Park Wavelengths - February 2006
February 22, 2006
Naturalist Notebook: The new moon on February 27 brings some more daylight low tides:
Wildflowers have been cautiously appearing with the recent cycle of frost and sun! The old flower farm near the Hostel is full of daffodils now and the first pink mallows/checkerbloom were seen at Chimney Rock. Another spring sign - bees! Bees are an important pollinator for flowers. They see in ultraviolet light and are believed to see yellow and blue colors but not red; a purple flower appears blue to them; orange appears as yellow. Theoretically, they leave the red flowers to the hummingbirds!
Take Out Dining at Bear Valley Visitor Center: A Great Blue Heron calmly spiked a gopher in the meadow just outside the visitor center, a typical spring sight. Minutes later, a red tailed hawk blasts out of the fir trees, grabs the gopher and takes off!
Seal researchers encountered some out of town visitors - two female elephant seals at the Chimney Rock colony tagged on Cedros Island in Mexico mixing in with the pink tagged Point Reyes crowd. Elephant seal numbers continue to drop from the Valentines peaks. The first northbound gray whales were seen over the holiday weekend - 5 on Monday.
Marin County Open Space leads an 8 mile hike along Bolinas Ridge Trail On Thursday, February 23 from 9:00 am - 3:00 pm. The hike includes a car shuttle. Meet at the Randall Trailhead off Highway 1 south of Olema. There is a car shuttle from Randall to the Sir Francis Drake Highway end so please be prompt.
Beach Clean up coming up on Saturday, March 4th at Kehoe Beach from 10:00 am - 12 noon. There is a 1/2 mile walk to the beach and dogs on leash are permitted so bring your lunch and make a day of it. Gloves, water and sunscreen also recommended!
New Art at Bear Valley Visitor Center; Dioramas of coho salmon and steelhead trout created by Bolinas Stinson School. Fish populations and viewing was strongly impacted by the storms of New Years weekend, the creeks were filled with more silt and debris. No reports yet from biologists about fish counts for the year but we will post them.
February 7, 2006
Naturalist Notebook: The full moon rises on Sunday, February 12 and brings some daylight afternoon low tides:
Chimney Rock Road and the Boathouse area have temporarily re- opened. Construction crews cleared out the area this past weekend. The closures return in June when work on the historic Boathouse resumes. No tidepooling is permitted at Chimney Rock as the beach area is now closed due to male elephant seals!
It is the height of northern elephant seal season with lot's of animals to see from Chimney Rock. The small beach is more densely packed this year as the early storms pushed everyone around the corner! Most of the pups have been born and females are beginning to leave thus prompting the males to try and mate! Last weekend, four or five of the males had very ugly gashes from tussling over females. The thick layer of blubber on the seals as well as the callus chest shield keep the seals from piercing any vital organs and death - but the gashes and scars are quite scary to see. About 25% of the total elephant seals in the park may be seen from Chimney Rock Overlook.
Good news for an endangered species - Snowy plovers were counted in January all over their range from Washington State to Southern California. This winter count recorded 215 plovers at Point Reyes compared to 30 in 2005 and 143 in 2004. Speculation about the numbers includes: disturbances in other winter habitats might be moving plovers to Point Reyes; weather changes affecting food sources.
Spring seems to breaking through this week! Warm, clear air has domestic bulbs, daffodils and flowering plums trees bursting into bloom. Native bay laurel trees are flowering with small yellow flowers along the Cross-Marin trail and around Bear Valley Visitor Center. This warm weather predicted for the week will bring out more and more species.
Marin County Open Space and parks sponsors a walk "Early Flowers at Chimney Rock on Wednesday, February 15 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Meet at the Chimney Rock parking area.
Birders are invited to be part of the 9th annual Backyard Bird Count February 17-20. All ages and levels of skills are welcomed. Log onto www.birdsource.org/gbbc Instructions and a photo gallery are at the website.
Mark Your Calendars: Sunday, February 26 from 12 noon to 4:00 pm. Open House at the Marconi Conference Center/California State Park on Highway One in Marshall. 'For the first time since 1942 Shore to Ship station KPH will operate from Marshall in a Marconi era building using the equipment appropriate to 1942. Using Morse code, KPH will exchange messages with one or two ships and visitors will be able to send messages to friends and relatives in the United States." Tour the facility, walk the trails, and enjoy the views. (415) 663-9020.
Presidents Holiday weekend - all park visitor centers are open on the Monday, February 20th holiday. Shuttle buses will operate if weather permits; road closures on Highway 1 for the bike race affect the Point Reyes-Olema area especially mid-day.
Did You Know?
Earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault adjacent to Point Reyes are rather rare. Big quakes shift Point Reyes up to 20 feet once every 130 years or so, but otherwise there is very little movement. More...