Nature Notebook, April 5, 2018


April, named by the Romans from the Latin words “to open,” perhaps alluding to a time of blooming, brings a set of somewhat overlapping meteor showers. In the next week, the Lyrid meteor showers will be active, from April 16 to 25. They may be seen in the late-night eastern skies, where the constellation Lyra, the Lyre, will rise by 11 p.m. The Eta Aquarids may be seen beginning April 19 all the way through May 28. The Etas are seen mostly before dawn in the eastern sky and are thought to be remnants of Comet Halley.

Whales and wildflowers are easy reminders of spring, but a more subtle shift in seasonal patterns is the presence of “by-the-winds-sailors,” or Velella Velella, on park beaches.  These masses of oval bluish and clear hydroid colonies are piled up in the tideline, looking like bits of crumpled cellophane. Normally, blown by the wind on the open nearshore waters as the spring winds change direction, they are pushed onto beaches and stranded. The blue portions are tentacles that hang in the water to extract food, which is mostly plankton. You might see gulls picking through the piles for snacks.