The winter solstice has passed, and the days grow slightly longer as we move toward the vernal equinox. The last of the 2021 meteor showers, the Ursids, will fall until Dec. 25. They are a small shower of no more than five to 10 meteors an hour, best seen after midnight, originating in Ursa Minor, the little bear or little dipper. Welcoming the New Year will be the Quadrantids, which peak on Jan. 3 and 4 and may produce over 100 meteors an hour, visible on the eastern horizon after midnight.

The periods of rain and warm sun have created one of the most prolific years for fungus. Mushrooms are everywhere. Look for small earthen lumps as the caps push their way up through the forest duff. Often attention is focused on larger edible species, but one of my favorites remains bird’s nest fungus. These are tiny tubes—the “nest”— with small, round peridioles—the “eggs,” which contain the spores. They may be found grouped on downed logs, especially along the Woodpecker Trail.

As December closes, its all about northern elephant seals, which continue their leisurely occupancy of Drakes Beach, where there are reportedly a couple of bulls and a female. The right side of the beach was closed Dec. 15. The new configuration of restored wetlands may shift patterns on the beach; typically, males may coast ashore and then move to other beaches. 

Park visitor centers and the lighthouse will be closed on Saturday, Dec. 25, while beaches, roads and trails remain open in the national seashore.