We had a small group on 2/12/11. KP, CB and I led a small group of five, including RF and friend. One person didn’t show.
This is the last time this route will be available for this hike, as the new trail will be in place soon. The sky was clear, and the day had been relatively warm. It hadn’t rained since our scouting hike, so we weren’t sure what to expect.
We left the lot around 5:15. By that time, the sun was behind the mountains, though sunset wasn’t until 5:45. It was probably around 50F, cooler at the pond. It seemed warmer at the pond on our scouting hike.
We observed a few animal tracks in the dried mud in the trail. Dark-eyed Junco, Bewick’s Wren, Red-tailed Hawk, White-tailed Kites, and calling Red-shouldered Hawk caught our attention. After we turned to go downhill, American Robin song, and a Great-horned Owl’s hoots were detected by some. Three deer down the trail moved away. We could hear distant Coyotes yipping. A dead Jerusalem Cricket was found by RF in the middle of the trail. As we neared the pond, Red-winged Blackbird song could be heard, and I saw a duck fly towards the pond.
We stopped briefly at the pond to see whether there was any activity. I could see one newt in the water. The outlet by the sign was dry. Last year, we did this hike at the end of the month, and the water was higher.
Since it was so foggy two weeks ago, we weren’t able to see that the hill that we’d had dinner on last year was now covered with Yellow Star Thistle. We had dinner not far from the pond, on the trail. More deer were up on top of the ridge. The moon was overhead, and Orion and Jupiter were visible.
The treefrogs first started up earlier than I expected, about 15 minutes after sunset instead of 30 minutes two weeks ago. They intermittently called as we had dinner.
Some time after 6:15, we moved down to the water. We could see several newts in amplexus, and someone spotted a couple of newt egg clusters. We saw no frog eggs, but we also hadn’t seen any newt eggs two weeks earlier. After some observation, we took a stroll to the other side of the pond. We heard more Great Horned Owls calling. Something relatively large splashed into the water. Presumably since it has been dry, there were no newts or frogs seen on land.
Most of the treefrogs were on the other side, so we turned around and went back. We found more egg clusters, and the treefrog calls punctuated the quiet. A couple called from close to land, and I vowed to find one of them. It took a while to find the frog that called from about 15″ away in the middle of some Pennyroyal, and I only spotted him because his inflated vocal sac moved a piece of grass! He was the color of mud, and not easy to see even knowing where he was.
Close to 7:30, a Red-legged Frog started to call. One or two of us had heard it earlier, but just briefly. It called regularly with some pauses. Everyone was able to hear it.
We headed back after that. We made one stop to look at a fluorescing Polydesmid millipede. I only found one, compared to the approximately 25 on our scouting hike. One of the participants spotted an owl flush from a shrub in front of us.
Back at the lot, we found a small group of astronomers again.
Did you know that we’re losing our amphibians? Watch this PBS video.
One of the reasons is Chytrid fungus, which you can read more about here. If you visit different marshes and ponds, you may want to clean your boots to help prevent the spread. The suggested cleaning is the same or similar to that for Sudden Oak Death.