Park Wavelengths - February 2003
February 18, 2003
Naturalist's Notebook: The great winter day time low tides continue February 25 to March 1:
Duxbury Reef in Agate Beach County Park near Bolinas and Sculptured Beach near Limantour Beach are the most accessible areas. Saturday and Sunday March 1st and 2nd have high 6 foot+ morning tides 9:30 -10:00 which mean the beaches will appear very small. Drakes Beach has very little sand for walking during these high tides, we recommend waiting till afternoon on those days for beach access at Drakes Beach. A new laminated photo identity card for tidepool life has been added for sale at Bear Valley Visitor Center.
Large numbers of California sea lions have been seen off Drakes Beach and the Great Beach, the working theory is they are following herring and anchovy schools. Typically, we haven't seen large numbers in the water. They have been mistaken for dolphins because they like to jump in and out of the water, raising their flippers or thermoregulating.
Elephant Seal populations continue to decline though there is a great deal of activity in the Chimney Rock colony as the males are continually sparring over females. Pacific gray whales have not been seen in any numbers over the past few weeks. The small group of transplanted tule elk, five females has been a regular sight at the top of Drakes Beach Road.
Spring is in the air with more and more wildflowers blooming each day if the warm temperatures continue. Chimney Rock is a good place to see a wide variety of flowers in a small area while Abbots Lagoon and Tomales Point will have large displays of poppies and lupines later in the season. At Chimney Rock, tiny white milkmaids are in abundance as well as "5 spot" or nemophila (a very pale lavender with five blue spots on the petals). A few purple Douglas Iris are at the end of the Chimney Rock trail. Along the paved road to the Historic Boathouse some pale yellow flowers, wallflowers have begun - they are one of the few wildflowers with a fragrance. While it is tempting to want to pick wildflowers - leave them for others to enjoy.
Park partner Point Reyes Bird Observatory has forwarded the following information to us:
Saturdays and Sundays:
Every Saturday - 2:00 pm - Earthquake Talk meets at Bear Valley Visitor Center.
Every Sunday - 3:00 pm - Kule Loklo Tour, Coast Miwok exhibit, meets at Bear Valley Visitor Center.
A special talk on navigation is available at the Ken Patrick Visitor Center on Sunday at 4:00 pm.
Mark your calendar: April 26th is the annual Strawberry Festival at Kule Loklo.
February 6, 2003
Naturalists Notebook: The winter low tides and tidepooling continue with good low tides with a full moon:
Agate Beach County Park in Bolinas and Sculptured Beach on the south end of Limantour Beach provide excellent opportunities. The El Nino weather pattern has made the winter tides appear quite dramatic, more of the rock formations have been exposed at Drakes beach for example. At the high tide most of Drakes Beach "disappears" as does the end of Limantour Spit.
The Pacific gray whale migration has entered the lull period with few whales sighted, more sightings will occur as we move into mid-March. Last weekend orcas were seen from the Lighthouse feeding/following a large movement of sea lions. Orcas are generally found in the Monterey Bay area, they tend to stay in deep underwater canyons and move from underneath - upward to catch prey. They range north from Monterey to the Lighthouse area with sightings a couple of times a year at Point Reyes. The Lighthouse steps remain closed on the weekdays though the observation deck remains open.
The elephant seal colony is at its peak. Two harems have formed at the Chimney Rock colony with two alpha (dominant males) separated along the beach. Lots of activities may be observed, male jousting, pups nursing, sand flipping to cool off - it's a great time! Careful observation from the upper Chimney Rock trail that circles the Headlands also allows observation of a small harem on the east side of the point. The shuttle service is operating in clear weather, the roads close Saturday and Sunday morning with bus service from Drakes Beach out to the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock. It will operate on Monday February 17 for the Presidents holiday weekend.
The warm weather has brought out the first species of wildflowers on the Headlands, tiny white "milkmaids" and pink mallow or checkerbloom. The Hostel staff report that the daffodils are in bloom in the Laguna Trailhead area. Mushrooms are also easily found, a lovely orange red capped mushroom "scarlet elf cap" is on the Woodpecker Trail. It is legal to collect a quart of mushrooms for personal use on federal park lands but not to pick wildflowers of any kind, leave for other to enjoy.
A film permit was issued for a "Happy Cows from California" commercial on the E Ranch this week. No road closures are anticipated.
A special talk at 4:00 pm on Sundays at the Ken Patrick Visitor Center will highlight historic navigation.
Did You Know?
Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) began breeding at Point Reyes in 1981 after being absent for over 150 years. The population breeds at terrestrial haul out sites at Point Reyes Headland, one of only eleven mainland breeding areas for northern elephant seals in the world. More...