Nature Notebook, April 25, 2019


As the Lyrid meteor showers flame through the late-night sky this week, a second shower overlaps: the Eta Aquarids, active from April 19 through May 28 and peaking on May 6. These are also seen late at night, after 11 p.m. The thin sliver of moon will not compete by glowing too brightly, so if skies are clear, you may see an average of 30 meteors an hour.

As May approaches, the roadsides are scattered with cow parsnip—often described as a cauliflower on a thick green stem. It is a native perennial and, in its flower cluster, is called an umbellet; the outer flowers are larger in order to attract pollinators to the inner, smaller flowers, which have nectar and will develop into a cluster of seeds. They are tall plants, at over six feet.

A longtime favorite in bloom is the creek dogwood across the creek along the Bear Valley Trail, planted at the site of an old cabin. It is typically found in the eastern states (a lovely one is blooming outside the community center in Point Reyes Station). Also watch for the green tendrils and curls of wild cucumber vines as they wind their way across many shrubs seeking spring warmth.

The woods are full of song right now, the peak nesting season for many songbirds. You may notice park trails becoming overgrown, especially during this tall-grass year: park staff are protecting ground-nesting birds and will begin mowing after bird surveys are complete and nestlings have taken flight.