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Park Wavelengths - January 2011

 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Subject: Park Wavelengths: Correction On Seal Dive

The elephant seal dive was measured in METERS not feet; so 1634 meters put that gal on the top!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The new moon rises February 2nd, Groundhog Day in the eastern states. In folklore, the presence of a groundhog's shadow can indicate longer or shorter winters. The calendar says winter but nature in West Marin has its own rhythm! Creamy pinkish white "Milkmaids" have been spotted blooming; they are typically described as "one of the first wildflowers of spring." Willows along the Levee Road have fuzzy gray "catkins," which are considered a flower.

Whale watching has been challenging with low fogs obscuring the ocean views from the Lighthouse. Check the park webcam for weather before heading out. It has been a little easier in the late afternoon when the whales' breaths/blows are back lit by the sun.

Northern elephant seals are here with occasional large bulls hauling up at Drakes Beach. Scientists with the Tagging of Pacific Predators program recovered information from a female elephant seal on the beach in Point Reyes. Her satellite tag showed her making one of the deepest dives ever recorded—over 1600 feet below sea level—in her meanderings from here to Alaska.

Check out the winter scene with Marin County Open Space Rangers on Thursday, January 20 between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. at Limantour Beach. Meet in the main parking lot.

The new artwork that is on display at the Bear Valley Visitor Center is from award winning students who competed in the state-wide 2010 California Coastal Commission contest!

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Another series of morning high tides begins the holiday weekend as the moon becomes full on January 19—"Moon of the Strong Cold" among the Cheyenne. These morning high tides limit beach access, especially at Drakes and Wildcat Beaches. Shuttle busses will be called in, if the weather is clear, on Monday, January 17, Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, and park visitor centers will be open.

Monday, January 17 7:59 a.m. 6.5 feet
Tuesday, January 18 8:47 a.m. 6.7 feet
Wednesday, January 19 9:35 a.m. 6.8 feet

The extreme morning tides often bring Northern Elephant Seals up on Drakes Beach near the parking lot. Keep at least 100 feet away and monitor your activity. If the animal moves or seems to be disturbed by your presence, you are too close. The energy/calories stored in their thick blubber protect them from the cold conditions and nurture them while they are resting on the beaches, they won't eat again for three months. More and more elephant seals are arriving as the seal season moves towards high action in February and the alpha male has been marked "D-1" along with his "wing men," beta bulls D-2 and D-3.

The annual gray whale migration is on, with weekend numbers at 5–6 per hour and 25–30 per day. A gray whale has been seen in Tomales Bay. A more and more common occurrence in the summer months, this whale is one of the first seen in the bay in winter!

Turbulent weather conditions have brought up small amounts of tar balls on park beaches. They may appear as strong smelling, black "pancakes"—do not handle them in anyway.

Park naturalists lead a special children's bird count on Saturday, January 8 but pre-registration is required. Call (415) 663-1200 ext.304. to RSVP.

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Did You Know?

Alpine wildflowers

A 1° F increase in average temperature seen in California over the last 100 years has led to Sierra snow melting 2 to 4 weeks earlier and flowers blooming 1 to 2 weeks earlier. Temperatures are predicted to increase another 1° to 2° F in the next 25 years. More...