Park Wavelengths - February 2007
February 22, 2007
The full moon rises Saturday, March 3 and is full at 3:17 pm; West Coast viewers will miss a total eclipse which will be visible on the east coast. In local Coast Miwok tradition, an eclipse is caused by a bear eating the sun. It brings some afternoon daylight low tides:
Bright yellow blossoms may be seen on the non-native Acacia baileyana trees, sometimes called mimosa, with a light grey green foliage. It's powdery fragrance drifts across Ottingers Hill on warm days. Native California bay trees are also flowering now in paler yellow colors with glossy green leaves. Early reports from Chimney Rock on wildflowers are slim; more sun is needed before any major blooming.
Not rare bird sightings but enjoyable visitors this winter have been large numbers of Townsend warblers at Bear Valley Picnic Area and Varied Thrushes throughout West Marin. The warblers are small bright yellow and black birds zipping around the fir trees. The thrushes are a larger orange and black bird - they are often rummaging among the oak leaf litter on the ground. They're large numbers are attributed to the El Nino weather which affected their food supplies further north.
Elephant seals continue to delight at Chimney Rock, before the fog and winds rolled in on Saturday, there was lot's of noise and activity among the males. Females are beginning to leave after giving birth and nursing for about a month and as they leave the males are anxious to mate! Numbers will continue to drop over the next few weeks.
February 12, 2007
Naval Flare And Elephant Seal on Drakes Beach
Safety Message: Please note the flare — the small cylindrical device shown in the image on the left and in the foreground of the image on the right. Flares occasionally wash up on beaches, especially during winter storms. They are marked 'Do Not Touch' and should you encounter one on park beaches, notify park staff as soon as possible. They are removed by specialized military crews; the danger occurs if they are opened and the interior phosphorus material comes in contact with air.
February 6, 2007
The new moon on February 17 arrives with some afternoon daylight low tides for St. Valentines Day and the Presidents Holiday:
According to the traditional Chinese calendar, the second new moon after the winter solstice is the beginning of the new year - Happy year of the Boar or 4705
It is peak northern elephant seal season now! 1290 total (slightly up from last years 1283) seals are on the beaches throughout the Headlands area. Good news - one of the females who is ashore and gave birth had arrived last year with plastic binding around her neck. A veterinarian was able to remove it - looks like the seal made a good recovery! Gray whale sighting are few and far between these days as February continues, hazy weather affected last weekends viewing.
The fine weather is due to give way to some much needed rain this week; hopefully additional moisture will bring out some new flowers. The little white Milkmaids or Toothwort are being joined by the first purple pink Checker-bloom or Mallow in shady spots around Kule Loklo.
Marin County Open Space naturalists will be leading some walks in the park: Abbots Lagoon Hike on Sunday, February 11, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm; meet at the parking area off Pierce Point Road for lots of birds and perhaps some early flowers. On Thursday, February 15 between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm at Chimney Rock parking lot - time to check out early wildflowers.
A special presentation on 'Indian Baskets of Central California' is slated for the Bear Valley Visitor Center on Saturday, February 17 between 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm. Authors and Editors Ralph and Lisa Woo Shanks will present slides and sign copies of their new book on the topic.
All park visitor centers are open on Monday, February 19 and if the weather is fine - the shuttles will be operating. Note also - the large scale bike race Tour of California is also scheduled for Monday with approximate road closures in Olema between 12:30-1:00. There will be rolling road closures along Panoramic Highway and Highway 1 in West Marin. Last years experience had roads reopening quickly with few delays, the bikers are moving quickly. Parking is limited in the town of Point Reyes Station.
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...