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Stow Lake Surprise

August 6, 2012

Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park on a golden summer evening… it’s one of my favorite places to walk.  It was past seven when I got there, not crowded at all, though a few joggers and walkers and families were still around.  So also a few ducks and gulls, and something that splashed from time to time.

What was it?

A single pied-bill grebe was diving around the boat island, but it didn’t splash hard, it just dived in and vanished. But walking along the water’s edge, I came upon a possible splasher: a large koi fish, I estimate over a foot long. It was white and gold, not the usual well-camouflaged gray. So maybe the splashing was from fish? I still don’t know.

Stow Lake August ducklingI crossed the bridge beyond the boat house, and was startled to see a little bird bobbing along the reeds on the other side: a duckling. It busily swam along the reads, reaching up into the overhanging bushes. Its mother floated patiently along, just supervising junior. I was surprised because it’s so late in the season. I wonder if mallards can hatch a second brood?

I watched it for a while as it explored, for all the world like a toddler running ahead and stopping and looking, while its mother looks on. Here is again, hiding in the shadows of the overhanging tree.

Strawberry Hill was busy with squirrels, showing off their white shirt-fronts as they sat up to people-watch. They moved with the confidence of the popular, knowing that humans were more likely to admire than threaten. And maybe there’d be a nut or two on offer.

There’s been undergrowth removal on Strawberry hill, and maybe tree-trimming as well. It seems rather bare by comparison to what I remember from previous years. Steller’s Jay’s, blue birds with charcoal gray heads and crests, flew around the trees; the work seems to have opened up hunting grounds for them.

On the way back, I came upon the last surprise. Two people were looking at this: A crayfish. Never seen those before at Stow Lake, either.

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