March 18, 2003
The official start of spring aka the vernal equinox begins at 5:00 pm on Thursday, March 20 and the days continue to lengthen! A nice period of morning/afternoon low tides accompanies spring:
Chimney Rock remains closed for tidepooling as there are still a few elephant seals in the area. Agate Beach County Park near Bolinas and Sculptured Beach offer safe areas to carefully explore.
Spring is also the harbor seal pupping season when large numbers swim into Drakes Estero and Tomales Bay for pupping! Drakes Estero closed on March 15th for boating access and South Blue Gums Beach inside Tomales Bay is also closed. These areas re-open July 1st for public use once the pups have been weaned. Point Reyes is one of the largest nurseries for harbor seals in the state. The seals are especially sensitive to human and pet disturbances when they are on land giving birth and nursing. A safe area to observe is walking on the Estero Trail, after the first mile, past the bridge, where you can watch with binoculars and have little impact. Always observe at a distance and do not approach seals - who need this brief respite ashore in their life cycles to nurture the next generation.
Interesting birds in the neighborhood: At Muir Woods, a barred owl has been seen regularly inside the park, just past the first bridge beside the creek. Cedar waxwings, a colorful bird with a peaked head have been in the shrubs next to the pay phone near the Bovine Bakery, they like to eat berries. It is also the beginning of the snowy plover season, so dog restrictions have been posted on the Great Beach. Snowy Plovers are listed as an endangered species. Once the birds are sighted nesting, wire enclosures are set up over the nests to discourage predators such as ravens (these are the wire and string fencing 'squares' seen along the beach).
This week kicks of the Tomales Bay All-Taxa Biological Inventory (ATBI) a multi-year, multi agency study to provide a comprehensive inventory of the life of Tomales Bay. The first species to be inventoried is algae, students from Sonoma State hope to be on the bay this week collecting samples, the high winds of last week prevented the study from getting underway.
Wildflowers are coming in everywhere! The first purple bush lupines were seen in a sunny patch on the Sky Trail. Lovely patches of goldfields (a tiny yellow sunflower) are along Sir Francis Drake Highway in the San Geronimo Valley and above A ranch near the Lighthouse. Chimney Rock and the Lighthouse are known because of the variety of different species found small areas - the newest sighting at Chimney Rock is wild violets, very low on the trailside, they are quite fragrant as are the pale yellow wallflowers along the road to the Boathouse. Orange Castilleja (sp.) or Indian Paintbrush have appeared along the Coast Trail along with Douglas Iris.
Ranger Programs (All approximately 1 hour, allow for shuttle transportation, wear sturdy shoes, bring water and layered clothing):
Saturday/Sunday: 1:00 pm - Whales and Wildflowers - Meet the ranger at Chimney Rock (1.2 mile round trip)
Saturday/Sunday: 1:30 pm - Whale Walk - Meet the ranger at the Lighthouse parking lot (1 mile round trip)
Saturday: 2:00 pm - Earthquake Walk - Meet the ranger at Bear Valley Visitor Center (.5 mile loop)
Sunday: 2:00 pm - Kule Loklo Walk - Meet the ranger at Bear Valley Visitor Center (1 mile loop)
March 4, 2003
Naturalist Notebook: Whale sightings have not picked up yet, even with the clear beautiful weather only one was reported on Saturday and three on Sunday. We'll keep you posted. Elephant seals continue to leave though a large male has been regularly hauling out on the left side of Drakes Beach, about 200 yards south on the beach. Seals may be viewed at Chimney Rock, these are primarily weaned pups, most of the adult males and females have departed for Alaska and Hawaii respectively.
Wildflowers are brightening the hillsides! Reports from Abbots Lagoon have spotted the first poppies. Coastal poppies are usually a lemon yellow with an orange center while inland poppies are a more traditional deep orange. Botanists classify the species the same way, no one is quite sure why this phenomenon occurs. Douglas Iris, 'Five spot', Wallflowers, checkerbloom or mallow, milkmaids are in a abundance at Chimney Rock. (Milkmaids are the tiny white flowers along Sir Francis Drake Highway as you come through Samuel P. Taylor State Park) If you are traveling north into the area through Muir Beach along Highway 1, the purple hillsides in the distance are the remnants of a commercial heather farm once operated by the Banducci Family and now part of Golden Gate NRA.
Bird Sightings - A male tufted duck has been in the Bolinas Lagoon at Mile Marker 13.50 on Highway 1 and some Eurasian widgeons. There is also a pair of peregrine falcons nesting on cliffs near Wildcat Camp that may be seen by hiking on the Coast Trail.
The Bear Valley Visitor Center fish tank is in operation tomorrow. Steelhead trout eggs may be viewed throughout their life cycle from eggs to small fry.
These are combined with very high morning tides which means less beach in the morning particularly at Drakes Beach. Sunday, March 16th it is a 6.1 at 9:35 am so almost no beach will be available for walking at Drakes. Best access for tidepooling is Agate Beach County Park near Bolinas and Sculptured Beach on the south side of Limantour Beach.
The Lighthouse area continues under construction with paving going on today and tomorrow - visitors will NOT be able to get to the observation deck on those days. Shuttle busses have been running weekends with all the great weather, so the road to the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock are closed 9:00 - 5:30 pm on weekends.
A fashion photo shoot is under permit on the Great Beach this week (March 3-7) - no traffic delays or closures are anticipated.
Last updated: February 28, 2015