Side Quests in the GGNRA by Angie Wu

What is a side quest?

Side quest (noun): An impromptu adventure or diversion undertaken by an individual, typically outside the realm of one's primary goals or responsibilities, often characterized by spontaneous actions and unconventional activities

Danijela, Jeremiah, and I at the best Vista Point in the whole Bay!

Following the holidays, I completed many side quests throughout the park. I joined different teams to help out with their work and explored new corners of the park that I have not been to before! Each side quest helped me learn more about the park as a whole and I hope I can complete some more in the future!

Side Quest #1: Being A Mission Blue Ally

A couple of weeks ago, I had the fantastic opportunity to join the Fort Baker Veg Team for a day (Natural Resources Intern Danijela and Park Biologist Jeremiah). The three of us spent the day at Battery Cavallo planting and seeding Lupinus albifrons across several hillslopes because they are extremely important in the life cycle of Mission Blue Butterflies. Larvae sometimes live in the leaf litter beneath the lupines, which are excellent nectar sources for the butterflies once they start flying in the springtime. I learned so much about different species of plants found at Fort Baker (which is a slightly different environment from the areas that I normally work in) and got to visit one of the most amazing viewpoints of the Bay Area as well. Though it was raining and cold, I had a great time planting the lupines knowing that they would be useful for the butterflies in the future! I hope to join the Fort Baker team again in the spring to assist with butterfly translocation projects (AKA frolicking in the fields with butterfly nets)!

Side Quest #2: Diving Deep into the History of the Presidio of San Francisco

It was extremely bright on Sweeney Ridge haha! Whitney and I and the site we planted at.

In an effort to learn more about the long and interesting history of the places I work in, I also spent a day exploring Fort Point and visiting the Presidio Visitor Center. At Fort Point, I explored the various exhibitions on topics such as the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge (an arch was built at the south end of the bridge to accommodate Fort Point), the importance of the multiple lighthouses constructed throughout the Bay, and the long history of the military in the Presidio and Fort Point. Similarly, I dove deep into the history of the entirety of the Presidio itself (starting from the Ohlone people and on…) at the Presidio Visitor Center. It was super interesting to read about how the sites that I help manage today have changed throughout history.

Side Quest #3: Being A Mission Blue Ally Pt. 2 (San Mateo Addition)

Another Mission Blue side quest! Following my time with the Fort Baker Team, I spent the day with San Mateo Veg. Similar to the team at Fort Baker, they are preparing for the flight of the Mission Blues as well. I spent the day at Sweeney Ridge down in San Mateo with Whitney, Jesse, and Catherine, where we planted Coast Buckwheat (Erigonum latifolium) and two grasses (Festuca idahoensis and Stipa pulchra) amongst the lupines. Similar to L. albifrons, E. latifolium is another nectar source for the Mission Blues. The grasses we planted are the start to the restoration of the grassland habitat that the Mission Blues often populate. Unlike my time at Battery Cavallo, this planting day was sunny and warm with clear skies, and we had an amazing view of the South Bay, San Bruno Mountain, and SFO (Sweeny Ridge is the perfect plane spotting location).

Side Quest #4: Bird Counting on Alcatraz

My final side quest throughout the past month brought me to Alcatraz island. Dani and Citlali, the wildlife interns, invited me to a bird count on Alcatraz with other volunteers. It was a chance to visit the island for my first time, so I was very excited to join. I am not the best at identifying birds right now, but each time I go birding I see and learn new species. In addition to spotting about 25 different bird species that day, I also had a chance to explore some of the different exhibits on the island, where I learned about Alcatraz as a prison, the occupation of Alcatraz in the late 60s and early 70s, mass incarceration in the United States, and the importance of the island to wildlife today. It was a cold and blustery day on the island, but I had a great time and hope that I can go back again in the summer!

Top Naturalist Finds for this Month

I’ve seen so many awesome plant, animal, and fungi species this month! Below are a few noteworthy ones I wanted to share (idea stolen from Dani):

Snowy Plover (Anarhynchus nivosus)
A little Snowy Plover! It is a bit blurry but trust me – it’s there!
Black turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala)
These little guys literally turn stones to forage for food!!! They were sitting on some rocks on the southeast side of Alcatraz.
Blewit (Lepista nuda)
It is very “blew” indeed!
California rose (Rosa californica)
Found at Lands End Coastal Trail.
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