Nature Notebook, May 7, 2020


Dropping into the neighborhood in the coming weeks is the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, which will peak on May 6 but will likely be masked by the light of the full moon. The shower is named for a star, Eta Aquari, one of four in a constellation called the “water jar,” part of the larger constellation Aquarius. The southeast sky before dawn will provide the best viewing this year.

Plenty of red elderberry shrubs are blooming along roadsides, their puffs of pale yellow visible in the greenery. And at last we see purple lupines along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard! Cow parsnips, those cauliflower-like white flowers, are rearing their huge heads.

Bevies of quail are making their homes along Limantour Road. Quail typically lay around 15 eggs, a good strategy since they are often preyed upon. Once they hear you, they scurry quickly for cover. Quail don’t typically drink water, instead getting moisture from the seeds and grains that make up their diet.

In the national seashore, Western snowy plovers are nesting in their usual areas, primarily along Great Beach; their nests are barely visible in the sand. The chicks are homeschooled by the males while the females move on to set up new nests. Let’s hope this federally threatened species has a peaceful season eluding their raven predators.