging around near the parking lot. ! Didn’t think they’d venture to that very tip!! First bloom I saw there was a cheery Douglas Iris, of which there’d turn out to be OHSOMANY once I made my way out on the trail. It is Douglas Irisland out there.

From the parking lot, I could see (with binocs) and hear (with my ears) the Northern Elephant Seals in the distance on the beach. Their random noises (of the males?) would be part of my soundtrack while there. And I loved it.

Ok, WILDFLOWERS. I saw California Goldfields, Dwarf Checkermallow, California Buttercup, Beach Strawberry, Hookedspur Violet, Red Maids, Pale Flax, Western Blue-eyed Grass, a Lupine (Sky Lupine?), and Field Chickweed. This was all leading up to the half-way spot. All pretty small. But all just fantastic to see.

At the half-way spot, you can peek over the edge (safely). And there were more female Elephant Seals down there! Some were nuzzled against each other. Some were throwing sand on top of themselves. It was all too adorable.

It was pretty clear and sunny, despite the cloudy forecast. So I was able to see the Farallones! Love when I can. Love that I’ve been out there. Love it.

Heard a bird sound I didn’t recognize down where the Elephant Seals were. Merlin’s Sound ID believed it to be an American Oystercatcher. Wasn’t able to find it, but it was likely way down there!

Kept going, and I saw Coast Paintbrush, Sun Cup, newtome Sticky Mouse-ear Chickweed, and Rosy Sandcrocus. Oh, and a burrow that looked like one for an American Badger! More Hookedspur Violets, which I was really starting to fall in love with. And bright Narrowleaf Mule-Ears.

It was around this time that I was wondering if it was going to be tough to find the Tolmie’s Pussy Ears. I looked out at the vast flat meadow between me and the ocean. So full of scattered wildflowers.

And then I looked down and SAW IT. Newtome Tolmie’s Pussy Ears! Gah, they are so fetching. And those fuzzy ears! Lucky me, there was a variety of petal angles I got to see. And, it turns out the place was FULL OF THEM starting there. There was no way I was going to miss them. Unless I never looked down. So weird to me that people never look down when out in nature.

After admiring them for a bit, I made my way to the very Point of Point Reyes. Along with many more Tolmie’s Pussy Ears, I also saw more Coast Paintbrush and some intriguing white cluster flower in the distance I couldn’t quite make out and Coastal Larkspur (?).

Got to another spot where I could see the beach below me. On the East side. More female Elephant Seals! And then I was at the end of the trail. Where there was ONE cluster of San Francisco Wallflower. THAT’S what I saw in the distance! How I love when a mystery is solved.

Passed by some blooming Common Cowparsnip as I headed back. And I was approaching a family of three ahead on the trail. The parents were trying to coax their kid into going with them on the loop, which was marked with an “Unauthorized Trail” sign. The kid didn’t want to go! His argument was that the sign meant they shouldn’t. I had to hold my tongue when I passed them, thinking of the alltoomany news headlines I see about people (often family members) getting stuck on cliffs…

And then I stopped to notice the bunch grasses on the meadow. I’ve been learning about them in my CCSF class. How, because they are bunched, they provide space inbetween each bunch, which allows wildflowers to take that space and bloom. And here it was before me. What I’m learning in that class. I tell ya!

Spotted a beauty of a Blewit under some Monterey Cypress trees, but it was way too hard to get to. Was consoled by a baby Blewit closer to the trail. As it was a baby, and I knew what it was, I left it alone. Love to see them.

Still had time left, so I made my way to the Bear Valley Visitor Center and did a loop involving the Woodpecker Trail, Morgan Trail, and Kule Loklo Trail. I was curious if there were any fungi out there (leading up to and on the Woodpecker Trail) and if any wildflowers were on the rest. I had done the last two trails as part of my Pt. Reyes CalNat course, and there were a good amount of wildlfowers there in May. Thought maybe there’d be earlybirds with all the rain?

The Coast Live Oaks spot, where I went foraging as part of the Fungi class I took there a bit ago, was pretty dry. But I managed to find a small community of Oak-loving Elfin Saddles! The one I plucked was so nice and cold, of course.

Headed up to join the Woodpecker Trail, and along with a couple scat message boards, I happened to see what looked like a newtome caterpillar right on the trail. No good solid guesses from Seek or iNat, so my best guess is Large Yellow Underwing?

While the Woodpecker Trail didn’t have the insane fungi bounty as my last visit, I did find some notable things! Like many Milkmaids (of which I saw A TON driving on Lucas Valley Road to get to Pt. Reyes) and a good-size Deer Mushroom (I think?) and gorgeous Pacific Trillium (first time seeing it this year!) and a Button’s Banana Slug (that looked perfectly snuggled under twigs).

A handful of Deer were out on the hill, as they always are approaching sunset. And the rest of the trails didn’t have much to write home about. Guess May is the time to visit! Did spot some Mulch Maids (I think) and heard a Northern Flicker and watched an Allen’s Hummingbird do his mating U and maybe saw some Deceiver fungi and definitely spooked two California Quail.

All in all, a very successful day for spring flora! And, BONUS, I spotted a COYOTE off the road on my drive out. Like a lunatic, I stopped my car on Sir Francis Drake to watch it. Turned on my hazards, of course. And one nice woman with her small dog stopped as she went around me and motioned if I was in trouble? I smiled and motioned that I was A-OK. And that was a warmnfuzzy way to end my flora day in Pt. Reyes.

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