Forest Knolls, with Coyote, Great Horned Owl, and Raccoon

I love that I can walk late at night in Forest Knolls. I’ve always enjoyed these magical (though infrequent walks). Now, with social distancing, they’re better than ever; there’s hardly anyone around.

Last week, I was out a couple of times. The first night was as still and quiet as if someone had turned off the world’s sound. On my way home I saw a dark shape on the sidewalk ahead. At first, it was so still that I thought it was a small abandoned suitcase or something. But as I came closer, it moved, and the light from the street-lamp showed me a raccoon. It looked at me and dived into the roadside shrubs. I went out to the middle of the road to give it enough room. Though I was pleased to see it. With all the precautions people (including us) take with their trashcans, I thought raccoons had abandoned our neighborhood for lack of food.

Another night, the quiet was broken by one of my favorite sounds: a Great Horned Owl up in Sutro Forest. It sounded like a lone owl, and stopped after a few hoots. Later in the year, perhaps I’ll hear the duets of a pair talking to each other.

And the same night, the best sighting of all: a coyote, out on Oak Park Drive near the staircase called Glenhaven Lane. When it saw me, it retreated up the staircase, and then onto the hillside so it could escape into the bushes if I pursued it. I didn’t, of course. I gave it a wide berth, and took a few blurry pictures with my cellphone.

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Stow Lake Photo Swap

At Stow Lake yesterday, we came upon a couple looking at something. We stopped to see what it was. There on the ground was a red crayfish. We’d never seen one at Stow Lake before, and neither had they, though they visit often. I pulled out my camera.

“You have a camera?” the lady asked. “We came from someplace else, so we didn’t bring ours.”

Even better, my companion had an iPhone. He could take the photo and instantly send it to their email address.  Which he did.

Here’s the iPhone picture of the crayfish.

(We’re still wondering what it’s doing there, on the dry dusty path.)

When they emailed back to thank us, they sent us this enchanting picture of three baby Great Horned Owls in Golden Gate Park.

When I asked for permission to publish it, they agreed. In a follow-up they said, “One of the really nice things in the park is sharing wildlife, especially with people who may not have ever seen owls, or herons, or bats…

Couldn’t agree more. We’re so fortunate to have this wonderful park ten minutes from our neighborhood.

Our Neighborhood Owls

Yes, there's a great horned owl on the branch...

Out for a walk by Sutro Forest yesterday evening, we saw our neighborhood Great Horned Owls. They live and nest in the forest, and come out around dusk. I first noticed them some years ago, and I’d heard them even before that. (If you hear a soft resonant hoot, that’s them. Most other kinds of owls don’t hoot; they screech or cry out.)

Great horned owl, not a bunch of leaves.

One of them was perched in the fork of a big eucalyptus tree, looking out at the landscape, waiting for dark and hunting time. As we stopped to watch the watcher, its mate arrived, landed on a higher branch, and looked around with interest. As long as we chattered, they ignored us, but when we whistled softly, they bobbed their heads and turned to look at us.

No one had a camera, so these indistinct images are from a cell phone.

It was amazing, to see these splendid birds so near home. “I’ve never seen owls so close up before,” said my companion. We felt very lucky indeed.