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2017 Seeing a Strong Northern Spotted Owl Breeding Season


A Northern Spotted Owl chick peers down from its nest. Photo by Jessica Weinberg/NPS.
A Northern Spotted Owl chick peers down from its nest. Photo by Jessica Weinberg/NPS.

The San Francisco Bay Area Network's Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) monitoring program has confirmed 21 spotted owl nests at their 39 monitoring sites so far this season. This is the highest number of nesting attempts since 2014, which also saw 21 nests. However, with only one documented nest failure so far, 2017 is shaping up to be much more successful than 2014 when there were nine nest failures. This could be the best year for spotted owl reproduction in Marin County since 2003 when there were 19 nests and 3 nest failures. The nestlings will fledge in late May though early June, and can already be seen peering over the sides of their nests. In the coming weeks, National Park Service biologists will determine the owl’s 2017 reproductive success by counting the number of these young that actually fledge from each nest. Contact Taylor Ellis for additional information.

Western Snowy Plover 2017 Nesting Season Underway


A snowy plover returns to her nest to incubate her eggs.
A snowy plover returns to her nest to incubate her eggs. Photo by Matt Lau/NPS.

The Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) breeding season at Point Reyes National Seashore got off to a slow start, likely due to cold and wet March weather. The first nest at Point Reyes was started on April 10th, a month later than in 2016. Despite this, the plovers have made up for lost time with a recent flurry of nests, including 17 in just the last five weeks! Although there aren’t any chicks yet, nine nests are expected to hatch within the next three weeks.

Great Beach between Abbott’s Lagoon and the North Beach parking lot has the highest number of nests (7); however, the 2011 Abbotts Lagoon Restoration Area and Limantour Beach are close seconds with four nests each. The nests on Limantour Beach are especially exciting, as the plovers have rediscovered the site after a 14-year hiatus. Plovers began nesting on Limantour Beach again in 2015 and breeding activity has slowly increased since.

The beach between Abbotts Lagoon and the North Beach parking lot is closed every weekend from Memorial Day until Labor Day to reduce human disturbance to nesting snowy plovers and their chicks. Similar closures in past years have improved chick survival during this crucial time. Contact Dave Press for more details.

Mission Blue Butterfly Translocation Project Successful


Collecting a mission blue butterfly on a lupine plant under a net.
Mission blue butterflies are carefully collected on San Bruno Mountatin for release at Milagra Ridge. NPS Photo.

Twenty female and 10 male Mission blue butterflies (Icaricia icariodes missionensis) have been captured and translocated from San Bruno Mountain State and County Park to Milagra Ridge in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. No more butterflies will be moved this year, as this is the number permitted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for this flight season. Monitoring of the butterfly’s lupine host plants at Milagra Ridge indicates that the translocated female Mission blues have been laying lots of eggs, with some already hatching.

One of the primary goals of this project is to increase the populations of Mission blues at Milagra Ridge and Sweeney Ridge to self-sustaining levels. The species was in danger of winking out at Milagra Ridge, with the numbers of adult butterflies plummeting from around 50-60 in the mid-1990s to only two last year. Sweeney Ridge has not been regularly monitored, but checks of the best habitat areas over the last two years have resulted in few observations. In addition to translocations, this project also includes increasing the abundance and distribution of host plants, invasive plant removal, scrub removal to maintain the grassland patches where the host plants are found, and habitat modeling based on environmental factors.

Project success has been thanks to the great support and partnership of the National Park Service, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy’s Park Stewardship Program, and Creekside Center for Earth Observation, in coordination with USFWS and San Bruno Mountain State and County Park. Contact Bill Merkle with questions.

2017 Coho Salmon and Steelhead Trout Smolt Season Winding Down


Smolt traps are checked daily by staff and volunteers. Photo by Jessica Weinberg/NPS.
Smolt traps are checked daily by staff and volunteers. Photo by Jessica Weinberg/NPS.

High water levels and late season rains created a busy smolt trapping season, as the team spent a considerable amount of time removing and reinstalling traps to decrease equipment damage and potential injury to captured fish. One trap on Olema Creek and two traps on Redwood Creek finally became fully operational in mid-April. The mainstem traps on Olema and Redwood Creek will remain active until June 2nd. The off-channel trap on Redwood Creek was removed on May 15th as flow decreased and no salmonids had been captured since the first week of April. This trap is used to evaluate the success of the large backwater area that was constructed as part of the lower Redwood Creek restoration project and to help guide future restoration activities at the site.

With only a few days remaining in the smolt trapping season, over 1,100 coho smolts have been captured on Olema Creek, and more than 550 have been captured on Redwood Creek. Forty steelhead smolts have been captured on Redwood Creek, while only seven have been captured on Olema Creek. The backwater trap on Redwood Creek only captured one coho smolt and one steelhead parr. Contact Mike Reichmuth for more information.

California Red-legged Frog Numbers on the Rise at Muir Beach


A close-up look at a California red-legged frog egg mass.
California red-legged frog eggs. Photo by Paul G. Johnson.

Every winter, California red-legged frogs (Rana draytonii) egg masses are monitored in ponds and streams at Muir Beach and other sites in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Recent restoration efforts at Muir Beach, complimented by the relocation of red-legged frog egg masses to the site, seem to be paying off for this threatened species. The past two years have seen the highest egg mass numbers since monitoring began at this site in 2002.

Increased numbers of egg masses have also been seen at monitoring sites in Tennessee Valley, Rodeo Valley, and Rancho Corral de Tierra this season; however, egg mass production has declined at Mori Point since the winter of 2013. Contact Darren Fong with questions.

Rare Plant Monitoring Season Highlights


A flower of the rare San Francisco campion. Photo by Michael Chasse/NPS
Numbers of the rare San Francisco campion are the highest they have been in almost 20 years. Photo by Michael Chasse/NPS.

San Francisco campion (Silene verecunda) numbers this year are the highest seen since the El Niño winter of 1997-98. This is good news for a species that appears to be in decline elsewhere on the San Francisco Peninsula. Another highlight is increased numbers of Hickman's potentilla (Potentilla hickmanii) due to increased rainfall, improved monitoring, and park management efforts. However, Franciscan thistle (Cirsium andrewsii) numbers are down parkwide due to the high number of slumps and slides caused by last winter’s rains. Contact Michael Chasse for additional details.

How Will Climate Change Effect Key Marine Ecosystem Drivers?


A recent paper, “Rapid emergence of climate change in environmental drivers of marine ecosystems” describes how quickly multiple drivers of marine ecosystem change may develop under two future climate change scenarios: “business-as-usual” and a mitigation scenario representative of the conditions of the Paris Agreement. By looking at a number of different models, the authors found that climate change-driven trends in multiple ecosystem drivers emerge in 55% of the ocean and encompass 86% by 2050 under the ‘business-as-usual’ scenario. However, with mitigation that number drops to 34%. Mitigation also slows the pace at which multiple drivers emerge, allowing an additional 20 years for adaptation. Read more in the full Nature Communications article available here.

Climate Change Impacts on California Coastal Upwelling


As winds that blow from the north along the U.S. West Coast push surface waters away from the shore, cold, nutrient-rich waters from below rise up to take their place. This upwelling phenomenon supports a diverse and rich array of marine life, as well as helps drive onshore fog and temperature patterns. It is hypothesized that global warming will accelerate these winds, which meditate upwelling in the California Current System (CCS) running from southern British Columbia to the southern Baja California Peninsula.

A recent Geophysical Research Letters article estimates changes in CCS upwelling from 1920 to 2100. The authors suggest that CCS upwelling will become more intense in the spring and less intense in the summer, and that these changes will arise mostly in the second half of the century. “Emergent anthropogenic trends in California Current upwelling” is available for rent or purchase here.

Events & Announcements


Science Symposium Presentations Have Been Posted

Many thanks to the presenters and volunteers that helped make the 2017 San Francisco Bay Area Science and Natural Resources Symposium a great success.

PDFs of the presentations are now available here. If you’d like to contact a presenter to learn more about their work, the speaker bios and abstracts include presenter email information.

Point Reyes Lunch Presentation – June 1st

At noon on Thursday, June 1, 2017 (at the Red Barn Classroom), Prof. Tiffany Knight, Alexander von Humboldt Professorship of Spatial Interaction Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Germany presents: "The effects of invasive plants, habitat restoration and climate variability on the endangered plant, Lupinus tidestromii."

Upcoming Park Academy Classes

  • Botany Series: Introduction to Grass Identification - June 6, 12:30-4:30 pm
  • Nursery Series: Introduction to Seed Collection & Cleaning - June 8, 1–4 pm
  • One Tam Event: Wildlife Picture Index Workshop - June 15, 1-4 pm
  • One Tam Event: Wildlife Picture Index Workshop - June 27, 1-4 pm

Classes are free for NPS and Conservancy staff and volunteers. For more details or to register see their website.

Upcoming Field Institute Classes

The Point Reyes National Seashore Association's Field Institute has many classes coming up, including:

  • Photographing the Beaches of Point Reyes - June 2, 6 pm to June 4, 2 pm
  • Geology of Point Reyes: Abbotts Lagoon, Kehoe & McClures - June 3, 9 am – 5 pm
  • Single Lines in the Seashore - June 3, 10 am – 4 pm
  • Full Moon Kayak Adventure - June 9, 6 – 10:15 pm
  • A Light on the Path: Writing toward Clarity in Point Reyes - June 10, 10 am – 4 pm
  • Drawing Summer Flowers - June 17, 10 am – 3:30 pm
  • Yoga in the Park: Elements of Sustainable Movement - June 18, 10 am – 12 pm
  • Qigong in the Park - June 24, 10 am – 4 pm

Point Reyes staff can register for a class at no charge, contact the Field Institute at 415-663-1200 x307 for more details.