Poisonous Newts in the Santa Cruz Mountains
Putting off Part II of the Sonora trip to share about an outing from this past Saturday that was too fun to put in the queue.
Last Saturday I met up with my friend Gabe to go on a hike and look for salamanders and newts. I was very excited to have someone to go herping with, and to do so somewhere other than the backyard.
First we went to Sanborn County Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The hiking route we pursued had some steep inclines that neither of us were prepared for, me least of all with how out of shape I am. I hiked a lot in 2018, but 2019 was pretty sedentary due to my schedule ,which was full and varied all year (except in the summer, when it was of course too hot to want to hike). I can only recall two hikes last year, and both were very short and more like leisurely walks in the redwoods. I was a little embarrassed at how often I needed to stop, truth be told.
We didn't find any newts or salamanders for while until we finally spotted this one:
It would turn out that we would only find California Newts (Taricha torosa) on our day trip. They are very poisonous, secreting tetrodotoxin on their skin, so we were careful not to touch them, since we would not be able to wash our hands immediately. The trail we took did not cross much water at all, so we only found a couple of these guys throughout the whole hike.
The diversity of fungi made-up for the lack of amphibian action. I don't know much of anything about fungi and definitely can't identify them (except maybe the funky witch's butter or turkey tails), but I think they are neat and we found a lot of cool ones!
These ones were glowing on the darkest part of the trail. At least, they appeared to be glowing on the darkest part of the trail. My phone definitely couldn't capture the yellowish-green glow they had.
We finished up at Sanborn much earlier than we anticipated and decided to check out the Saratoga Quarry on the way back. That is where we found all the newt action!
There is a large pond at the quarry that first looked a little dumpy and unimpressive, but upon closer inspection was filled with breeding newts.
It was really hard to get photos of the newts underwater because of the reflection, but there was one (female?) that was at the surface clinging to some vegetation I was able to get some pictures of.
Lots and lots of eggs
There were also larvae in the pond, but they were so small and quick to hide in the vegetation that it was impossible to get any pictures.
I had a really good time. I am not a social person and quite a homebody, maybe going to get lunch with a close friend every couple of months or the rare show or movie once or twice a year, but even those kind of outings come with a level of discomfort I have to put up with. Going out into nature with a friend, away from most other people, was really awesome and exactly my kind of deal. We are planning on going out again in two weeks, and I am looking forward to it!