Nature Notebook, April 20, 2017


April showers are no longer rain, but meteors—and two showers will appear in a sky near you this month. First, the Lyrid meteor shower, which brings about 20 meteors per hour and originates in the constellation Lyra, will peak in the evening of Saturday, April 22 and the early morning of Sunday, April 23. The Eta Aquarids, a longer shower, appears between April 19 and May 28. Both are observed close to the horizon and are called “earthgrazers.”

Whale watching off Point Reyes is holding steady, with park staff reporting 60 to 65 whales over the six hour or so observation period in past weekends. It is a double delight, with wildflowers blooming at Chimney Rock. The low-growing, bright-yellow goldfields are flowering in abundance along Chimney Rock Road, as are buttercups, which tend to like damp areas. Wild radish, seen in huge pale-lavender fields out along Pierce Point Road, migrated from its origins in the Mediterranean. Local dogwoods are in bloom, from the Bear Valley trail to the Inverness Library.

Last Tuesday, April 18 marked the 111th anniversary of the 1906 earthquake that rolled along the California coast, collapsing buildings from San Jose to Santa Rosa and displacing Bear Valley Road some 18 feet. In my family, the event was marked by my paternal grandmother’s gratitude for escaping harm, but also her enduring indignation that her older brother was taken to watch the fires while she had to stay home in the Mission District. She also described the adventures of cooking and sleeping outdoors in her father’s laundry truck as her mother worried about the chimney collapsing. Remembering that the great beauty and peace of the Olema Valley could shift, and being prepared, is essential in quake-prone California.