Windy Hill OSP

The forecast said showers with temperature around 55F. Last night (3/5/11), JO, JH and I scouted the lower part of the preserve, looking for invertebrates. The parking lot was full at 4:30 3:30. All of us had to wait a few minutes for a space. It was relatively warm, and humid at that point.

We took off around 4:00 and stopped at Sausal Pond. There were some small fish, and no Azolla or duckweed on the surface. The cattails usually to the right, next to the shore were gone, with just a stretch of old cattails out about 20 feet. Birds on the pond included Ring-necked Duck, a female Bufflehead, American Coot (one was slapping the water with its foot while standing on a floating log), Gadwall, Pied-bill Grebe.

After a trip back to the car to retrieve something, I noticed that the big oak on the left near the corner of the first intersection leading in from the lot had fallen over. Back at the pond, we left there at 4:20.

The birds were singing a lot, surprisingly: Dark-eyed Juncos, Common Ravens, American Goldfinch, Purple Finch, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Pine Siskin, Song Sparrow, House Finch, American Robin, Anna’s Hummingbird, Oak Titmouse, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, and others.

We saw one Banana Slug. At the log pile, we found several Slender Salamanders, and beautiful jewel-like fruiting bodies of a slime mold. Upon the bright yellow plasmodium on one side of a piece of dead wood sprouted black sporangia. We found more of those sporangia on wood near the bridge.
California Buttercups were blooming. In some of the puddles on the trail, there were insects that resembled mosquitos, skating on the surface. In others, the breathing tubes of mosquito larvae were visible poking through the surface.

We reached the large intersection at 4:47.
The seasonal pool had some copepods, flatworms, a bloodworm, and tiny bean-oval shaped crustaceans that were too small to see much detail with a hand lens. There were no Daphnia or fairy shrimp.

Sunset was at 6:07; we reached the bridge around 6:00. In the creek, we found no water pennies, but found some small insect larva on the bottom of rocks, and one larger mayfly larva. More Slender Salamanders were under logs near the bridge.
After dinner, we left at 6:37. We checked the usual dead log but found nothing. Along a curved trailbank meeting up with the main trail, there was a hole about 3′ up, with a little salamander head showing. I could tell it wasn’t a newt, having dark eyes and a different head shape. It was an Arboreal Salamander, looking gray with a white belly and yellow dots under flashlight. I could hear treefrogs calling from the west, and heard a Barn Owl.

In one of a group of three trees was a hole, so having seen treehole mosquito larvae at Picchetti Ranch, I took a look. The water was dark, like black coffee, and it was hard to see through. There was a springtail on top, and some sort of segmented larva a few centimeters long. From the little we could see through it, there appeared to be some mosquito larvae wriggling around.

At 7:00, we crossed the “sandbag” trail. We were surprised to find millipedes in the grassy area, before reaching the usual wooded area. There was an active ants nest in the middle of the trail. We decided to take the shortcut to the Betsy Crowder trail for a change, instead of going up the hill and around.

We got to the Betsy Crowder trail intersection at 7:20. We found a fluorescent Russula past a culvert, near two trees on the left. There was an old earth star, but we didn’t find any fresh ones. JH heard a Saw-whet Owl. It was starting to shower a little by then, but it stayed light throughout our hike.

The millipedes were numerous, and JO spotted a pair mating. We saw the most snails we’ve seen on one hike, 4-5, on the mossy trailbank. On only 1-2 of them could I see a band, making them Shoulderbands. Another Slender Salamander was hanging out on the trailbank. We refound the large turret that we’d found last year, complete with spider. Unfortunately, it was shy and ducked down to the bottom of the curve.

Here are the treefrogs under light showers.

Back at the pond, we checked out the mushrooms we’d seen earlier to see if the mycelium bioluminesced (if they were Honey Mushrooms). We didn’t see anything, though the light part of the flesh was bright under UV. In the water, now we could see amphipods swimming, and JO found a Cyclops. We tried to locate a close Sierran Treefrog calling from a bunch of old vegetation, without luck. I shined my flashlight over the nearby water to look for eyeshine. There were at least five large pairs of eyes with white-purple eyeshine, which could only be bullfrogs. One pair glowed eerily from beneath a dark hole in the cattails.

There are at least 3 bullfrogs visible by their eyeshine--can you find them?

We left the lot around 9:00.

Here are more photos.

American Bullfrogs are not native west of the Rockies. They eat anything they can swallow, including our native frogs, and birds. They are probably responsible for part of the decline of many native species (1).

Watch this National Geographic video, “Bullfrogs Eat Everything”.