Nature Notebook, July 3, 2019


The new moon of July 2 ushers in some extreme morning low tides for the holiday week; the lowest arrives on Thursday, July 4 just before 7 a.m., at 1.5 feet. The corresponding high tides arrive in the afternoons, bringing peak wading and swimming periods—so plan ahead. In the Southern Hemisphere, a total solar eclipse may be seen over the far southern areas of Chile and Argentina.

The lingering effects of heavy and late rainfall combined with warm weather have brought a bumper crop of native plants, with plenty of poison oak along trails and massive blooming buckeye trees along roads.  Watch for the resplendent poison oak alongside trails such as Woodward Valley. The plant’s natural oil, which defends it against dry summer conditions, causes an itchy rash when we get it on our skin. The plant can have large leaves in open, dry slopes and smaller leaves in damp, shady settings. I always remember Kashaya-Coast Miwok ranger Lanny Pinola when I see poison oak, as he would mention how his grandmother fed him bits of leaves in the spring to help develop an immunity.

In clearing trailside brush, maintenance crews in the Point Reyes National Seashore tie their work to the cycles of nesting birds. First, ground-nesting birds are left in peace and then tree-nesters such as spotted owls, which may require quiet with their fledglings.

As you prepare for the holiday weekend, remember that fireworks are not permitted anywhere in Marin County, including in the national seashore. They can be very frightening to both wild and domestic animals, not to mention a fire danger. If you’re looking to enjoy the sparklers safely, the Marin County Fair will set off nightly fireworks this week!