Recently I described the annual migration made by tarantulas in search of mates. Well, tarantulas aren't the only creatures that do that.
Another wanderer in search of love is the newt, which is a variety of salamander. And the East Bay Regional Park District stops traffic to help the newts along.
Newts are cute little guys. They are about six inches long, brown in color, with yellow-bronze bellies. During the summer months, they lie dormant under logs or in holes in the ground. When the rains come, they emerge and crawl to ponds and streams, there to make more newts.
For a brief time, they are all but omipresent in places like around the ponds at the interior of Briones Regional Park.
Newts' skin has a poisonous component, though park naturalists say that hasn't deterred predators such as raccoons and garter snakes from eating them. Nevertheless, it's best not to pick up and handle the newts. Besides, it's illegal to collect them and remove them from the wild. And newts don't live long outside their natural habitat.
At Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley, South Park Drive runs between the newts' summer homes and their winter mating grounds along Wildcat Creek. So the road is closed to vehicle traffic from Nov. 1 to March 31 along its entire length from Grizzly Peak Boulevard to Wildcat Canyon Road. You can still walk or bicycle on the road and watch the newts crawling slowly towards the creek.
For motorists, the alternative routes into the park from Grizzly Peak Boulevard are Golf Course and Shasta Roads. Tilden isn't the only park with newt activity. You can see them in ponds at Briones Regional Park near Martinez, and at Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness in southern Alameda County, among other places.
A REMINDER: Speaking of Sunol, The park celebrates its 50th anniversary with a Pioneer Folk Festival from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Activities will include live music, square dancing, old-fashioned games and talks by the naturalists about the old ranching families' histories.
Sunol is located on Geary Road off Calaveras Road, five miles south of Interstate 680 near the town of Sunol. Parking costs $5 per vehicle. The festival is free of charge. Food will be available for purchase.
SAN RAMON HIKE: A short and steep but scenic 2.6-mile hike is the plan on Nov. 7 for the Wednesday Walkers, an informal group open to all. It's at Bishop Ranch Regional Open Space in the hills of San Ramon.
Meet at 9:30 a.m. at the park entrance. To get there, take the Bollinger Canyon Road exit from Interstate 680 in San Ramon. Go west to San Ramon Valley Boulevard and turn left. In less than a mile, turn right on Morgan Drive. Look for the staging area on the left, and park on the street. For more information, call naturalist Chris Garcia at 510-544-3282.
catch THE Cove: Crab Cove Visitor Center at Crown Beach in Alameda is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, with all kinds of programs showcasing the wildlife of San Francisco Bay and shoreline. It's closed on Nov. 22, though, for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Crab Cove has story time at 11 a.m. every Sunday. There's "Catch of the Day" nature exploration from 2 to 3 p.m., and aquarium fish feeding from 3 to 3:30 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday in November and December.
The visitor center is located at 1252 McKay Ave. off Central Avenue in Alameda. For more information, call 510-544-3187 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
bird song: The Monday Birders, an informal group open to all, will seek out the birds of Briones Regional Park during a strenuous four-mile hike from 9 a.m. to noon on Nov. 5, led by naturalist Anthony Fisher.
Meet at the innermost parking lot at Briones' Bear Creek entrance, which is on Bear Creek Road about five miles east of San Pablo Dam Road in Orinda Village. For more information, call 510-544-2233.
Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at email@example.com.