Park Wavelengths - December 2010


Saturday, December 24, 2010

Subject: Salmon and Seal Update!

The first elephant seal pup of the season arrived December 14! Drakes Beach colony has two cows (females) compared to the three at the main colony and the bulls have arrived. The counts are higher for this time of year compared to the 2010 season.

The coho spawning run started out promising, with a good amount of rainfall and fish observations in Redwood, Olema, and Lagunitas Creeks. To date, we have observed two live coho on Redwood Creek and no spawning activity since these fish were last observed on December 2nd. Hopefully the fish made it past the family of river otters currently living in Redwood Creek, and were able to spawn during the last set of storms. On Olema Creek, we have observed 7 coho redds and 19 live coho adults. On John West Fork Creek, the largest tributary to Olema Creek, we have observed 3 coho redds and 6 live coho adults. This brings the total redd count up to 10 redds for the Olema Creek watershed.

On Lagunitas Creek, Marin Municipal Water District and National Park Service staff observed a total of 65 coho redds and 108 live adult coho to date. For both Olema and Lagunitas Creek, adult coho observations are higher than the past two seasons of monitoring, but slightly lower that the 2007-08 spawning season. Based on past monitoring records, we are now midway through the coho spawner season and we should soon see the beginning of the steelhead spawning season in our coastal watersheds. We have already measured over 17 inches of rain for this season at our rain gauge near the Bear Valley Visitor center, and every additional storm is increasing the water levels in our coastal streams. Although the rainfall totals are not a problem for the fish, it does make it difficult to perform a survey and obtain an accurate adult coho census. Turbidity (soil) in the water makes it difficult to see the fish.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More winter morning extreme high tides continue along with another meteor shower; the Quadrantids peak on January 3 just before the new moon on January 4. The Quadrantids take their name from an obsolete constellation which was taken out of star maps in 1922. They originate near the constellations Bootes (the Plowman), Draco (the dragon), and Hercules and may be seen in the early morning darkness. The highest tides will occur on New Year's Day around 7:45 a.m. and will measure 6.7 feet.

Coho Salmon and Steelhead Trout have returned! The first surveys were carried out on Olema, Redwood, and Lagunitas Creeks! No adults were seen in Olema Creek, two adults appeared in Redwood Creek at Muir Woods and then fourteen adults and nine redds (nests) in Lagunitas Creek. A positive beginning to this annual winter cycle!

It's a great year for mushrooms! "Fairy rings"—mushrooms growing in rings—have appeared under the fir trees in the Bear Valley Picnic Area. The rings are formed in areas where nutrients are spread in an even pattern and the mycelia (the supporting foundation for the above ground mushroom or fungi) are able to spread out. The creamy brown fungi in the picnic area are called Scotch Bonnets or Fairy Ring Mushrooms (Marasmius oreades)!

Horse Trail is temporarily closed, as of this report, with several downed trees. Check with park visitor centers for updates.

Park visitor centers close at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, December 24 and are closed on Saturday, December 25; roads and trails are open and patrol staff are on duty. All visitor centers are open regular hours on the Saturday, January 1 holiday. Shuttle buses will operate on January 1 & 2 if the weather is clear; Sir Francis Drake Highway will be closed beyond the South Beach Road junction.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The skies are full of gifts over the next few weeks! Sparkling through the skies next week is the Geminid meteor shower peaking Monday night, December 13; up to 20 meteors per hour! A lunar eclipse follows on Monday, December 20 when the moon will slowly redden and remain eclipsed for almost an hour by midnight.

The Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, is Tuesday, December 21st with a full moon that night and mid-day very high 6+-foot tides and minus tides in the early evening. In Coast Miwok tradition, at the low winter tides, Sea Gull goes down to the beach to collect drift "stuff" to make baskets for Coyote (from Tom Smith commentary recorded by Isabel Kelly).

Spotting scopes at the Lighthouse picked out a couple of large male Northern Elephant Seals on South Beach; young males continue to return to Drakes Beach. Nary a report of salmon yet but we will keep you posted. Mushrooms abound along the Woodpecker Trail. Purple bay nuts squish underfoot on the Earthquake Trail—the hard shell is encased in a soft purple red covering.

Shuttle bus season begins January 1st, when annual road closures begin on weekends and holidays only, when the weather is clear. Traffic is diverted to Drakes Beach. Ticket prices remain at $5.00 per person. All park visitor centers will be closed on December 25; patrol staff are on duty and roads and trails remain open.

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Last updated: February 28, 2015

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