Nature Notebook, June 15, 2017


Summer solstice arrives on Tuesday, June 20, with the North Pole reaching its northernmost position. The new moon follows on June 23; seven-foot high tides will occur between 10 and 11 p.m. from June 22 to 25, with corresponding very low tides—negative 1.6—around sunrise.

Swallowtail butterflies—large and light yellow with black-rimmed wings and stripes—have been flitting among the spikes of flowering buckeyes. An easy way to tell a butterfly from a moth: butterflies rest with wings upright, while moths rest with wings spread flat against a surface. I’ve also seen a few bright-orange and black monarchs, which migrate north in spring and summer. They may overwinter along the coast beginning in the fall.

Wildflowers have gone to seed in many open fields, but an end-of-summer splash may be seen in the deep-green shade of Lucas Valley Road, with purple Brodiaea, orange-red paintbrush and magenta pea flowers. The berry season begins with scarlet thimbleberries along Bear Valley Trail and Levee Road.  These berries peel off in a cup (or thimble) shape with a tangy taste.