As the rainy season nears, it’s time again for the annual migration of newts, a variety of salamander, from the woods and fields where they live dormant during the summer to the ponds and streams where they meet to mate.
One of their migration routes takes them across South Park Drive at Tilden Regional Park near Berkeley. They cross the road on their way to Wildcat Creek.
As a result, South Park Drive is closed to all motor vehicle traffic from now through March 31, 2020 in an effort to prevent the newts from becoming road kill.
Pedestrian and bicycle traffic is still allowed on South Park Drive, although bicycles are asked to proceed slowly, no more than 15 miles per hour, and try to avoid the newts. Dogs are allowed off-leash on South Park Drive during the closure, but must be under voice control and owners must carry a leash.
Remember also that collecting any animals, including newts, is illegal in the regional parklands. Newts don’t live long when placed in aquariums, and it’s inadvisable to handle them anyway. Their skin contains a toxin intended to discourage predators.
If you’d like to learn more about newts, naturalist Trent Pearce plans a trek in search of newts and other salamanders from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Sundays, Dec. 15 and 22. Meet at Tilden’s Environmental Education Center, which is at the north end of Central Park Drive. Call 510-544-2233 for information.
“Like many amphibians, newts respond to the moisture level in the air,” Trent says. “They come out after rains, and even after heavy fog.”
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The Over-The-Hills Gang will explore Marina Bay Park and learn some local history during a flat hike from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19, led by naturalist “Trail Gail” Broesder.
The gang is an informal group of hikers ages 55 and older who enjoy exercise and nature study.
Meet Gail at the intersection of Marina Bay Parkway and Regatta Boulevard in Richmond. There are no facilities at the start of the hike. For information, call 510-544-2233.
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The George Miller Jr. Regional Trail at Carquinez Shoreline west of Martinez is a lesser-known but beautiful regional trail, with great views of Carquinez Strait.
Naturalist Kevin Dixon will lead an easy walk there from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Nov. 17.
Meet Kevin at the trail’s Port Costa staging area. To get there from westbound Highway 4, take the McEwen Road exit. Turn right on McEwen Road and drive down the hill towards Port Costa. At the bottom of the hill, turn right on Carquinez Scenic Drive and continue to the end of the road.
From eastbound Highway 4 take the Cummings Skyway exit. Before the overpass, turn right onto Franklin Canyon Road, drive down the hill and turn left on McEwen Road. For information, call 510-544-2750.
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At Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch, there’s a nature discovery program for all ages from 10 to 11 a.m. every Saturday, with a different topic each week. Find out what’s flying, crawling or blooming in the park.
Or you can join naturalist Jake Wright from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16 for a program about energy, ranging from the historic coalfields of the park’s past, to a future including wind generators. It’s for ages eight and older.
Both programs meet in the parking lot at the upper end of Somersville Road, 3½ miles south of Highway 4. Call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.
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A clinic on how to start your own native plant garden is on the agenda from 2 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 17 at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. Backyard gardens create habitat for all kinds of beneficial insects.
Big Break is at 69 Big Break Road off Oakley’s Main Street. Call 888-327-2757, ext. 3050.
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The Curiosity Cart, laden with artifacts of natural and cultural history, hides somewhere within Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont. Look for it between 1 and 3 p.m. on Saturdays, Nov. 16 and Dec. 7; naturalist Kristina Parkison will reveal its secrets.
Francis’ program is from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Sundays, Nov. 17 and Dec. 15. It’s for ages eight and older. Meet at the visitor center.