Nature Notebook, February 28, 2019


The new moon of March 6 is followed by daylight savings on Sunday, March 10. This time of the year is most excellent for early-morning risers and east-bound commuters: in the hour before dawn, three planets will grace the sky. Look for the moon, and closest to it will be Jupiter; next, Saturn will appear below the moon and, further away, the fiery pop of Venus. Hopefully, the rain will clear off for us to see these spring sparkles.

As northern elephant seals claimed the spotlight this year, other species have been appearing in record numbers. Surveys for coho salmon and steelhead trout in Olema and Redwood Creeks resumed as the federal government operations returned to normal, bringing good news from Redwood Creek: the highest number of adult steelhead ever recorded in the creek. The heavy creek flows may have disrupted some of the gravel nests, or redds, and thus lowered the survival rate for eggs. More data will be collected throughout the summer, when snorkeling surveys count hatched fish.

In the Point Reyes National Seashore, lavender Douglas iris is blooming in sunnier areas and sprouting in shady areas. A favorite flower of the shade is the bleeding heart, or “Dutchman’s breeches” (Dicentra Formosa), with its lacy, carrot-like greenery and small, heart-shaped, rose-pink bloom. Cedar waxwings are feeding in red-berried cotoneaster shrubs at the community garden next to Toby’s; looked for their pale, grey-brown bodies with a small crest and black eyeliner. In the Olema marsh, red-winged blackbird males are setting up turf with their songs among the cattails and tules. Some of this area has been flattened by high flows of water, giving the appearance of crop circles off Levee Road.