Park Wavelengths - July 2003
July 25, 2003
A new moon is here on July 28 at 11:52 pm. On the following day look for a thin crescent moon with the planet Jupiter close by, it'll be up in the north, northwest sky - North Beach/South Beach and up Inverness Ridge are good viewpoints.
For early risers this week some good tidepooling:
Walk to Sculptured Beach from Limantour Parking lot or to Agate Beach County Park, at the end of Overlook and Elm Roads in Bolinas.
Much excitement for birders, a male plumaged Bobolink, has been visiting the park. He's about 1/2 mile down the road as you turn off Sir Francis Drake onto Estero near the corral. It has been seen in the company of red winged blackbirds! It is normally found east of the Rockies! Also, Audubon Canyon Ranch is now closed, not to reopen until next spring egret season.
Berries are in abundance throughout parklands - huckleberries, blackberries, thimbleberries! Watch for poison oak while picking though, it seems to like growing with blackberries, the sturdier blackberry vines provide support to the poison oak. Blackberries have a fuzzy, sharp edged or serrated leaf while poison oak has rounded shiny leaves.. Visitors may pick berries up to a quart of berries in the park for their personal use. Tiny huckleberries are abundant in the Vision Fire area along the Inverness Ridge - they have a tiny pale pink bell shaped flower. They are also found along the Old Pine Trail where they were once cultivated by the cook at the Bear Valley Hunting Club in Divide Meadow.
It's also a great time to check out the tule elk. There is a small harem (a male and about six females) regularly visible above Drakes Beach in the pastures as you turn off Sir Francis Drake onto Drakes Beach Road. Another small group of females has been seen off Muddy Hollow Road on a regular basis. In the tule elk preserve at the end of Pierce Point Road, the rut (breeding season has begun) Males begin to gather females together and to fend off any other males. The males are "bugling" letting the others know to stay away from their group of females. The males also lock horns and 'fight' with one another in an effort to protect their ability to breed. Volunteer docents have just begun on the Tomales Point on weekends and are available to help visitors spot the elk. This year they have an interesting prop, a large taxidermied elk, that you may see near the historic Pierce ranch.
There are continuing die offs of 'By the Wind Sailors' (Velella velella) reported on Limantour Beach. These look like crumpled cellophane with dark blue body parts. The seasonal influx of these 'jellyfish' has been larger this year than usual, possibly the El Nino year has created more food and larger populations.
The ocean water at the Lighthouse currently appears two colors, at this time of year it is easy to note upwelling which creates the nutrient rich water supporting the abundant marine life at Point Reyes. The water appears two tone a brownish green on one side and dark blue on the other side. Wind and ocean currents drive surface water away from the shore. The 'lost' water is replaced by the upwelling of deeper colder water carrying lots of nutrients. As this food rich water becomes available, combined with the additional sunlight of spring and summer, blooms of phytoplankton (tiny floating water plants) grow. The planktons are at the bottom of the food chain and this extra surge of food production feeds all kinds of fish and marine mammals.
2:00 pm Saturday - Earthquake Walk: Meet at the Bear Valley Visitor center for a 1/2 mile walk around the paved trail.
2:00 pm Sunday - Kule Loklo Walk: Meet at the Bear Valley Visitor Center for a one mile walk to the Coast Miwok Cultural Exhibit.
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...