Park Wavelengths - April 2005
April 19, 2005
Naturalist Notebook: Thursday, April 21 are the Lyrid meteor showers which may be difficult to see because of the bright, near fullness of the moon. Early on Sunday morning April 24th, a lunar eclipse occurs - the moon passes through the fainter, outer portion of the Earth's shadow. In California, best observation periods are between about 1:00 am and 5:00 am.
The full moon also rises with the this lunar eclipse and will be full at 3:06 am! It is the "moon when the geese return" among several Plains Native people! Coast Miwok refer to it as the "moon of ripening seeds" and Kashaya Pomo call it the "moon of the ripening strawberries" (the tiny native California species). Muir Woods rangers sponsor the "Muir Woods by Moonlight" walk on April 24. Reservations required at (415) 388-2595. It's a flat, paved walk through the ancient forest by moonlight (and the occasional flashlight).
Morning low tides:
Agate Beach County Park at the end of Overlook and Elm near Bolinas and Sculptured Beach are safe areas for tidepooling. Always watch your footing on the slippery rocks and replace and do not disturb any of the animals! Chimney Rock is posted and gated as closed; should be reopened as the final elephant seal pups move out of the area.
Flowering shrubs that have been drawing attention along roadsides are the light blue - lavender native 'California Lilac' or 'Blue Blossom' (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus is most common of the 43 or so of this species) and the light yellow flowers of the blue elderberry. Coast Miwok gather the fragrant blossoms ceanothus blossoms as soap. They can be low growing or tall bushes. The yellow elderberry flowers will give way to tiny dark blue edible berries.
Special treats in the Bear Valley area - a grey blue heron is hunting gophers; a coyote pup is hopping about - all in a vast display of tiny blue lupine and poppies of the Morgan Horse ranch pastures!
A reminder about harbor seal pupping season = harbor seals come into Drakes estero and Tomales Bay each spring to haul out and give birth. Parent seals may leave pups alone on the beach while they fish and feed themselves in the water. It is a normal part of the spring scene at Point Reyes, along Drakes and Limantour Beach, to see single pups on the beaches. Do not approach or attempt to rescue pups - the parents may abandon the pup if they see humans or dogs around the pup.
Permits have been issued for this week for filming by the Discovery Channel. A permit has also been issued for Saturday, April 23 for a road race at Limantour Beach and along Coast Trail between Coast Camp and the Hostel no more than 200 people. There may be congestion at the Coast Laguna Trailheads and Limantour Beach that day.
Historic preservation carpentry crews may be seen working on historic ranch buildings at "B" or Mendoza Ranch.
The weekend road closures and shuttle season are over for this year. Whales are still passing by but in lesser numbers. They have been seen in the last week off Limantour Beach, from Drakes Head and Tomales Point.
April 5, 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..."
Morning low tides continue with the spring:
Mark your calendars for the Lyrid meteor showers on April 21st AND a lunar eclipse on April 24th!
Wildflowers are peaking! Horse ranch volunteers report that the creek dogwood on Bear Valley Trail is in bloom! [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.] Purple and cream Douglas iris continue to delight at the Estero Trailhead parking lot and along Coast Trail. Rain has battered some of the more delicate species but more will be blooming during the next spell of warm weather. Yellow bush lupine at the Lighthouse and poppies everywhere. Fields of wild radish and mustard are particularly noticeable along Pierce Point Road. Tiny annual lupines blanket Bear Valley! Look low along Chimney Rock trail for wild violets and pussy ears (they look just like cream colored cat ears!).
Birders have reported a great tailed grackle at the restored Horseshoe Pond area - 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.
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 and we will 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.
The Discovery Channel has been filming at various locations in the national seashore to prepare a television documentary. A permit has been issued for picnic (50+) at Bear Valley on Saturday, April 9 - congestion may occur if we have fine weather.
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 and August 5. Work is mostly trail maintenance. Applications may be obtained by calling (415) 464-5112.
Last updated: April 24, 2016