Update: Mid-August update 2011: The tule elk begin their annual rut season. Larger males sizing each another and establishing harems. On weekends, docents set up scopes at Tomales Point to get a closer look.
The tule elk is a subspecies of elk that is unique to California. Nearly hunted to extinction during the Gold Rush, the tule elk received federal protection in 1971. Pierce Point, the north point of the Point Reyes peninsula, is now a 2,600 acre reserve for the tule elk. In the fall, it is a warm, beautiful hike with the opportunity to see the elk rut season. You are likely to hear bull elks bugle, spar and try to form their harems of females.
Some facts from the National Park Service:
Female elk are sexually mature by two years of age, although they may be able to breed as yearlings. Nearly all female elk will reproduce during their lifetime. A female is likely to have six to ten calves in her lifetime. Males are sexually mature at age two, but usually aren?t able to breed until they are strong enough to compete with other bulls to defend a harem of cows. Half the male population will remain bachelors; most breeding is accomplished by ten percent of the male population.
This video was created by the National Park Service’s Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center as part of its 2004 “Science Behind the Scenery” DVD.
Tule Elk: California’s Legacy of Wildness chronicles the fascinating and inspirational story of the tule elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes) which are native to California and can be viewed at the Tomales Point Tule Elk Reserve. Since pre-historic times, large herds of tule elk roamed California’s central valley and coastal plains. Unfortunately, they were hunted to near-extinction by the late 19th century. Tule Elk examines how the dramatic rebound of the tule elk population at Point Reyes National Seashore and in California at large demonstrates the success of threatened species protections and conservation laws. Continue Reading »
What if Point Reyes was a fully developed with housing? Well, in the 1950s, things were heading that way. If you want to know how the area got saved, I recommend this book on the history of Point Reyes and the Bay Area parks. Fortunately for us, the National Park service is continuing its mission of restoring the area to its natural state.
Take a look at this photo of Limantour in 1961. This was to be a housing development. Fill the land with tract homes and watch it spread across the peninsula. We have a lot of people to thank for saving this place.
Northern migrating gray whales are moving past the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock in large numbers – up to 10 an hour seen over the weekend days helped by the warm calm weather.
Elephant seal numbers continue to decline though a large bull parked himself in front of the visitor center at Drakes Beach much of Saturday afternoon. Females have begun returning to feeding areas near Hawaii and males to feeding areas near Alaska. The weaned pups linger on though early summer.
A public information session on the Abbots Lagoon Dune Restoration project is scheduled for Wednesday, March 11 at 6:30 in the Red Barn Classroom.
A new photography show at Bear Valley Visitor Center of wildlife images from the park by Galen Leeds is up through April.
These are highlights from the National Park Service Park Wavelengths newsletter:
I am a big fan of the Audubon Canyon Ranch at Bolinas, CA. It’s a peaceful place, where visitors can view the nesting sites of the Great Blue Heron, Great Egret and the Snowy Egret. Kids also love the ponds full of wildlife.
For the 2009 season, the 1,000-acre Bolinas Lagoon Preserve will open from March 14 to July 12, 2009, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Weekday access is available by appointment.
Admission to the preserve is free, though a suggested donation of $15 is appreciated.
Here are some highlights from the National Park Service Park Wavelengths newsletter:
Daffoldils in bloom across the old bulb farm near the Hostel. Visitors may pick 6 flowers per day for personal use.
Harbor seal pupping season begins Mar 1. Drakes Estero closes to boating and South Blue Gums Beach on Tomales Bay close from March 1st through June 30 to allow seals to come ashore and deliver their pups in peace.
Elephant seal numbers continue to drop as the season winds down.
Males have dropped their antlers for the year, and are feeding and resting now, they’ll start the annual process of growing antlers again in May to prepare for the late summer breeding season.
Michael Reichmuth, fishery biologist for the National Park Service, had this sobering update about salmon spawning in the Point Reyes and West Marin area:
After performing surveys on Olema, Redwood, and Cheda Creeks last week both field staff and volunteers were disappointed by the lack of new spawning activity. No coho were observed in both Redwood and Cheda Creeks. One live coho and one coho redd was observed on Olema Creek. Steelhead and steelhead redds were observed on both Olema and Redwood Creeks.
This is the typical time of year for steelhead spawning so I was not surprised to find both steelhead redds and live adults. We are now past the typical window for coho spawning and I don’t expect to find any new coho spawning activity even after this last set of storms.Other regional monitoring programs have observed similar results for this year.
The total coho count for the season is very low with only 2 coho redds, 1 live coho, and 2 coho carcasses observed on Redwood creek and 2 live coho with only one coho redd on Olema Creek. For Olema Creek this is the lowest coho count on record.
We will conduct snorkel surveys this summer that will confirm if any coho spawning was successful from this winter.
After a big day of eating turkey and hanging out with the family, it’s time to flex your arms and legs and work off the second helping of stuffing! Head out to Point Reyes. Here are some great things to do:
See if the fish are spawning; check for updates and tours at SPAWN (Salmon Protection And Watershed Network)
Check out the terrific local artists at the semi-annnual Open Studios (see map below)
For many folks who come and visit the Point Reyes area, Tomales Bay is a near-perfect retreat. Quiet, peaceful and full of animals. But the wetlands at the south end of the Bay were turned into ranch land some 60 years ago. But after years of planning and months of work by the National Park Service, today saw the high tide breach the levees that formed the ranch land.
The NPS has a goal of keeping the Point Reyes area as close to “natural” as possible and this project will bring back much habitat to the wetlands, especially the fish (sturgeon, steelhead, chinook and coho salmon) and birds (almost half of the North American bird species pass through the area).
If you want to see the restored areas, here is information from the NPS web site:
Where can we view the restoration area?
The restoration project area can be viewed from several vantage points in the Point Reyes-Inverness area. Some of the existing trails may be temporarily or permanently closed during construction, however, most trails will be reopened once construction is completed. Trails and viewing points include:
Lagunitas Creek spur trail: Southern portion of East Pasture adjacent to Point Reyes Station. Trail can be accessed from entrance to Green Bridge County park along State Route 1 just east of the Green Bridge. This trail winds through riparian habitat in the Green Bridge County park and then follows the edge of Lagunitas Creek out towards White House Pool area. During construction, this trail will be temporarily closed, and it will be rerouted slightly as part of Phase II work.
White House Pool County park: On the south side of Lagunitas Creek, the County of Marin Parks and Open Space District manages a small park on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard (Levee Road) that has a path that winds through riparian habitat as it follows the edge of Lagunitas Creek. Parking may be found at an on-site parking lot. This park provides several locations to view the restoration project area across the creek.
Olema Marsh Trail: On the opposite of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard or Levee Road is Olema Marsh. A trail starts in the parking lot from Olema Marsh and crosses the top of the shutter ridge as it follows the east side of the marsh, eventually ending at Levee Road. Olema Marsh is one of the areas that will be restored as part of Phase II. The trail will be closed temporarily during the construction period.
Tomales Bay Trail: For those wanting a longer walk and grander vistas of the restoration project area and Tomales Bay, the Tomales Bay Trail provides beautiful views of much of the Tomales Bay watershed. The trailhead is located off State Route 1 just north of Point Reyes Station. There is a small parking lot. The trail is approximately 1 -1.3 miles long. In future years, this spur trail will be extended to provide better views of some of the northern portions of the East Pasture and the shallowly flooded flats that attract hundreds of shorebirds and waterfowl in the fall and winter.
West Pasture North Levee path (Temporary): The northern portion of the West Pasture and adjacent undiked marsh can currently be viewed at a small informal spur trail that occurs on the West Pasture North off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. This path will be closed during construction starting September 1 and will not be reopened. In the future, the Park Service will develop a viewing overlook area to enable residents and visitors to view the newly restored marsh.
The National Park Service publishes a newsletter about events, closures, natural history, and cultural history at Point Reyes.
Riots of fall colors with the autumnal equinox this week – check out brilliant red poison oak along Limantour Road. The new moon rises Monday, September 29 with higher than usual daylight tides 5.4 – 5.9 feet in the afternoons. Other fall delights – the continuing presence of humpback whales off the Great Beach, splashing and breaching; the fall bird migration is underway – blackpoll warbler at the Lighthouse and some redstarts.
A young bat has been stopping in at the Lighthouse over the past few weeks, lingering in the fog signal building, an unusual siting for this spot.. The overall bat population in the park remains healthy, 325 Townsend’s Big eared bats were counted in the annual survey last week at their roost in Olema Valley. Traditionally, roosts were inside cavities of old growth redwoods and hillside caves; as these roosts disappeared they have moved into old barns and attics.
Large fish observed under the green bridge in Point Reyes are not early salmonids – they are carp; look for the noticeable scales and the fact they are ‘out in the open’ not seeking deep cool waters to hide. They are native to Eurasia and like slow moving shallow streams with lots of organic matter to root around in.
Marin County Open Space rangers will be exploring the “Pond Life of the Palomarin Area” on Sunday, September 28th between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm; meet at the Palomarin Trailhead off Mesa Road near Bolinas.
A planned closure of the Olema Marsh Trail is now posted for October 6th (originally slated for September 22) as part of the Giacomini Restoration. Trail staff are working with Marin Conservation Corps groups on reconstructing the Abbotts Lagoon Trail; the reroute of Greenpicker, Rift Zone and Estero Trails. These are not closed but you may see the crews at work.
Prescribed burns may occur this week on Wednesday (24) and Friday (26), off Limantour Road west of the Hostel and off Highway 1 near the Randall Trail to manage fuel loads and reduce exotic plants.