Nature Notebook, May 21, 2020

05/20/2020

A new moon rises on Friday, May 22, beginning the Memorial Day weekend with a series of minus tides in the early mornings—a little more beach for those who can walk to nearby beaches. 

As the ground warms up, gopher snakes are coming out of their winter rest and appearing along trails; they will be shiny if they recently shed their skins. Some enjoy the warmth provided by the asphalt of Limantour Road.

Late wildflowers such as purple bush lupine are flowering amid slowly browning grasses. Rattlesnake grass (Briza sp.), native to the Mediterranean, lines nearby roadsides, its seed-bearing spikelets said to look like the tail of a rattlesnake. Its other common name, quaking grass, comes from the sound it makes as wind passes through.

Cliff swallows have built mud nests on the side of the Grandi building, across from the Western. Look with your binoculars for the fledglings inside the brownish balloon-like nests, built painstakingly beakful by beakful. You can see the parents zip in and out delivering insect meals to the newly hatched.

Chicks and many other baby animals are being born right now, including elk calves, fawns and harbor seal pups. Many of these offspring are left on their own, quite safely, while parents forage nearby. Observe quietly and then be on your way.