Getting To Know The Great Horned Owls Of Golden Gate Park | Hoodline

juvenileowlA great article about Great Horned Owls in Golden Gate Park:

Living near Golden Gate Park means getting used to nocturnal wildlife encounters, whether it’s raccoons, skunks or the occasional coyote. But there’s another neighborhood animal that’s more often heard than seen: the great horned owl. For much of the 20th century, the city’s population of hawks, eagles and owls declined due to pollution, but after harmful substances like DDT and leaded gasoline were banned in recent years, their numbers have rebounded.

For the last several years, a group of Bubo virginianus has nested in the pine trees near the bison paddock, at Golden Gate Park’s western end. Unlike other birds, great horned owls start their families right around now, in the depths of winter. After settling into the abandoned nest of another large bird, the female typically lays a clutch of three to five eggs, which incubate for three to four weeks. Unlike most San Franciscans, these owls are strictly monogamous; once they make a love connection, it’s for life.

An owl in Bernal Heights, 2007. (Photo: Art Siegel/Flickr)

After hatching, owlets stick close to their parents, who accompany them as they explore nearby branches. By the time they’re nine weeks old, baby owls have had their first flying lessons, but they’ll remain with their parents for several more months, leaving the nest early the following fall. Although adults usually stake out 2-3 square miles of home territory around the nest, juvenile owls may roam as far as 150 miles to find a new home.

Golden Gate Park offers a smorgasbord of snacks for the owls, which have their pick of insects, rodents, reptiles, and even other birds. Owls swallow their prey whole and undergo a 12-hour digestion cycle, regurgitating fur, teeth and bones in the form of compacted pellets.

An owl pellet containing rodent bones and teeth. (Photo: Art Siegel/Flickr)

Great horned owls are easily recognized by their brown faces, with prominent eyebrows and long tufts above each ear. Because one ear is higher than the other, owls can triangulate faint sounds, like a mouse chewing grass seeds, from far away. Their huge eyes are well-calibrated for seeing clearly in low light; if an owl were the size of a human, its eyes would be as large as oranges. A fully grown adult can grow up to two feet tall, with a wingspan of three to five feet.

In the wild, great horned owls usually live between 8 and 13 years, but in captivity, they are extremely long-lived. In 2012, an owl at the San Francisco Zoo died at the age of 50.

If you’re looking to spot an owl, keep your eyes peeled at night, when they go hunting. According to Wikipedia, their “hunting activity tends to peak between 8:30pm and 12:00am, and then can pick back up from 4:30 am to sunrise.” They often rest on the tops of utility poles, or the highest tree branches.

To see for ourselves, we staked out a spot near the Big Rec baseball diamond near 9th & Irving around 5:30am this morning. Though we weren’t able to spot an owl, we did hear the iconic cry of “WHOwhowhoWHO!” that indicated a male was nearby (females are higher in pitch). For those who don’t live near Golden Gate Park, Bernal Heights and the Presidio are also prime owl-spotting locations.

Source: Getting To Know The Great Horned Owls Of Golden Gate Park | Hoodline

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Foglift, Golden Gate Park


Thank you Steven Kane for this beautiful new photograph:  “Foglift, Golden Gate Park.”

Steven writes:  “This is new work, and one of my two pieces accepted for a national juried show that opens today at PHOTO, a fine arts photography gallery in Oakland. Opening reception is tonight and the show runs through November 14, so stop by if you’re out on the town!”

Source: Foglift, Golden Gate Park

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Some Snags at Stow Lake, Golden Gate Park


Snags in Stow Lake (watercolor by Heath Massey)

As both an artist and a naturalist I’m drawn to the dead trees on the islands in Stow Lake. Their skeletal remains stand out dramatically against the sky and they exemplify the natural life cycles in the park.  Heavy with ivy, nasturtium and other creeping vines, alive with birds and insects, they are nurturing the next incarnation of the park, whatever that turns out to be.

Dead trees left to decompose in place are called “snags.”  They are an important part of any ecosystem, enriching habitat at all stages of their decay.   Their cracks and crannies provide nesting opportunities and food storage for many animals, including birds, bats, squirrels and raccoons.  Hosting insects, mosses, lichens and fungi, they also offer a rich smorgasbord for feeding wildlife.  And the mosses, lichens and fungi help break down the wood and return nutrients to the soil through the nitrogen cycle.  Raptors of all kinds love to perch on these snags and survey the hunting scene below.  So what’s not to like?

Well, I suppose some might find them unsightly in an urban park designed to look more manicured.  And as they decay they could ultimately fall on unsuspecting passers-by or cars.  But in the right place, like on these isolated islands in Stow Lake, that potential hazard seems far outweighed by the benefits.  I don’t know if these dead trees represent a conscious decision or  just a snag in the maintenance schedule.  But whatever;   I’m sure the local wildlife is grateful for them, as am I.

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The Rustic Bridge, Stow Lake

Rustic Bridge, Stow Lake (watercolor by Heath Massey)

Rustic Bridge, Stow Lake (watercolor by Heath Massey)

The “Rustic Bridge” at Stow Lake cries out “paint me,” to watercolorists like me. No other spot in Golden Gate Park evokes the English rustic tradition quite so picturesquely as this bridge. Designed by Arthur Page Brown in 1892, it links Strawberry Hill to the mainland on the south side of the lake.  Constructed of red chert, the local, sedimentary rock that crowns many of the hills in the city, the bridge blends naturalistically with the surrounding foliage and reflects subtly in the algae-green water of the lake.

Arthur Page Brown completed a remarkable body of work in San Francisco during his brief career. Besides this jewel of a bridge, he designed Trinity Church (Bush and Gough) and the Swedenborgian Church (Lyon and Washington), as well as a number of residences, including the Alban Towne house (1101 California) which was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, but whose portico is now another beloved landmark in Golden Gate Park (Portals of the Past at Lloyd’s Lake). Brown’s most magnificent legacy is the Ferry Building, which he designed in 1892 (it was completed in 1898 after his death).

After graduating from Cornell, Brown worked as a draftsman at the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White before opening his own firm in New York in 1885.  In 1889 he came to San Francisco at the request of Mary Ann Crocker, to design a mausoleum for her husband, the late Charles Crocker, at Mountain View Cemetery. With another commission from Mary Ann Crocker in hand he opened an office in San Francisco, where many prominent Bay Area architects worked for various periods of time, including Willis Polk and Bernard Maybeck.

Arthur Page Brown died in 1896 at the age of 36, from injuries sustained in a run-away horse and buggy accident near his home in Burlingame.  I can only imagine the architectural treasures San Francisco might have enjoyed if he had followed the rising trajectory of his early career.  But I do think this beautiful bridge in Golden Gate Park would have been hard to top.

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Jean-Michel Othoniel Installs ‘La Rose des Vents’ Sculpture at SF’s Conservatory of Flowers

statueLa Rose des Vent, a sculpture by Parisian artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, is the newest addition to the gardens outside Golden Gate Park’s Conservatory of Flowers.

Follow the link below to watch a time-lapse video of the installation, by Scott Enberg.

Source: Jean-Michel Othoniel Installs ‘La Rose des Vents’ Sculpture at SF’s Conservatory of Flowers (VIDEO) | 7×7

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12 Pianos in the San Francisco Botanical Gardens

Tickle the ivories at Flower Piano in the SF Botanical Garden. Photo via Kathryn Rummel

The San Francisco Botanical Garden is hosting Flower Piano, a musical fest that embodies true community and creativity. From July 9-20, twelve pianos will be placed among the colorful, flowering gardens, and visitors are encouraged to showcase their musical talents with anything from Mozart to Mary Had a Little Lamb.

Flower Piano is the brainchild of Half Moon Bay musician Mauro ffortissimo and San Francisco filmmaker Dean Mermell, and is the latest iteration of their Sunset Piano project. The project began when ffortissimo hauled a piano out to the cliffs of Half Moon Bay and played a nightly symphony before sacrificing the grand instrument to the rolling fog (he set the piano on fire once the fog had wreaked too much damage). An extension of ffortissimo’s original seaside concert, Sunset Piano places pianos in unexpected settings all across the Bay Area—along coastlines and in the middle of bustling urban streets.

This rendition of Sunset Piano adds another layer of beauty to the already tranquil and lush SF Botanical Garden. Although anyone can play, Flower Piano promises the talents of professional pianists on select days (make sure to catch Steinway pianist Lara Downes perform at 11am on July 18). Otherwise, celebrate summer with an idyllic stroll among the flowers and see how much of Pachelbel’s Canon you can remember.

Flower Piano is open July 9-20 at the San Francisco Botanical Garden, Golden Gate Park, 1199 9th Avenue.

via Find the 12 Pianos Hidden in the San Francisco Botanical Gardens | 7×7.

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More Eucalyptus in Golden Gate Park: The Cadenasso Group

"Eucalypti,"  by Giuseppe Cadenasso (1858-1918), oil on canvas, 48 x 31"

Eucalypti, by Giuseppe Cadenasso (1858-1918), oil on canvas, 48 x 31″

The Cadenasso Group, a grove of Eucalyptus trees on the west shore of Middle Lake in Golden Gate Park, is named in honor of  San Francisco painter Giuseppe Cadenasso (1858-1918).  Cadenasso arrived in California from Italy at the age of 9 and studied painting at the California School of Design and The Mark Hopkins Institute under Arthur Mathews (1860-1945) and Raymond Yelland (1848-1900).  He became a successful Bay Area landscape painter and a leading figure in San Francisco’s artistic community, maintaining a house and studio on Russian Hill until it was destroyed in the fire that followed the 1906 Earthquake.  After that tragic event, Cadenasso moved his studio to Oakland, where he been appointed as professor and chair of the art department at Mills College in 1902, a position he held for the rest of his life.  He was among a group of celebrated plein air painters in California in this period, who extolled the beauty of the local landscape.  Among his favorite subjects were the Eucalyptus trees and, particularly, the varied effects of light on their luminous trunks and dappled foliage.

"Golden Gate Park," oil, by Giuseppe Cadenesso

Golden Gate Park, Giuseppe Cadenasso

Cadenasso was struck and killed by a car at the intersection of Powell and Post in San Francisco in 1918, as he was returning home after seeing his son off to fight in WW I.  In 1919, then mayor of San Francisco, James Rolph, requested the dedication of a grove of eucalyptus in Golden Gate Park to commemorate  Cadenasso, as he had frequently painted there.

"By the Pool," oil, by Giuseppe Cadenasso (1858-1918)

By the Pool, Giuseppe Cadenasso (1858-1918)

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