Subtle Changes in the Seasons

When we moved here to north of Northern California, also known as the North Coast, we were told that there aren’t seasons here, just rain during the winter and fog during the summer. The temperature only fluctuates by about 20 or 30 degrees, so that seasonal indicator isn’t of much help, either.

While there aren’t traditional seasons right here on the coast, you can go 20 or 30 miles inland and find them, complete with snow or scorching temperatures! But, if you keep your eyes peeled and pay attention to nature, you’ll notice that the seasons are in fact here, even if the temperature is the same every day.

For example, the flowers here on the North Coast go through a seasonal succession. They progress, just like other places with more ‘typical’ weather, from the Spring beauties to the final blooms of Fall.

Animals, too, follow the  subtle seasonal rhythms.  The Roosevelt Elk are starting to bugle and compete with each other, marking the start of the rut that most elk herd ritualistically participate in during the month of September.

Birds have come and gone, and others have arrived. Varied and Swainsons thrushes have migrated elsewhere, leaving the Redwood forests nearly silent, but others, like the Band-tailed Pigeon have come crashing into the cascara and alder thickets.  Swallows, both Cliff and Barn,  as well as Marbled Murrelets, hit their peak mid-summer while raising their young, and most have now completed the task and are enjoying their time “off”.

During the Spring, it was hard to find a spider anywhere, but now, especially early in the morning, you find them everywhere.  You know you are the first one to walk a trail when you walk through webs every 4 feet!

So even though we don’t get feet of snow and hot weather, Nature is still marching on and changing to the “invisible” seasons that are controlled by the Earth’s tilt and rotation around the Sun.  The breezes carry only the smell of the Pacific Ocean and its kelp, but Autumn and its sunshine are seeping in through the fog!

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Big and Small: It’s All Here!

Just like the people here, there is a lovely eclectic mix of natural wonders here. Of course, there are Redwoods, frozen giants that watch as we busily scurry below their towering tops. While they are marvels in and of themselves, there is much to see on and near them.

A gray whale with her calf have been swimming in the Klamath River now for 15 days. No one is quite sure if she can get out on her own. I’ve heard she might be there for safety, to remove parasites, or she just got lost. I’m not sure if anyone knows for sure, but hopefully she will leave when she feels like she needs to. She is about the size of a school bus and feeds on bottom-dwelling invertebrates by stirring them up with her nose and then sucking in the food-filled water and filtering it with her baleen.

Not so large, but the largest subspecies of elk and the largest land mammal around, the Roosevelt elk are gearing up for their rut. Males are starting to lose their velvet from their antlers. The bachelor herd has been seen in Elk Prairie in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park frequently recently!

Even smaller, the Barn and Cliff swallows have been busy raising their chicks and keeping the crows and ravens from their nests.  Amazing how small their eggs are! This swallow was taking a break from insect collecting to catch its breath.

It seems the Yellow-spotted millipede [the ones that smell like almonds!] have stopped hatching out in such large numbers and have sought out their summer hide-outs in nooks and crannies on the forest floor.

The Redwood Sorrel, a clover-looking Oxalis, still has some blooms, but there are lots of new leaves popping up. These young leaves have yet to mature to the dark purple that the older ones have.

Lots of lichen abounds in this area. The redwoods are essentially the start of the Pacific Northwest Rainforests. From lungwort to old man’s beard–variety is the spice of life [or lichen]. Entwined in a symbiotic relationship, fungus and algae grow together in odd shapes and patterns.

Largely looming or sheepishly small, there is a lot of life in these quiet, ancient relict forests.

“See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the
moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to
touch souls.” –Mother Teresa