We’ve finally had some serious rain here in the Bay Area. Kieran and I went up to the two research ponds on the plateau in Briones Regional Park on Saturday to look for newts (Taricha torosa), which migrate great distances every year to meet and mate in the water. A year ago, deep in drought, the ponds were shrunken and so were the newts we found. They were emaciated and skeletal, showing their ribs through their skin. A few we found last year had died on their attempt to march miles to the ponds.

But this year, happily, there seems to have been plenty of rain. The ponds are both overflowing with water, and all the newts we found and caught in our nets were well-fed and healthy looking. We walked the perimeters of both ponds, looking at “newt balls” in the water, where one female is surrounded by lots of eager males. And we stalked and caught three Pacific Treefrogs (Hyla regilla) in the tall grass by zeroing in on their calls.

We also brought home some tiny water creatures to study under the microscope. One was some sort of water flea, perhaps Daphnia, and the other a type of copepod.

We stopped on the way home to visit my father and show him some of the marine fossils Kieran found in rocks right in the trail.

We brought a lot of different nets! It was a day of mixed rain and sunshine, so we dressed for wet weather and ended up shedding layers, then putting them back on.

We brought a lot of different nets! It was a day of mixed rain and sunshine, so we dressed for wet weather and ended up shedding layers, then putting them back on.

On the hike to the ponds.

On the hike to the ponds.

Water levels are much, much higher than they were a year ago.

Water levels are much, much higher than they were a year ago.

A year ago in February, both ponds were dwindled by drought to mere puddles.

A year ago in February, both ponds were dwindled by drought to mere puddles.

A year ago there wasn't much water, and the rims of the ponds were mud flats.

A year ago there wasn’t much water, and the rims of the ponds were mud flats.

One of the emaciated newts we found last year.

One of the emaciated newts we found last year.

A skeletal newt we found last year. This year we found none that looked like this.

A skeletal newt we found last year. This year we found none that looked like this.

This year the newts were healthy and happy looking.

This year the newts were healthy and happy looking.

Kieran used a small fish tank net to catch creatures in the water.

Kieran used a small fish tank net to catch creatures in the water.

There were so many newts it was easy to catch three or four in a single swipe of the net.

There were so many newts it was easy to catch three or four in a single swipe of the net.

Kieran showed some marine fossils he found on the trail to his grandfather.

Kieran showed some marine fossils he found on the trail to his grandfather.

A Daphnia-type water flea seen through our microscope.

A Daphnia-type water flea seen through our microscope.

The water teemed with tiny reddish copepods.

The water teemed with tiny reddish copepods.

One Comment on “Newt ponds

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