Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Santa Rosa Creek

Truck in the shop with a busted starter motor (second one), so I rented a car for getting around, and got around up to San Luis Obispo to meet Juliet at 0830. Took hwy 101 N to Vineyard Drive, then west to hwy 46, continuing to Santa Rosa Creek Rd. Headed NW towards Cambria with a stop at the Rocky Creek bridge S of Black Mountain. Creek here looks good for newts, but none to be seen today. Continued over Black Mountain summit and down into Santa Rosa Creek, past Matt Smith’s house below the switchback and into the wooded canyon. There is a large N tributary joining the creek here 2.5 mi. NW of Black Mountain summit, 685 feet elev., and the roadside is unfenced for almost half a mile, so we parked and had a walk. This is just about the same site as 10.0 mi. ESE of Cambria, the uppermost newt seen on 31 March. Coordinates 35.56843N, 120.93816W.
Animals were not common here but Juliet managed to find three males. In this area it is low gradient with large rounded boulders and shallow pools, fully shaded by tall alders with little understorey, looks a lot like Las Tablas Creek along Adelaida Summit road. Saw a few fish but no larval or adult amphibians. Drove a couple miles farther down Santa Rosa Creek Rd, past where the creek crosses to the S side of the road and there are some very nice pools. Looking from the road edge (mostly tightly fenced) we did not see any further newts. Got visited by a fairly nosey sheriff out keeping nature safe from itself. Returned up Santa Rosa Creek and crossed hwy 46 onto Old Creek Rd, followed that E over the divide into Santa Rita Creek. Made a brief stop at the pool at 5.1 mi. SE Vineyard Drive at 995 ft. elev., coordinates 35.56843N, 120.93816W, where we were only able to find a single male newt. A pair of mallard ducks is here, probably eating eggs. Getting short on time, we had to head back to SLO. It is not at all clear why a creek like Santa Rosa should be so stingy with newts, unless perhaps there is a long history of road mortality.

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