Nature Notebook, January 16, 2020

01/15/2020

The Chinese or Lunar New Year begins with the new moon on Jan. 25. This year’s zodiac animal honoree is the rat, which is considered acute and alert in nature. Look for local wood rat or pack rat nests along Limantour Road and White House Pool. These five- to six-foot piles of sticks are easier to see when trees have shed most of their leaves. The animals are at winter rest in small rooms within the stick piles, which are usually within easy reach of waterways.

Northern elephant seals move into their most active phase in February, and the first pups have been born. Researches are marking the fur of the larger males, or bulls, with dye, so they can track the animals’ movements around park beaches. The seals typically appear at Drakes Beach and the headlands, but visitors have reported lone males at Kelham Beach. Concrete barriers have been placed alongside the parking area at Drakes Beach to deter seals moving into the parking lot. Look for access on the left side of the beach as you face the ocean; the right side is closed. Stay at least 25 feet away from any seal you encounter.

Pacific gray whales are being seen from the lighthouse in moderate numbers; weather always plays a factor in sighting the migration. The park and visitor centers are open on Martin Luther King’s Birthday, and shuttles will run if the weather is clear.