Friday, January 19, 2018

A Celebrity at the Alameda Creek Diversion Dam

There was a celebrity in our midst at the SFPUC's Alameda Creek Diversion Dam, the site of the Fish Passage Facilities Project. Field Biologist Chris Pattison spied this California Red-legged frog recently near the construction site and moved it to a safer location.

"Why is this frog famous?" you ask.

Could it be because the California Red-Legged frog (Rana draytonii) is a federally threatened species? 

Or that they are found almost exclusively in California?

Or that they were once a common meal for miners during the Gold Rush?  

Give up?

It has the distinct honor of being the Official Amphibian for the State of California. Read more in this blog post from 2014.

It is heartening to know that these really special frogs are still hopping around the Alameda Creek Watershed.

See you around the Valley!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Photo Friday from January 9, 1913

Happy Photo Friday!

While the East Coast of the U.S. experiences frigid temperatures and some frightening weather event called a 'bomb cyclone', we in the Bay Area, have been experiencing relatively mild temperatures. 

This was not always the case, however. For this Photo Friday we delve back to photos taken almost exactly 105 years ago, on January 9, 1913. 

On that day the crews constructing the first Calaveras Dam found their work site covered in snow. 

The site was so remote back then that the crews lived on site. Here is the watershed keeper's house and another worker's cabin.

Shown here is a barn, corral, and nearby cottage. 

It might be foggy out there today, but at least it isn't snowing!

Happy long weekend and see you around the Valley!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Sunol Valley's Native Residents - California Tiger Salamanders

Photos curtesy of Bill Stagnaro

It has started to rain in the East Bay! And with the first major rain fall of fall and winter appears a native Sunol Valley resident - the California Tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense). 

These ever smiling amphibians are very elusive and hard to find. They are not really smiling but appear to be because of their wide mouth outlined in yellow. An adult California Tiger salamander can reach 7.5 inches or more in length.  Adults are black or dark grey, with oval to bar-shaped spots ranging in color from white to yellow. Juveniles are dark olive green in color and do not generally have any lighter markings. The best time to spot them is at the beginning of the rainy season.

The California Tiger salamanders found in the Sunol Valley are a federally threatened species. These beautiful amphibians have a complex life cycle that requires them to have different types of habitats. During mating season, they like to live in vernal or stock ponds. The juveniles and adults live in grasslands and oak woodlands, mainly living underground in the burrows made by other animals.  It is not uncommon to find California Tiger salamanders cohabiting with a family of ground squirrels.

During breeding season they will travel a mile or more to a nearby pond to breed. Although they may live as long as 10 years, they may reproduce only once. Females lay eggs singly or in small groups. Its larvae require significantly more time to transform into juvenile adults than other amphibians. Around late spring, salamanders leave the ponds to find burrows.

You most likely will never spot a California Tiger salamander during the hot summer months that’s because they are in estivation. Estivation is basically another word for “summer hibernation.” During this time they enter a dormant state and will not come out of their burrow until late November or the rainy season.

Photo curtesy of

If you’re ever spot a California Tiger salamander in the Sunol Valley,  smile back at it and count yourself lucky to have spotted it.

See you around the Valley!