Nature Notebook, June 1, 2017


The closest planet to earth, Venus, will be at best viewing in the early morning hours of June 3. The sparkling planet will appear in the eastern sky if you are out and about before the 5:49 a.m. sunrise. The full moon known as the Strawberry Moon will rise on June 9. The tiny native strawberries underfoot were the first fruits of spring celebrated by the Kashaya Pomo of coastal Sonoma and their neighbors, the Coast Miwok.

Wildflowers are giving way to warmer temperatures and drier conditions, with fewer blossoms. California buckeye (Aesculus californica) and Mexican elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) are now blooming along roadsides. Buckeyes have a tall spike of a flower in a brownish-rose color, surrounded by five to nine leaves. By fall, the flowers will have morphed into fuzzy green tennis balls and all the leaves will have dropped. Elderberry shrubs are pale yellow and will develop dark blue clusters of berries in a month or so.

Animals like bobcats and foxes are on the move, seeking new territories or additional food supplies for newly born young. They are crepuscular (one of my favorite words), active in the early morning and early evening. While you may not see them, they leave piles of scat on their most frequented paths, such as the Woodpecker Trail. I like to sit quietly with a cup of coffee in the early morning, watching the neighbor fox come by and, later, the quail for a little dust bath.