California Red-Legged Frog Egg Mass

California red-legged frogs are listed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened where ever they are found.

california-red-leg-frog-cropped

This is an adult California Red-legged frog.

Around March 1 is the time of year when we see California red-legged frog egg masses in our ponds. Here is an egg mass photographed on February 26.

IMG_2877 CRF egg mass

This red-legged frog egg mass stands out because it is covered with silt from the murky pond water. The egg mass was photographed on February 26, 2017.

These eggs will produce larva (tad poles) which will eventually morph into frogs by July or August. We see the juvenile frogs in the ponds into late September. During the fall they will disappear from the ponds and move into underground burrows or other hiding places to endure the winter months.

juvenile red leg frog cropped

Juvenile red-legged frogs live in the ponds until fall when they will depart for underground burrows which provide winter security.

Another Day at the Ranch

Yesterday was a good day at the ranch.

The day got off on a good note when I spotted a group of tule elk bulls feeding along the side of highway 84. I did you U-turn and snapped a few photos.

Not often does one see tule elk along a major highway.

Not often does one see tule elk along a major highway.

Here they are again.

Here they are again.

Impressive animals.

Arriving about 8 AM, the first item on the agenda was a whipsnake survey. Unfortunately I found only a western fence liizard for my efforts, but did snap a couple more photos.

Basking in the morning sun, every rock had either a meadow lark, horned lark or some other bird on top of it.

Basking in the morning sun, every rock had either a meadow lark, horned lark or some other bird on top of it.

A morning dove perched on the dead limbs of a blue oak.

Morning doves are sleek.

Morning doves are sleek.

It has been a good year for some wildflowers.

The Mariposa lily is a plant that has done well this season.

The mariposa lily is a plant that has done well this season.

We had a crew of eager helpers

We had a crew of eager helpers.

This larvae has almost no dorsal fin, shrinking gills and muscle development in his legs. We expect that he will leave the pond within a few days to a couple weeks.

This larvae has almost no dorsal fin, shrinking gills and muscle development in his legs. We expect that he will leave the pond within a few days to a couple weeks.

On the way home, a bobcat walked across the road in front of me. I snapped a photo before he went out of site. I think I’ve photographed him before.

Took this photo from about 100 yards.

Took this photo from about 100 yards.

Tiger Salamander Larvae Approach Metamorphosis

Here are some of the better photos we’ve taken of California Tiger Salamander larvae this summer.  These larvae are all showing various signs of morphing into terrestrial juvenile CTS. These photos were all taken under the supervision of biologist, Joe DiDonato, who has a state and federal permits for handling CTS.

We began to monitor CTS larvae in May. Initially, our take was larva all under 50 mm in length. Look where they are now.

This larva measured 122 mm in length. It is beginning to develop the some of the adult coloration. It's gills are 16mm, showing signs of shrinkage.

This larva measured 122 mm in length. It is beginning to develop the some of the adult coloration. It’s gills are 16mm, showing signs of recession.

This 141 mm larva is quite large. It is showing coloration changes.

This 141 mm larva is showing coloration changes.

120 mm in length

120 mm in length

 

140 mm length, 17 mm gills and coloration changes.

140 mm length, 17 mm gills and coloration changes.

105 mm long and showing signs of morphing.

105 mm long and showing signs of morphing.

123 mm in length and 166 mm gills.

123 mm in length and 16 mm gills.

124 mm in length with gills down to 3 mm, this is a metamorph that will leave the pond any day.

124 mm in length with gills down to 3 mm, this is a metamorph that will be ready to leave the pond any day.

120 mm in length with 16 mm gills, this larva also has a reduced dorsal fin.

120 mm in length with 16 mm gills, this larva also has a reduced dorsal fin.

These larvae are representative of 42 CTS larvae seined at the proposed Ohlone West Conservation bank on July 24th, 2014.  Yesterday, August 21, our crew seined 27 in similar stages of development, including another larva that was a metamorph ready to leave the pond. We believe that larvae similar to the ones shown have been leaving the pond and moving into the upland on a regular basis over the past few months. However, it is very difficult to validate exactly when they leave. We are continuing to develop ways to pin down the exact time that these larvae leave the pond and move into mammal burrows, primarily those of the California ground squirrel.

Of the five ponds in which we have recorded successful breeding at on various years, three are completely dry at this time and two still have significant water.

This has been a difficult drought year for the CTS, but we are convinced that the diversity of our ponds, including both seasonal and near perennial, has been beneficial to CTS breeding.

Surveying for California Tiger Salamander Larvae

Each year we survey ranch ponds for breeding success, which is quite variable. In the middle of a drought year, with fluctuating rainfall and shrinking ponds, we were quite concerned that we would not find California Tiger Salamander (CTS) larvae in our ponds during this year’s survey.
After failing to net any larvae in three successive ponds, we were ecstatic when the fourth pond yielded many healthy CTS larvae ranging in size from what we considered small to large, 30mm-75 mm. So it often goes with surveys.(read more)

Springtime Ponds

The ponds of spring and early summer are alive with insects, amphibians and reptiles. Here are a few from yesterday’s pond survey.

As the weather warms, California red-legged frogs are more visible. This frog is a sub-adult.

The California red-legged frog is listed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and is classified as Threatened. http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=D02D

Each pond has tadpoles, sometimes just tree frog and other times tadpoles of red-legged frog, western toad and tree-frogs.

Tree-frog tadpoles were present in every pond.

The California tiger salamander larvae we found were approaching about half the size of mature tiger salamanders. Their gills are apparent.

This cts larvae is not quite half  the adult size. All California tiger salamanders are listed as either Threatened or Endangered.  http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=D01T

A garter snake sunned itself on a floating log.

Garter snake.

This is a Pacific newt larvae that overwintered in the pond.

The ponds contained many dragonfly nymphs. At one pond a “squadron” on red dragonflies gave me a photo opportunity.

These red dragonflies appeared to be reproduction mode.

California Tiger Salamander Metamorph

Talking about a California tiger salamander (CTS) metamorph, can be confusing. A metamorph is a CTS that is in the late stages of morphing from a pond-dwelling guilled larvae, to an adult. How do you view a metaphorph? I don’t know many people who have. Calafornia tiger salamanders (CTS) morph into an adult form (typically), three to six months after egg laying. Once they no longer have guills, they become a land animal and walk away from the breeding site in search of some type of underground burrow in which to live. Around here, burrows of California ground squirrels are most likely targets.

According to sources, the CTS usually leave the pond during the cover of darkness. However, earlier today I discovered one taking a hike during broad daylight on a cool, foggy morning. This discovery was a first for me. I have never seen a CTS metamorph before today.

Here he is in all his glory.

This guy was found on top of a ridge on a gravel road, about 150 yards directly up a steep hill from the nearest possible breeding site.

The young CTS was about four inches long. I didn’t think to put my knife in the photo next to him for comparison. I was kind of in a state of shock, and then another hiker came along with two dogs and I didn’t want to get the little guy killed.

However, I did get several reasonable photos with my iphone.

Here’s one more shot.

He was mostly the green color of the pond living guilled version, but was beginning to develop spots.

If you click on the photo it will enlarge.

Spring in the Altamont

We remained a ways off from the burrowing owls, not to disturb them.

Joe spotted a couple Swainson’s hawks gliding high overhead. Red-tails were hanging around a stand of eucalyptus trees and a ferruginous hawk was spotted on the horizon. 

Several Swainsons hawks passed high overhead.

 Joe also found a young king snake under a board. We took quite a few photos of the willing snake.
 

We found this very small king snake under a board.

 

 Burrowing owls were in their usual haunts. It was a nice day to observe.