Park Wavelengths - March 2005
March 23, 2005
"A May -Day picnic and festival given for the pupils attending the Public and Sunday Schools came off at Olema in a beautiful grove near the residence of L.K. Baldwin.....It was largely attended and proved a complete success. The day was magnificent; the breeze, soft and balmy, laden with the perfume of a thousand wildflowers went sighing through the grand old oaks, stirring the foliage of the evergreens whence issued the melodious warble of the linnet and the joyous carol of the robin. Along the outskirts of the grove a stream of crystal water ran babbling and murmuring; troops of bright eyed, gaily dressed, well behaved children frolicked upon the green sward......."
Friday, March 25 is also a full moon at 12:58 pm - the moon of sore eyes to the Ponca - referring to snow- blindness. It will usher in some morning low tides:
(Corrected Daylight Savings Time)
Horse ranch volunteers report that the creek dogwood on Bear Valley Trail is in bloom! Douglas iris continue to delight at the Estero Trailhead parking lot. Rain has battered some of the more delicate species but more will be blooming during the next spell of warm weather. No bush lupine yet but poppies everywhere. Fields of wild radish and mustard are particularly noticeable along Pierce Point Road. [The non-native dogwood that was planted on the east side of Bear Valley Creek and is located about a quarter-mile south of the Bear Valley Trailhead is a Cornus nuttallii (mountain, Pacific, or western dogwood). Cornus sericea (American dogwood, creek dogwood, redosier dogwood, red osier dogwood, red willow, redstem dogwood, redtwig dogwood, red-rood, or western dogwood) is native to Point Reyes, may be seen in many locations throughout the park along creeks and marshes, and has clusters of small white flowers and red-colored twigs. Cornus nuttallii is more conspicuous than Cornus sericea when in bloom, with relatively large, showy white bracts, which many mistake for the petals of the dogwood flower. The flowers, as opposed to the bracts, are small and inconspicuous—2–3 mm across—and produced in a dense, rounded, greenish-white flowerhead that is 2 cm in diameter.- Ed.]
Birders have reported a harlequin duck at the mouth of Drakes Estero - it requires walking to the left or east/southeast along Drakes Beach. Muir Woods rangers welcomed back the Barred owl for the third year; it is calling near the visitor center. They are sponsoring a Tidepools and Tidewaters Hike on April 3 from 2:30–4:30 pm, information at (415) 388-2595.
The northward gray whale migration is full on—though the weather has limited viewing. During the northern trip, whales traditionally stay closer to the shore. As they bring up the newly born calves from Mexico; gray whale mothers fear deep water predators such as orcas and sharks. The females will actually "head-but" sharks and orcas as well as lift up the calves onto their flukes to defend against attacks. They are in particular danger in the deep waters off Monterey Bay area -less so in Point Reyes. As the eastern Pacific gray whale population continues to grow, researchers note that younger, generally non-breeding whales will linger in areas such as Tomales and San Francisco Bay as food sources are discovered. Most of the annual migration will be over by mid-April, but we may see some of these younger gray whales in the summer!
Stormy weather is bringing up "soapsuds" on the beaches. As previously noted, this phenomenon is natural, the agitation of the water froths up dead proteins from diatoms into slippery piles of foam. It has been especially noted at Drakes and Limantour Beaches.
Two film permits have been issued—Thursday, March 24—San Francisco Chronicle's Tom Stienstra's Outdoor program will be filming in the seashore. The following week, beginning on Easter Sunday, the Discovery Channel will be filming at various locations in the national seashore to prepare a television documentary.
The summer youth work program at Point Reyes has been opened for 2005 and closes April 22. The positions are for 15-18 year olds between June 13–August 5. Work is mostly trail maintenance. Applications may be obtained by calling (415) 464-5112.
March 8, 2005
May I apologize - I forgot cranes could be feathered as well as steel and many of you were excited about sandhill cranes etc. in Drakes Bay! Sorry to raise birders' hopes! The steel cranes have passed safely under the gate and to the port of Oakland.
Naturalist Notebook: Low tides continue this week with the new moon on Thursday:
Agate Beach County Park, at the end of Elm and Overlook in Bolinas is a good tidepooling area, many turban snails, chitons, sea stars, hermit crabs, and anemones were observed on field trips there with West Marin school 4-5 graders last Thursday. Chimney Rock beach/tidepool area remains closed through the waning elephant seal season.
The spring equinox is around the corner and the wildflowers are on the way! Douglas Iris at the Estero Trailhead! Milkmaids and buttercups all along Sir Francis Drake Highway under the redwoods! At Chimney Rock—the rare cream to yellow colored Point Reyes castilleja or paintbrush is in bloom along with violets, pink checkerbloom, tidy tips, and wallflowers. At Muir Woods, trillium and houndstongue are coming out as well as butterflies! Kudos to the Habitat Restoration Team who removed over 600 broom plants along Limantour Road last weekend, helping insure plenty of habitat for native wildflowers!
An irruption of California Tortoiseshells (bright orange brown), Mourning Cloaks (purplish black wings with a yellow border), and Echo Blues or Spring Azures (light blue) has occurred with the warm temperatures of the last few days at Muir Woods. The butterflies hatch from their chrysalis in large numbers; these large scale hatchings do not occur every year only when there are early warm spring days.
The coyote at Bear Valley has made things pretty interesting - it has been chasing the fallow deer herd back and forth through the Morgan Horse ranch. It scavenged a dead deer in the front pasture of the ranch, removing and hiding the head which is considered a delicacy. It was happily watched by West Marin 3rd graders on Tuesday, trotting through the rift zone trail area.
Seal protection measures are in place throughout the seashore - Drakes and Limantour Estero are closed to boating until June 30th along with South Blue Gums Beach in Tomales Bay. These annual closures occur during harbor seal pupping season when the seals are giving birth and nursing their pups.
Permits have been issued for a picnic at Bear Valley on March 17 (25+) between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm and on Saturday, March 19th for a bike ride beginning at Bear Valley and riding out to Pierce Point Road, circling through town and back to the picnic area. There may be congestion in the area.
New photographs of wildlife are on exhibit at the Bear Valley Visitor Center by Scott Doniger - coyotes, mating hawks, hunting egrets! Park employee Bobbie Belvel has a show of paintings at Toby's in Point Reyes Station along with park volunteer Sue Van Der Waal's photographs. Both shows are accessible seven days a week.
Last updated: April 24, 2016