Night on Froggy Mountain

Our scheduled hike was supposed to be on 2/22, but KG and I cancelled due to weather. KP and I came up with a rain date of 3/15, starting an hour later (5:15 p.m.) because of DST. Of course, the previous weekend and weekdays were nice weather, but Saturday night it rained, and it was cloudy on Sunday, with a 30% chance starting around 8:00.

We arrived to find chilly, windy (in the lot) weather, sometimes drizzling. Four participants were already there, and weren’t really prepared for the weather and trail conditions, but were good sports in going part way. We had seven by the time we left the trailhead, including a couple who have often been on our night hikes.

The sag pond was quiet. There was a California Newt in the trail, so I picked him up for the group to take a look, placing him back off the trail.

Newt on trail (2002)

Newt on trail (2002)

We continued on the Canyon Trail, spotting four deer, a distant Red-tailed Hawk, and a single Band-tailed Pigeon, along with yellow daffodils. Near the uphill turn, the four participants decided not to go on into dark. The rest of us continued up the trail to the “gravel pit” dinner spot.

Near the bottom of the hill where the big intersection with the nature trail is, there is a seasonal pond. On our scouting hike on 2/1, it was dry. With the recent rains, there was water making a good-size pond. It was quiet at that time (still light out), and I didn’t see any obvious signs of amphibians. We did see Peltigera lichen with its reddish fruiting bodies, and Cladonia on the trailbanks. Distant Great-horned Owls called.

During dinner, I chose a few more amphibian “quiz” questions for the group to try. It was still pretty light by the time we finished eating (and alas, once again no NOPO for those of you in the know). But, we continued on to the hidden pond since it was a little chilly and damp out in the open.

We heard one land-type-sounding treefrog call as we approached the area. Shortly after we sat down to listen, a bird (possibly Varied Thrush) gave a sharp, somewhat complex alarm. There were a lot of newts in the pond.

Newts in amplexus (2002)

Newts in amplexus (2002)

After trying to coax the frogs to call without success, as we were readying to leave, one gave a couple of “ribbit” calls. There were a lot of newts in the pond, and I borrowed one to show the smoothness of its skin as compared to the ones we had passed on land.

We crossed paths with more than ten newts on the trails. Searching a few holes in the trailbanks and finding nobody home, we didn’t stop too much for fear of rain starting. As we passed the dinner spot on our way back, we heard a chorus of treefrogs. Where was it coming from? We found out as we neared the pond at the big intersection. The pond that was dry on 2/1 was now filled with frogs announcing their desire for mates and territories. Of course, as soon as they heard us coming (even though we were quiet and didn’t leave the trail) they shut up. They started up again after we’d gotten a good way up the hill. 2/09 Pacific Treefrog chorus at Big Dipper Ranch.

We arrived back at the lot around 9:00, lucky to not have been rained on.


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