Nature Notebook, November 19, 2019


The fall has been full of celestial events, and now a lunar eclipse will arrive on Nov. 29 when the moon will pass through Earth’s partial shadow, or penumbra. On the West Coast, we late-night watchers will see the eclipse begin at 11:30 p.m., with the maximum eclipse at 1:42 a.m. and its end at 3:55 a.m. With a dry winter forecast, we may have a clear sky to watch! The moon will look like it has a darkened shadow on it.

The fluttering of pumpkin-orange Cape frittilaries on the passion vine outside the thrift store is always a spirit-lifting sight! Frosty weather may have ended this year’s viewing, but at this time of year one of their cousins, the western population of monarch butterflies, is returning north to overwinter along the Pacific coast. Traveling 50 to 100 miles a day, the monarchs roost on trees at night before continuing the annual journey during the daylight, preferring the branches of pine and cedar trees for their evening shelter. Roosts on the Monterey coast, such as Pacific Grove, are well known, but West Marin shelters monarchs within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The forecast rain will hopefully pour out into Tomales Bay and trigger the return of coho salmon up into Redwood and Lagunitas Creeks for the winter spawning season. We may also see mushrooms; the combination of moisture and sun are ideal for fungi. So much to be grateful for during this holiday season; I hope you will spend some time outdoors with these wild families.