Nature Notebook, September 27, 2018

09/27/2018

A small meteor shower known as the Draconids drops in the first week of October, peaking on Monday, Oct. 8. Draco (Latin for dragon) is called a circumpolar constellation because it revolves around the north pole; meteors should be visible in the early evening against the darker sky of a new moon.

You may have seen the pollinator fiesta taking place in the deep blue and lavender passion flowers blooming in front of the thrift store last week. Honey bees were busy among the blooms but were overshadowed by a flutter of flame-orange butterflies, Gulf fritillaries. Natives of Caribbean Mexico, the fritillaries are long-term residents in urban areas of California; their larvae depend on the South American passion flowers, an evergreen vine. The plants and butterflies are found in milder coastal areas, as they are not adapted to colder temperatures.  

Black-tailed deer are also having a feast: I watched one stretch up on its hind legs into a coast live oak to get at walnut-sized green acorns. It looks like a productive acorn year, meaning extra nutrition for many species. Deer eat both the green and ripe brown acorns. This year, huckleberries and coffeeberries remain abundant as we move into October and toward the rainy season, providing food for racoons and foxes.