March Rains in San Mateo – Newts on Gazos Creek Fire Road, 2019

I really do love the rain. Know who else loves the rain?

Newts! We went looking for them on Gazos Creek fire road twice in March.

Gazos Creek emptying energetically into the Pacific ocean.

We stopped by Gazos Creek Beach on the way.

Gazos Creek Beach

Behind a green gate that demarcates the end of Gazos Creek Road and the beginning of Gazos Creek fire road stretched about a mile of puddles (aka vernal ponds)…

On the right you can see the green gate where Gazos Creek fire road starts.

…and we found groups of frolicking California newts (Taricha torosa) in almost every puddle!

Do you see it?

Apparently, they have rather poor manners and are prone to staring.

A frisky thrupple.

The orange color of the tiny stream flowing along the edge of the trail is caused by iron-oxidizing bacteria.

Gorgeous Western maidenhair fern (Adiantum aleuticum; aka Western five finger fern)

The surface of this rock wall was covered in candy cap mushrooms!

Black elfin saddle (Helvella lacunosa)?

Banana slug! They’re so big! It was above me in this picture, so picture it being 20 percent bigger than it appears!

The one thing that we really wanted to see, but didn’t see, were marbled murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus). The National Audubon Society calls them “a strange, mysterious little seabird” because their nesting behavior was unknown until the 1970s, when it was discovered that they nest high in trees in old-growth forest several miles inland from the Northern Pacific coast. In March, murrelet parents take turns incubating the egg, changing places every 24 hours at dawn for a month. While one parent sits on the egg, the other forages at sea. We’re not giving up on seeing a marbled murrelet. Maybe we’ll see one next March!

Resources Consulted
“A New Way to Clean the Environment?” (19 June 2016) by Elizabeth Shockman in Public Radio International
Black Elfin Saddle, Wild Macro: Natural Fine Art Photography by Timothy Boomer
California’s Native Ferns, Regional Parks Foundation
Gazos Creek Road, MTB Project
Gazos Creek Road Turns to Dust, Bay Area Rides
Life Cycle of Marbled Murrelets, Black Hills Audubon Society
Marbled Murrelet, National Audubon Society
New Species of Mushroom Discovered on UC Berkeley Campus (7 December 2014), sciencespacerobots.com
Staring Down the Mysterious California Newt (6 April 2017), SoCalWild
Why is My Creek Orange? The Story of Iron-Oxidizing Bacteria, Marin County Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program

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