I love it when it rains.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a new one to me: Mycena epipterygia, the Yellowleg Bonnet:
I photographed this Redwood Rooter (Caulorhiza umbonata) mushroom yesterday, but they're still fruiting all over the place:
Also from yesterday, a group of Armillaria sinapina, a species of Honey Mushroom:
So much for what's growing on the logs; let's see what's living under them!
This is Ensatina eschscholtzii, the Yellow-Eyed Ensatina. And they are all over the woods here, if you know where to look.
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:
The Ensatina pictured above are both adults. Most of what I spotted today were juveniles, darker in color:
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.
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:
It's good to see the woods come alive with the rain. Until next time, I leave you with one last adult Ensatina: