Nature Notebook, February 27, 2020


March is just around the corner, with a full moon rising March 9 followed by daylight savings and longer days. This lunar cycle brings 6-foot-plus high tides in mid-mornings, so plan for afternoon beach walking and tidepooling. The moon will look larger: it will be on its closet approach to the earth, or perigee, in a so-called super moon with another to follow in April.

Wildflowers are beginning to show, with poppies in the wide-open sunshine of Nicasio and catkins forming on willows. Northern elephant seals are returning to the ocean as the breeding season winds down; a few lone males are still turning up along Limantour Beach. High winds along the coast have made whale spotting challenging.

Smell a skunk? If it’s a warm sunny day, it could be the surface oils of a low-growing, tiny purple flower called skunk weed. But if it’s along the roads, it could be a wandering male: this is breeding season for skunks and males are searching for mates. Assertive creatures, they will stand their ground and stomp, their paws not moving away from a perceived threat. Unfortunately, this trait endangers them on roadways, where they will not back away from cars.

We have an extra day this leap year and more daylight, so enjoy a day in the park scouting for whales and the newest wildflowers. Also check the national seashore website—March 1 ushers in a variety of wildlife protection closures for snowy plovers and harbor seals.