Nature Notebook, February 8, 2018

02/08/2018

The February sky is quiet, with no full moons, but March is bookended with full moons on March 2 and 31. The new moon on Feb. 15 brings afternoon minus tides throughout the week. 

Warm temperatures and moist soil are ushering in the first wildflowers. Amid the deep green and shade of Bear Valley Trail, tiny violets and masses of milkmaids, also called toothwort, four-petalled white and pink flowers, are always among the first to bloom. Spikes of wild cucumber are also pushing up, their curling tendrils like tiny grapevines. Even a few poppies are blooming in Olema, right at the stop sign.

Coast Creek, which runs along Bear Valley Trail, hosted freshwater otters last weekend, splashing in the cool waters. They tend to be out in the day during the winter months and more nocturnal in the spring and summer. The sighting was in the early morning, which is also typical behavior; many animals are more active in the early morning and evenings, when they can better stay hidden from predators. The otters, known for their sense of play, may have been exploring the creek or looking for salamanders and frogs to feed on. 

February is the height of the Northern elephant seal breeding season, with the highest numbers of animals on park beaches. View them now at Chimney Rock: by the end of the month many pups will have been weaned and females will be headed back to sea.