FEB. 23 2008
Hillside Natural Area (North Unit) El Cerrito, Contra Costa County, CA
Sijie Mao, Nichole Winters and I went out from 1300 to 1530. It was quite windy with very strong gusts, temp in the lower 50s and varying between slight drizzle and significant rain. Our fist stop was the detritus field around the storm drain at the lowest point in the park, just behind my house, under the Eucalyptus. A lot of good cover items, but nothing under there. From there we went just up the hill to the small pile of shipping pallets on the grass. Under the first one I lifted was an Aneides lugubris (Arboreal Salamander)! The first I'd seen here. We took this as a sign of good salamandering to come.
We followed a route approximated by that marked on this map, but with many side excursions to check under log, rocks and other cover objects:
Much of this part of the Nature Area has many of the cover objects removed for yearly mowing, so much of the available cover is in piles of cut log pieces or small rocks piled at the base of trees and in gullies.
Sijie and Nichole are extremely contentious about putting every cover item back exactly as it was, and are energetic and enthusiastic herpers. We found almost nothing under rocks, but the logs were very productive today. We checked under approximately 400 wood bits and 100 rocks/cement bits and found 71 Batrachoseps attenuatus (California Slender Salamanders) 3 Aneides and one Elgaria multicarinata (Southern Alligator Lizard).
The Aneides were all near oaks, as Dave Wake told me to expect, while the Batrachoseps were under logs and a few rocks in every habitat we checked. The Elgaria was under a pine log in grassy habitat.
In addition to the herps, invertebrates were extremely numerous under cover objects, including Jerusalem crickets, cave crickets, ants, termites, ground beetles, several kinds of spiders including a couple of Black Widows, copious pill-bugs, snails, slugs, worms and sundry.
Many fresh gopher diggings were evident in the soft wet earth, and many of the logs and rocks we lifted had smaller rodent tunnels, quite possibly vole. Deer prints and fox scat were in abundance.
One bird species to add to my list for the nature area, Wild Turkey. One was seen at the northwest corner of our route, just north of Snowdon Ave. and another was heard responding to its calls. Nichole took pictures of the turkey, which was tame enough to allow her to approach to within 6 meters.
Our explorations revealed no standing water in which frogs could breed, which may explain their absence from our observations.
Birding today wasn't great, due to wind and rain, but saw/heard following birds today:
Western Scrub-Jay (2)
American Crow (10)
Northern Raven (2)
Black Phoebe (1)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (25)
Chestnut-backed Chickadee (4)
House Sparrow (15)
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (2)
American Robin (40)
California Towhee (3)
Dark-eyed Junco (4)
Wild Turkey (2)
Red-shouldered Hawk (1)
Anna's Hummingbird (3)
Mourning Dove (6)
Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) (2)
Mule Dear (Odocoileus hemionus) (tracks)
Voles (Microtus californicus? runways and burrows)
Pocket Gophers (burrows)
Fox (Grey fox? scat)
Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) (1)
California Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus) (71)
Arboreal Salamander (Aneides lugubris) (3)