Nature Notebook, July 27, 2017


When the full moon rises on Aug. 7, a partial lunar eclipse will occur on some continents, but not the continental United States. In Britain, this moon is called the “grain moon,” as it reminded folks to harvest their grain. 

We are less than a month from the solar eclipse of Aug. 21, which we should be able to observe for a short period in the morning hours. The Point Reyes Library will celebrate the eclipse with educational programs; check for information.

Many of us are busily picking blackberries and huckleberries for pies and jams, but another native is also producing non-edible berries: coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica). The berries look like coffee beans and ripen from green to red to a final black color. They are a feast for birds, and the Coast Miwok stripped the bark for use as a cathartic, or purgative. The shrubs can be seen in front of the park visitor center at Bear Valley.

Summer also means brown pelicans diving into Drakes Bay. They usually stay the summer and fall, traveling to southern California and Mexico for the winter breeding period. There used to be so many of them on Alcatraz Island that a 19th century observer described their takeoff as creating winds like a hurricane. Mostly fish eaters, they fly in lines skimming the surface of the water and landing with a distinctive splash.