Nature Notebook, March 29, 2018

03/22/2018

Following the vernal equinox of March 20 comes the second full moon of the month—a “blue moon”—on Saturday, March 31. In between is a week of afternoon minus tides for beachcombing. The brilliant star now appearing in the northwest sky is Venus.

Gray whales are moving north and Northern elephant seals are returning to the sea as March continues.  The temporary closure on Drakes Beach to protect elephant seals lifted on March 15. Male elephant seals disperse northward to Alaska and females move toward Hawaii, both feeding on squid and restoring their bodies after their winter fast ashore. Young seals will return to shore throughout the summer to molt and grow new fur. Whale sightings from the lighthouse have varied recently with fog and rain conditions, but 30 were reported on Friday under dramatic cloudy skies. The northward migration continues into mid-April.

Leaves and blooms are opening each day. California buckeyes, unique among native trees for their fan-compound leaves, are showing their leaves, the end leaf buds larger than the side buds. By May, they will flower and by fall their large shiny brown seeds will develop. Plenty of poppies are appearing, and brilliant, large fields of bright-yellow mustard are seen across Tomales Bay and along Point Reyes-Petaluma Road. Clouds of blue-purple wild lilac, or ceanothus, shrubs are blooming in front of Bear Valley.