Nature Notebook, December 5, 2019


The full moon rises Wednesday, Dec. 11 with corresponding extra high tides of six feet in the mid-morning hours. Its brilliant light will wash out the Geminid meteor showers, which may be seen from Dec. 7 through 17, peaking on Friday, Dec. 13. The Geminids originate in the Gemini (twins) constellation which is seen above the eastern horizon and can generate up to 120 meteors per hour! We might catch a stray one or two around the moon’s brilliance.

On land, the rainy season touches off new cycles as coho salmon and steelhead trout are heading up local creeks, and mushrooms are sprouting. This year’s returning class or cohort of fish is expected to be smaller than last year according to surveys of the outgoing fish, though this year also saw the discovery of previously undocumented fish populations in McIsaac Creek. Mushrooms will need a bit of warmer temperatures, and this year’s crop may be affected by recent frosts and low temperatures.

At sea, the winter cycle brings the annual southern migration of Pacific gray whales and the return to land of Northern elephant seals. Humpback whales have lingered in local waters, and rangers reported a juvenile Pacific gray whale seen heading south. The larger male seals with their distinctive noses are the first to arrive on the outer beaches, usually by the solstice. They establish territories through sounds and skirmishes as they await the secondary arrival of females.