Nature Notebook, January 31, 2019


Morning high tides continue through the new moon of Feb. 4, peaking at 6.1 feet on Feb. 2, Groundhog Day. This East Coast tradition serves as an omen for future winter weather, but here on the Western coast, warm, dry days have jump-started the wildflower season.

The very first wildflowers, milkmaids (Dentaria Californica), a four-petaled, white-and-pink-flushed bloom, are appearing in shady areas. Wild currants, with a creamy whitish-pink spray, are flowering along the Levee Road and at the community center. Domestic bulbs such as narcissus and grape hyacinths remind us on cold mornings that spring will soon be here.

Northern elephant seals have recolonized Drakes Beach. The group, estimated at 30 or more, is much larger than in recent years and two pups have been born. With the seven-foot tides providing extra push in recent weeks, some of the bulls managed to heave themselves over the fence into the parking lot.  The area is closed while the seals rest, flip sand over themselves to cool off and enjoy the annual respite from cold Pacific waters.

As national park operations are restored this week, one of the first priorities is removing downed trees and debris. When reporting downed trees, include these details to help park staff respond: the location, the kind of tree and the diameter of the trunk and whether it is blocking passage of walkers and horseback riders. As science researchers return, more information will become available on seal and salmon numbers.