Park Wavelengths - December 2004


December 28, 2004

Naturalist Notebook: Upcoming daylight low tides next week with the new moon:

January 6 1:48 pm -0.1 feet
January 7 2:38 pm -0.8 feet
January 8 3:27 pm -1.3 feet
January 9 4:15 pm -1.7 feet

Lots of questions come in about Drakes beach at this time of year as it often looks smaller to visitors and there are more rocks on the beach! In winter, the ocean washes sand off the beaches (it's deposited into and offshore bar) exposing rock formations especially along Drakes Beach. The formations are loosely known as the Drakes Bay Formation, the exposed shelves on the beach are layers of siltstone and mudstone. They will disappear in summer when the ocean covers them back up with sand. The small pools of water in the formations sometimes briefly harbor barnacles and tidepool creatures.

The northern elephant seals continue to return to the Drakes Beach colony which may be seen from Chimney Rock, a half dozen males reported. No pups have been noted in the Drakes colony though in the main colony off the Headlands some pups have been reported. Solitary males do show up all along Drakes Beach. It's important not to disturb marine mammals, their time on land is an important part of their breeding cycle, they need to rest and warm up!

Seasonal flooding is back along Sir Francis Drake Highway after Estero Trail head and before the Coast Guard Station. Signs are posted but a reminder to travel slower in wet weather.

Saturday, January 1st begins the eighth annual shuttle season! To accommodate whale and seal watchers, the shuttle is called into service on weekends and holidays when the weather is clear. Sir Francis Drake Road closes at 9:00 am and buses run until approximately 5:30 pm. Tickets for the shuttle may be purchased at Drakes Beach, $5.00 per person and children 16 and under are free.

On Friday, January 7th, weather permitting, mid-winter waterfowl surveys will be conducted via aircraft. You may see a small Cessna plane, white with a blue stripe flying low across Bolinas Lagoon and north up Tomales Bay. Depending on weather, the flights may continue into the following week.

Also, the week of January 10-13, some helicopter flights and additional net capture of tule elk are planned. The netting and flights are a continuation of the population studies being conducted on the tule elk. Tomales Point Trail will be closed during the operation.

All park visitor centers will be open on New Years Day, January 1st.

Mark Your Calendars - January 24th "Getting Ship Shape" 5:30-7:30 pm at the Dance Palace Community Center in Point Reyes Station. A workshop about water quality in Tomales Bay sponsored by the San Francisco Estuary Project and the CA Regional Water Quality Board.

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December 14, 2004

"There was a time, when herds of tule elk were stalked by grizzlies and Miwok people gathered abalone at Palomarin, when the silver salmon run must have been bountiful. In the fall, as the sun shone at an oblique angle and the expectation of the rainy season approached, the people gathered to celebrate and encourage the coming of the salmon. By the winter solstice, as the rivers were swelling, Olema Creek, Pine Gulch, and Lagunitas Creeks must have teemed with the swirls and shimmering sides of salmon, swimming upstream to spawn and die."
--Jules Evens

Naturalist Notebook: The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year arrives on Tuesday, December 21 at 4:42 am - the sun rises and sets at its most southerly points on the horizon. The following day, December 22, is the Ursid meteor shower, a small shower originating from the star Kochab in the Little Dipper or Ursa Minor (little bear).

Muir Woods rangers mark the solstice, rain or shine, on December 21st with special storytelling and activities and a luminaria lighting of the trails among the redwoods; Bring a flashlight, warm clothes, a mug for hot drinks! 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the woods, call (415) 388-2595 with questions.

The moon is full at 7:06 am on December 26th - the moon of popping trees among the Lakota Sioux -referring to ice in the evergreen trees of the foothills where tribal people wintered.

The solstice and full moon bring in some daylight low tides for tidepooling:

Tuesday, December 21 2:02 pm +0.4 feet
Wednesday, December 22 2:47 pm -0.1 feet
Thursday, December 23 3:27 pm -0.4 feet
Friday, December 24 4:03 pm -0.6 feet
Saturday, December 25 4:37 pm -0.7 feet

Chimney Rock beach is closed with the first arrivals of elephant seals in the waters.

Winter has arrived as Coho or silver salmon and steelhead are in the seashore creeks following last weeks rain; over 50 fish were seen in the John West Fork of Olema Creek. Park at Five Brooks Trailhead and follow the road back to the short trail to the waters edge. It is a good time to be out as the waters have cleared and we are between storms. West Marin School seventh graders have begun their project studying the salmon and building creek bank restoration structures.

Rare bird reports from the past weekend include a yellow shafted flicker at the historic Pierce Ranch at the end of Pierce Point Road on Tomales Point and a tufted duck at the south end of Tomales Bay, visible from the first pullout going north of Point Reyes Station on Highway 1. The annual Christmas Bird Count will bring out many birders this Saturday, December 18th around west Marin.

Other winter phenomena include the first gray whales passing the lighthouse and the first male elephant seals sparring off the Chimney Rock Overlook. Chanterelles (mushrooms) with ruffled yellow caps were reported among the oaks on the Rift Zone Trail. Visitors have also brought in poisonous amanita mushrooms found among the evergreen trees along Bear Valley Trail. Do not eat any mushrooms unless they have been thoroughly identified as non-poisonous.

A filming permit has been issued for Tuesday, December 14th at the Estero Trail and Wednesday, December 15th along the Inverness Ridge and Mt. Vision Road.

Park visitor centers are closed on Saturday, December 25th and will also close early on December 24th at 2:00 pm. Roads and trails remain open with protection rangers on duty.

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December 10, 2004

Update - muirly, fish in Redwood Creek! First reports of coho salmon are also coming in for Olema Creek in the national seashore with the heavy rains on Tuesday! Park at the Five Brooks Trailhead and walk back down the road for the short trail to view the fish.

Silver Salmon spawning in Redwood Creek!

The day's first visitor, a regular, spotted a salmon at the fourth bridge, a class of students saw several near the lower restroom and soon there were reports throughout the park of salmon moving swiftly through the swollen creek waters.

Muir Woods has received nearly 5 inches of rain in the last few days and coupled with the season's very high tides, the conditions were right to trigger spawning! The fish look very vigorous, good-sized and silvery with some exhibiting red.

Muir Woods NM

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Last updated: February 28, 2015

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