Nature Notebook, February 14, 2019


Morning high tides peak at 6.8 feet on Presidents’ Day, Feb. 18, and continue through the full moon of Feb. 19. This moon has also been called a “super moon,” which is not a scientific or technical term in the astronomical lexicon. So-called super moons rise during the periods when the moon is in its closest approach to earth and thus is nearer to the horizon, creating the illusion that the moon is larger. The phenomenon is known as a “perigee-syzygy” of the Earth-Moon-Sun system.

Northern elephant seals have become the media stars of the national seashore, and as seal researchers return to work, more data is available on the group at Drakes Beach. Two harems have formed with two dominant bulls or alpha males keeping a watchful eye on their cows. Preliminary numbers are 70 cows and 50 pups, with two weaned. A few males have dropped in on Limantour Beach; as always, give them a wide berth. Recent weekday excursions at Chimney Rock yielded no whales, though social media is reporting sightings in southern California waters.

As sprinklings of wildflowers remind us of spring, the park is planning for summer and accepting applications for the eight-week Youth Conservation Corps work program for teens. Information is posted at the park website, At the time of this writing, pending a possible lapse in appropriations on Friday, Feb. 15, Bear Valley Visitor Center will be open the three-day weekend on holiday hours, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To get the latest updates on Drakes Beach elephant seal viewing, check the park website and social media.