Nature Notebook, March 11, 2021


It has felt like spring much of the past few weeks already, but the calendar spring begins on the vernal equinox, dated March 20 this year. The sun will be directly over the equator with equal parts of daylight and night. We will also “spring forward” this Sunday, March 14 as we reset clocks for Daylight Savings. I always enjoy the extra late-afternoon light for a walk outside.

The latest wildflowers to grace the scene include the pink bells of manzanita shrubs and more purple Douglas iris in open, sunny areas. Shaded spots yield pink bleeding hearts or Dutchman’s breeches, a heart-shaped, two-lobed flower with lacy foliage. Also curling their way up are strands of wild cucumber with pencil-sized tendrils and tiny yellow-white flowers.

The annual harbor seal and snowy plover protection measures began March 1 in the national seashore. Harbor seals draw up onto local beaches to bear their young. They are smaller and lighter in color than northern elephant seals, and may also have spots. They will leave the young alone on shore as they seek food in nearby waters, so the sight of a lone seal is very normal. Seal protection closures include Drakes Estero, Double Point and the very far western end of Limantour Spit. Snowy plover protections redirect areas for pet walking on the Great Beach. Check for full information and maps before heading out.