Park Wavelengths - December 2003


December 30, 2003

Naturalist Notebook:

The full moon is January 7 at 7:40 am and some good day time low tides are coming up:

Saturday, January 3 2:54 pm 0.1 feet
Sunday, January 4 3:26 pm -0.2 feet

Safest tidepooling is at Duxbury Reef, Agate Beach County Park, at the end of Overlook and Elm Roads. Sculptured Beach is accessible from the Coast Trail or walking down Limantour Beach. Chimney Rock is closed due to elephant seals.

Heavy rain and high tides this past week created seasonal wetlands along Highway I between Olema and Point Reyes as well as flooding the northbound lane temporarily. The wetlands will be hosting many ducks over the next few weeks. The repaired dike (Waldo's Dike) in the Giacomini property, accessible from Sir Francis Drake Highway - between Inverness and Inverness park, was great birding spot this past week, a yellow rail was seen, sharp tailed sparrows, a sora. The Hammond's Flycatcher noted in the last edition of wavelengths was also seen recently at White House Pool.

Rain also brings up the coho salmon into the creeks! The state Department of Fish and Game is releasing coho salmon into Walker Creek. These fish are from brood stock taken from Olema Creek. Walker Creek was chosen because has suitable habitat, is in the Tomales bay watershed, and was documented as barren of coho is recent studies. The state fish and game department will monitor spawning success. The hope is that the fish will establish themselves in this creek.

Prime fish viewing in the local creeks - park at the Five Brooks trailhead and look for the short trail along Highway 1 or visit Muir Woods and see the coho salmon and steelhead trout from park trails.

Elephant Seal season is in full swing - the population is about double what it was at this time last year! Many large bulls, around 15, have arrived on South Beach and are jousting with each other while a lone bull showed up at Drakes Beach during the high tides last week. The Chimney Rock/Drakes Beach sub-colony had 48 seals this past weekend with a pup born Saturday. Lone males often come on beaches during high tides - remember not to disturb marine mammals, do not approach them. If the animals raises it's head to look at you, that's too close! They need to conserve as much energy for the breeding and mating season!

Researchers are monitoring red legged frogs at Cemetery Pond, across Highway 1 from Olema Cemetery. This pond is one of three frog populations that the Park Service is studying - the other two are located in Yosemite. The goal is to estimate population size, growth, survival, and reproductive success. The trapping and tagging goes on at night time. Point Reyes has one of the largest remaining populations of this frog in the state.

Gray whales continue to move by - though weather has kept viewing limited, 9 reported on Saturday over 6 hours. Peak viewing is usually the middle of January for the southern migration.

The helicopter census of fallow deer is scheduled to happen on January 7-8 over Olema Valley and along the coast from the Estero area south. Weather permitting, low flying craft will be over the area, counting the deer.

Shuttle Bus season began last weekend - if you are planning to visit the Lighthouse or Chimney Rock on weekends and holidays between now and mid-April - Sir Francis Drake Highway closes at South Beach at 9:00 am and reopens at 5:15 pm. The shuttles only operate when the weather is clear and we expect crowds. You can check on the shuttle operation by calling (415) 464-5100 x2 x1 after 8:00 am on weekends and holidays.

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December 18, 2003

Naturalist Notebook: The winter solstice approaches on Sunday, December 21st at 11:04 pm, the shortest day of the year and the beginning of winter. It brings a couple of wonderful daytime low tides for tidepooling:

Sunday, December 21 3:28 pm -1.3 feet
Monday, December 22 4:15 pm -1.7 feet

Good places include Duxbury Reef/Agate Beach County Park at the end of Overlook and Elm Roads in Bolinas and Sculptured Beach, two miles south on Limantour Beach. Chimney Rock is closed with the annual arrival of elephant seals.

A small meteor shower, the Ursid meteor shower graces the skies on December 22nd, 10-15 meteors per hour radiating from Ursa Major - The Great Bear" or Big Dipper. The constellation appears close to the horizon as the sun sets and then in the northeast by midnight, look toward Black Mountain.

At Muir Woods National Monument, a special Solstice celebration is held on Sunday beginning at 3:00 pm to 7:30 pm. Storytelling, solstice caroling, a bonfire on the beach are all part of this annual event. Dress warmly and bring a snack, the cafe at the park will be open. (415) 388-2596

The rains have brought in the first coho salmon of the season! Surveys were completed in Pine Gulch, Olema, and Redwood Creeks Mon-Wed this week. At Pine Gulch, a redd ('fish nest') was observed. At Redwood Creek - 7 live fish, 1 carcass, and 7 redds. In Olema Creek, 31 adult coho observed and 17 redds, one carcass.

The Christmas Bird count was completed last Sunday - the 104th year in North America and the 47th at Point Reyes area. There are 800 of these counts, each one centered within a 15 mile diameter circle. Point Reyes is notable among the 800 as it always appears in the top ten group for species diversity, the rich array of habitats supports a wide range of birds! 199 different species were counted at Point Reyes by 160 humans! Nine species of owls were counted and over 3000 Northern Fulmars off the Great Beach. 5 prairie falcons, over 20 peregrine falcons, 12 merlins and a rough legged hawk were highlights of the raptors. The peregrines are most often seen over Tomales Bay and Drakes Estero.

An unusual sighting - three Hammonds' Flycatchers - at Chicken Ranch Beach and Stinson Gulch, and in the willows and brambles at White House Pool off Sir Francis Drake Highway delighted birders this week.

Keep an eye out for a male bobcat in the pastures off Bear Valley Road, between park headquarters and Highway 1 (on the north/east side near the Olema Ranch Campground - across from the fields often full of fallow deer). It has been a regular sighting, and may be seen with binoculars.

Gray whales are trickling by at the Lighthouse area, 4- 5 per day, no large numbers yet. Elephant seals are also slowly arriving at Chimney Rock. We'll keep you posted!

All park visitor centers are closed on Thursday, December 25th - roads and trails remain open and patrol rangers on duty. On Wednesday, park offices and the Bear Valley Visitor center close at 2:00 pm.

Friday, December 19th is the community open house at the Bear Valley Visitor Center from 5:00 - 7:00 pm. All are welcomed!

Again, many thanks to Rich Stallcup for keeping us posted!

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Last updated: February 28, 2015

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