Today In Newtopia: 01-04-2018

I love it when it rains.

Female Taricha granulosa / Rough-skinned newt on forest floor

After a very parched December here in Marin, we're finally getting some long-overdue rain. Winter is our rainy season here, and normally the Rough-Skinned Newts (Taricha granulosa, pictured above) would be enjoying the seasonal streams by now.

Female Taricha granulosa / Rough-skinned newt crawling onto tree root

Like most California amphibians, these Taricha newts spend the dry summers in estivation (a period of dormancy, like hibernation for salamanders) underground. They emerge with the late autumn rains to eat, mate, and hang out in streams.

Female Taricha granulosa / Rough-skinned newt on forest floor

I haven't seen much of the Taricha newts so far this season. I've only spotted them in one location so far, near some exposed California Bay Laurel roots. This plucky little female was the only newt out & about today.

They're not at their most elegant on land.

Female Taricha granulosa / Rough-skinned newt crawling across a leaf

The forecast looks pretty wet for the rest of January, so hopefully the newts will have some streams to swim in soon.

The Taricha newts weren't the only ones enjoying the weather today. Sulfur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare) mushrooms are popping up everywhere.

A large cluster of pale yellow Hypholoma fasciculare / Sulfur Tuft mushrooms growing on a redwood log

This is a new one to me: Mycena epipterygia, the Yellowleg Bonnet:

Two tiny Mycena epipterygia / Yellowleg Bonnet mushrooms with brown caps and yellow stipes growing amongst detritus on a redwood log

I photographed this Redwood Rooter (Caulorhiza umbonata) mushroom yesterday, but they're still fruiting all over the place:

Caulorhiza umbonata / Redwood Rooter mushroom - a fleshy, tan mushroom fruiting beneath a redwood sapling

Also from yesterday, a group of Armillaria sinapina, a species of Honey Mushroom:

A group of four Armillaria sinapina mushrooms with tan caps and a white veil remnant on the stipe

So much for what's growing on the logs; let's see what's living under them!

A tiny saffron-colored salamander, Ensatina eschscholtzii

This is Ensatina eschscholtzii, the Yellow-Eyed Ensatina. And they are all over the woods here, if you know where to look.

A saffron-colored Ensatina eschscholtzii salamander curled up on a leaf

All of the Ensatinas I spotted today were hiding under logs or large pieces of bark (which I carefully replaced after photographing them.) Here you can see the yellow eye color more clearly:

Saffron-colored Ensatina eschscholtzii salamander with yellow eyes

The Ensatina pictured above are both adults. Most of what I spotted today were juveniles, darker in color:
Juvenile Ensatina eschscholtzii salamander with dark skin covered in tiny pale spots

Juvenile Ensatina eschscholtzii salamander with dark skin covered in tiny pale spots

Ensatina are lungless salamanders, so unlike the Taricha newts, these breathe exclusively through their skin. This makes them especially vulnerable to any chemical contamination, so it's best to avoid handling them.

Juvenile Ensatina eschscholtzii salamander with yellow eyes

For such colorful creatures, they're surprisingly difficult to spot. It helps that they're incredibly tiny. See if you can spot all three Ensatina juveniles in the photo below:

Three juvenile Ensatina eschscholtzii: one on a piece of bark, one hiding beneath the bark, one hiding amongst redwood duff

It's good to see the woods come alive with the rain. Until next time, I leave you with one last adult Ensatina:

Adult Ensatina eschscholtzii salamander

🍄🐉❤️