Park Wavelengths - August 2011
Thursday, August 31, 2011
The fall quietly arrives with buckeyes dropping leaves and their characteristic fuzzy seeds forming. Poison oak is reddening as it climbs up trees along Bear Valley Road. Hazel nuts are appearing along Woodpecker Trail shrubbery. Morning darkness is greeting over the hill commuters as we move towards the September 23 autumnal equinox.
Snowy plovers continue their intrepid survival battle. This year about 9 breeding pairs made their homes on the Great beach with a total of 15 nests. 28 chicks hatched into a world of wind, sand, and ravens with 16 lost. As of late summer, 11 chicks were on the beach with one fledged (with the car keys and college admission--reference for parent(s) of teenagers!).
Harbor seals recently completed molting (growing new fur) with a peak count of 2578, down from average peak counts of the past 11 years that were 4126. Park biologists are unsure exactly what may be causing the low count; it might be that scarcity of food is making them hunt more and rest or haul out less on land?
High tides (6+ feet) mark the upcoming holiday weekend. All park visitor centers are open on Labor Day, Monday, September 5, as well as roads and trails. The 30th Annual Sand Sculpture Contest is Sunday, September 4th at Drakes Beach. Carpooling is advised to this very popular, free event. Judging begins at 12 noon; registration begins at 9:00 am. No pets at this beach.
Mark your calendars for the statewide Coastal Cleanup Day on September 17, also held at Drakes beach. Dress like Drake to clean up the beach.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Forwarded to Park Wavelengths Subscribers:
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
The Perseid meteor showers should be a little easier to view after last Saturdays full moon washed out the peak viewing. These exceptionally bright "falling stars" may be seen in the northeast after moonset and before dawn-fog permitting.
Seasonal changes continue as the tule elk begin their annual rut or breeding season. The larger males are sizing one another up and establishing harems. On weekends, docents set up binoculars and scopes at Tomales Point to help visitors get a closer look from a safe distance. Bugling and wrestling and even a little boxing occurs as males jostle for positions in the hierarchy. Other summer visitors have been humpback whales at the lighthouse.
Late summer also brings Moon Jellies (clear with four white crescents) and tea-colored Lions Mane Jellies into Tomales Bay-just as the swimming season begins! A new neighbor has been the Pacific sea nettle with a rosy pink tint. It does create a stinging sensation when brushed against-a mild allergic reaction for most people. Sea nettle populations appear to be growing off the coast of Oregon and they may become a regular visitor in Tomales Bay.
In the plant communities, berries and nuts are ripening! Nuts on the California bay trees are sheathed in greenish-yellow husks, looking like small lemons and limes. Blackberries and huckleberries are ripening and, in the park, visitors may pick up to 2 quarts a day. The cups or cupules are forming on oak trees and soon the acorns will appear.
Note: Due to technical difficulties with new computer programs, Park Wavelengths has been on hiatus. Hope to be back on a regular 2 week cycle!
Last updated: February 28, 2015