It was a very warm night on Friday (75-80) 8/28, and remained warm until the end. We had 18 participants, including two boys.
We started out around 6:15 or so, and the first sighting was a good-sized Gopher Snake not far from the trailhead. It was hanging out on the upside of the trail in the shade, and stayed there, probably trying to cool off. It appeared healthy and was flicking its tongue.
Next was a small spider wasp on the ground, flicking its wings as they do. One of the boys noticed a spider, which wasn’t apparent at first as it was covered with trail dust. The wasp attempted to drag it, but wasn’t having much success.
We pointed out the Poison Oak growing through the snowberry, for those who weren’t familiar. Also out was Vinegar Weed and Clarkia. Yerba Buena and Wild Ginger offered additional scents. Some California Quail were clucking below us. Sneezeweed and yampah were also observed.
We turned up the trail leading to the ridge. At the open intersection, a small male wolf spider was spotted by one of the boys. We got it in a bug box for observation. We had a short discussion on venomous spiders, noting that Brown Recluse are not found naturally in California. Along the way, JO had noticed a round piece of wasp nest, which he showed to the group. The story of Douglas Fir fire and mouse tails was told.
All the way up, “eye flies” were bugging us, but there were dragonflies flying around in the open areas.
Arriving around 7:35 at the ridge, the sunset was starting to turn pink.
A few bats flew overhead. A jogger passed by as we had dinner. A beetle which showed purple iridescence in the right light was found near the bench. Jupiter and two moons were visible, as was the moon. Some of the participants caught a meteor while the sky was still light.
We headed out around 8:10. It was starting to get dark, and UV light showed us some small scorpions. The kids found three for us along the ridge. There was also a centipede.
Heading into the woods, the turret spiders were cooperative. We found at least three perched at the top of their turrets, along with another spider behind some webbing covering a hole on the trailside.
We shined a flashlight across the duckweed-covered water to reveal bats chasing insects. The moon was overhead, but reflections were not to be seen. There was enough moonlight to see the whole surface.
There was a plop in the water. A bit later, a frog was spotted–not a Pacific Tree Frog since it was larger and had no eye stripe. It was floating in the water about 5 feet from the water’s edge, facing us. After ducking underwater, it came closer. It had large eyes; it turned sideways and we could see some spots. It was quiet. (Hopefully it would not turn out to be a bullfrog.) Yes, it was a California Red-legged Frog! One of the ridges on the dorsal side was visible in our photos. I’m happy that they are still there. Rana draytonii was Federally listed as a Threatened species in June 1996.
We did a quiet, spaced-out walk to the “newt pond”, which was dry. We pointed out stinging nettle and Poison Hemlock. Katydids and crickets were calling, and there were a lot of small crickets jumping on the trails.
At the bridge, a California Newt or two was spotted in the creek. We wanted to make sure we returned in time, so we proceeded on. There was a medium-sized brown katydid and small darkling beetle in the middle of the trail. One of the kids found another small scorpion.
We attempted to do Lifesavers near the trailhead, but the moon was too bright. It was close to 10:30.
Oddly, we saw no deer, nor any fence lizards or larger wolf spiders, but our group was relatively noisy. The Red-legged Frog was a treat, and we were happy to have seen four scorpions.