CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California







A California Tiger Salamander Breeding Pond
Seen Each Month Over Several Years

 






 



observation link

 
One picture can never tell the whole story, so these are pictures of a small Contra Costa County pond located at approximately 1,400 feet in elevation (427 meters) as it looked throughout the year, showing how the pond and its surroundings change over the seasons and the years.

California Tiger Salamanders, California Red-legged Frogs, Sierran Treefrogs, and California Toads have been observed breeding in the pond. Diablo Range Gartersnakes, Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes, and Western Yellow-bellied Racers have been observed hunting in or around the edge of the pond.

Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes, Pacific Gophersnakes, Pacific Ring-necked Snakes, Sharp-tailed Snakes, California Alligator Lizards, Coast Range Fence Lizards, Skilton's Skinks, California Slender Salamanders, and Yellow-eyed Ensatina have been observed in the grasses and woods near the pond, along with the many California Ground Squirrels that have their burrows all around the pond and the cows that feed around and drink from the pond.

In 2013 when Mark Gary began taking photographs of this pond each month to show how it changes during the seasons we did not know that it was going to be the driest year ever recorded since the state began measuring rainfall in 1849. Instead of a look at the pond during typical rainfall years, we show what the pond looked like in the middle of a drought.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor there was a severe drought in much of California from December 2011 to March 2019, with the most intense drought occuring in July 2014. After a brief return to normal precipitation levels in 2019, 2020 and 2021 were drought years again. Despite an early start to the rainy season in October, in November 2021 the area where the pond is located in Contra Costa County was in an "exceptional drought" the most severe rating given by the U.S. Drought Monitor, but even after a lot more rain, by the end of December the rating was reduced only one level to "extreme drought."

Despite the drought each year, there was still enough water in the pond each December and January for California Tiger Salamanders to breed. In 2021 a rare late October rain storm, the strongest in over a quarter century, filled the pond completely overnight, which caused the salamanders to begin breeding even earlier than normal.

Years
Month Compilations
 
CA Tiger Salamander tiger salamander habitat CA Tiger Salamander Egg
Adult California Tiger Salamander Click on this picture to see an animated loop of Mark Gary's photographs of the pond during every consecutive month of 2016. (Made by Zachary Cava.) California Tiger Salamander larva
© Mark Gary
 
2022
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
January 1st, 2022 © Mark Gary
This year begins with an overflowing pond containing tiger salamander larvae from eggs laid in October and November and some new eggs laid during the second half of December. Treefrogs have already laid eggs in other nearby ponds. It's going to be a very interesting year.
February 1st, 2022 © Mark Gary
Despite a very dry January, the pond is still as full as possible. Almost all of the visible tiger salamander eggs have hatched. The level of a nearby pond has decrease two feet, stranding many tiger salamander eggs above the water level, but eggs laid lower than two feet down have survived and hatched.
March 1st, 2022 © Mark Gary
Four pairs of California toads in amplexus were observed in the pond, along with treefrog tadpoles and California Tiger Salamander larvae.

Some new predators have been spotted in the pond - Hooded Mergansers - small diving ducks that feed mostly on fish but also eat other aquatic life including aquatic invertebrates, tadpoles, and frogs. It's possible they are also eating tiger salamander larvae.
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat    
April 1st, 2022 © Mark Gary
The pond is still full, but little precipitation in March is causing the surroundings to dry up. California Toads bred in early March in larger numbers than we have observed here before. Thousands of tadpoles hatched in mid March but two weeks later they were almost all gone, apparently eaten up by tiger salamander larvae and other predators. Three size classes of tiger salamanders were observed, which correspond with the three spaced breeding events that were observed this season.
May 3rd, 2022 © Mark Gary
The pond is still full, which isn't unusual for early May. The largest size class of tiger salamander larvae are already developing dark mottling.
   

2021
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
January 2nd, 2021 © Mark Gary
The pond level has decreased significantly since its mid December peak due to a lack of rainfall. Most of the many California Tiger Salamander eggs observed in mid December that were laid in relatively shallow water are no longer visible after the decrease in pond level. At least one adult remains in the pond.
February 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
After a good rain event, the pond has filled again. Some adult salamanders were observed in the drying pond a few days before the rain and apparently they bred again because some fresh eggs were observed on the first. At least one adult was still in the pond mid-month.
March 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
Sierran Treefrogs have started laying eggs in the pond.
April 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
Small tiger salamander larvae are observed along with treefrog tadpoles, but there's no sign of toad or red-legged frog breeding activity. A dry winter means this will probably be another drought year.
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat CA Tiger Salamander Egg tiger salamander habitat
May 3rd, 2021 © Mark Gary
The pond is drying up abnormally early. Califiornia Tiger Salamander larvae are still seen in the rapidly diminishing pond, but will they be able to achieve metamorphosis this year before it dries up completely?
June 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
52 dead, dying, or doomed California Tiger Salamander larvae were counted in a couple of small puddles that were all that remained of the pond. Contra Costa County and a large part of Northern California are reported to be in an exceptional drought, the highest rating of drought by the U. S. Drought Monitor. There will be no new transformed tiger salamanders this year unless some of them managed to undergo metamorphosis in the past month.
June 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
Several California Tiger Salamander larvae stranded in the last bit of water remaining the pond.
July 5th, 2021 © Mark Gary
The pond is completely dry as are most of the other small ponds in the vicinity.
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
August 2nd, 2021 © Mark Gary
Once there was a pond here.
September 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
NOAA is predicting a 70 percent chance of a wet La Nina winter this year, but even if it happens, will it extend far enough south to fill the pond?

The lack of water at this time of year is not a problem for the salamanders since they have evolved to live in ephemeral ponds. The dry period prevents salamander predators from taking up residence in the pond which benefits them also.
October 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
No rain yet, which is not unusual since it typically starts later this month or next.

According to CBS News, the California Department of Water Resources reports that a total of 11.87 inches of rain and snow fell during the 2021 water year - October 30th 2020 through September 30th 2021. That's less than half of the annual average of 28.2 inches. (The report measures the average precipitation for the entire state, not this specific location, though conditions here were also exceptionally dry.) You have to go back to 1924 to find a drier year, though the 1977 drought was close.
October 26th, 2021 © Mark Gary
From extreme drought to extreme precipitation overnight. The dry pond has filled with about 4 feet 4 inches of water, as measured by a new hydroperiod stake installed in the pond in September. And even more surprising, the breeding season has already started. Several adult California Tiger Salamanders were observed in the water on the 26th and a few eggs were spotted on the 28th, only four days after the main rain event. The salamanders are not known to enter ponds in October, and November is even a bit early for them, but this year has been an exception due to the unusually heavy precipitation.

Two days previous, October 24th, the Bay Area experienced its stongest storm in 26 years (according to the SF Chronicle 10/24/21) the result of a category 5 atmospheric river - tropical moisture pulled northeast from the Pacific Ocean - that was caused by a bomb cyclone, an area of extreme low pressure. This low pressure system tied the record for the all-time lowest pressure measured in a storm in the northeast Pacific. SF Gate.com (10/25/21) shows the 48 hour preciptation totals for 10/24 and 10/25 in Livermore, which is not far from the pond, as 4.28 inches, but since the pond is higher in elevation, it most likely received more than that. (Nearby Mt. Diablo received 8.44 inches in the same 48 hour period.)
CA Tiger Salamander Egg tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat CA Tiger Salamander Egg
October 28th, 2021 © Mark Gary
A few rare October eggs are in the pond.
November 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
A few adult salamanders are still in the pond and even more eggs are visible. California Red-legged Frogs and Sierran Treefrogs have also entered the water.

December 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
The older eggs are already hatching.
This tiny larva was observed hatching from its egg and dropping to the pond bottom. Other recently-hatched larvae were observed resting on the bottom, where they were not yet able to swim.
© Mark Gary
 
2020

2020 started well with the usual December and January rains filling the pond. February was the driest on record but the pond retained plenty of water throughout the spring. Despite a full pond, ultimately it was a poor year for amphibian breeding, with few juvenile salamanders or frogs observed. The pond dried up completely by August and did not fill again until December. Much of the area near the pond was burned in the fall during the worst fire season on record, but the area immediately surrounding the pond was spared.

tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early January, 2020 © Mark Gary
California Tiger Salamander eggs laid in mid December are still visible in the pond looking like they're close to hatching.
February 3rd, 2020 © Mark Gary
The first Sierran Treefrog eggs have appeared.
March 2nd, 2020, after zero rainfall in the entire month of February. (The last time that happened, Abe Lincoln was president.) California Tiger Salamander unfolded embryos observed. Other eggs were observed already hatched on 2/20. © Mark Gary April 2nd, 2020, with some new greenery after it finally rained a little bit.
© Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
May 1st, 2020. A small amount of toad breeding in area ponds was finally observed in mid April, a single mass of red-legged frog eggs in this pond were destroyed after a few days, probably trampled by cattle, and no tiger salamander larvae have been seen lately. This has not been a good year for area amphibians.
© Mark Gary
June 2nd, 2020. No tiger salamander larvae present. Eggs were laid and they hatched, but none of the larvae appear to have survived. © Mark Gary July 2nd, 2020. The pond is prematurely dry and free of vegetation, with few amphibians remaining. © Mark Gary August 3rd, 2020. Nothing but dirt remains. It looks like a larger pond nearby might also dry up this year, which would be unusual. © Mark Gary
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September 16, 2020 © Mark Gary
There once was a pond here. Massive wildfires in the region closed access to the pond, but permission was granted to take a picture. Fortunately, the area around the pond was not burned.
October 2nd, 2020 © Mark Gary
The sky is full of haze from massive wildfires burning in the region in what has already become California's worst fire season on record, with the season not yet over.
November 3rd, 2020 © Mark Gary
Still waiting for rain.
December 1st, 2020 © Mark Gary
Usually the pond has begun to fill by now, but not this year.

After it finally rained, eggs were observed on 12/17, and more than 400 were visible on 12/26. Adult salamanders were observed swimming in the pond on 12/15 and there were still a few in the water as late as 12/26.
       
2019

The pond in 2019 was very full in January and during the early part of the year, with February being one of the wettest on record for the state. The summer and fall produced little rainfall but the pond never dried out completely.

tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early January, 2019. © Mark Gary
The pond is full of water and California Tiger Salamander eggs are once again present.
February 3rd, 2019. California Tiger Salamander and Sierran Treefrog eggs present. © Mark Gary February 5th, 2019 after light snowfall.
© Mark Gary
Early March, 2019, between rainstorms in a very wet winter. © Mark Gary
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Early April, 2019. © Mark Gary
Even greener than March was.
Early May, 2019 © Mark Gary. Small tiger salamander larvae, red-legged frogs, and gartersnakes observed. Early June, 2019 © Mark Gary. Pond is still overflowing. Large larvae present along with predatory gartersnakes. Early July, 2019 © Mark Gary. The pond level is high for July as it was last year, due to a wet year and maybe the Fall 2017 pond construction. Tiger Salamander larvae, a few tadpoles, and California Red-legged Frogs are visible.
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early August, 2019 © Mark Gary. There's lots of water left for August and still lots of amphibian activity. California Tiger Salamander larvae, California Red-legged Frog tadpoles, and recently transformed juvenile red-legged frogs and Sierran Treefrogs are also present. Early September, 2019 © Mark Gary.
With plenty of water remaining, the pond is full of recently-metamorphosed California Red-legged Frogs and California Tiger Salamander larvae are still present.
October 1st, 2019 © Mark Gary.
Tiger salamander larvae remain in the pond, which is unusual for October. Many recently-metamorphosed California Red-legged Frogs also remain in the pond.
November 1st, 2019 © Mark Gary.
A mature tiger salamander larva was found near the end of the month, so maybe it will overwinter. Few recently-metamorphosed California Red-legged Frogs remain, perhaps a result of recent cold weather.
tiger salamander habitat      
December 2nd, 2019, just after the first heavy soaking rain of the season, which began the night of December 1st, after five days of light rain. © Mark Gary.

The afternoon of the 3rd, several adult California tiger salamanders were observed swimming in the murky pond. These were probably males awaiting the arrival of females. No sign of eggs or amplexus was observed.

No sign of eggs was observed on the 6th. Eggs were first seen on the 9th. Evidence of a larger breeding event was then observed on the 11th, including several adults remaining in the water.
     
       
2018

Again, despite the state-wide drought, 2018 was another good rainfall year with the pond overflowing in March and not drying out completely again until November.

tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
January 1st, 2018 © Mark Gary
The pond is shrinking from lack of rain but a few mature eggs are still visible, either still developing, or maybe they're not viable.
February 1st, 2018. The pond is full again, and treefrogs are breeding. © Mark Gary February 27th, 2018 © Mark Gary March 23rd, 2018 © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early April, 2018 © Mark Gary
Toad eggs present
Early May, 2018 © Mark Gary
Tiger salamander larvae observed eating toad tadpoles. Diablo Range Gartersnake observed eating tiger salamander larva.
Early June, 2018 © Mark Gary
Tiger salamander larvae observed hunting tadpoles.
Early July, 2018 © Mark Gary
Tiger salamander larvae still observed in pond with tadpoles.
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Early August, 2018 © Mark Gary
Tiger salamander larvae still observed in pond but not tadpoles.
September 1st, 2018 © Mark Gary
Tiger salamander larvae still observed in the puddle.
Early October, 2018 © Mark Gary
The pond is reduced to a puddle once again. A cow got stuck in the mud and had to be pulled out, so the puddle has been temporarily fenced off to prevent any more stranded cows.
Early November, 2018 © Mark Gary
Almost completely dry. Temporary fence still in place.
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat    
Mid November, 2018 © Mark Gary
No rain yet. Temporary cow fence removed.
Early December, 2018 © Mark Gary
After a little rain, the pond is once again ready for salamander breeding.
   
       
2017

Despite the state-wide drought, 2017 had enough rainfall to keep the pond from completely drying out. In October the pond was bulldozed and a new outflow channel was created on a different side of the pond in an apparent attempt to help the pond retain more water.

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Early January, 2017 © Mark Gary
Following new heavy rains, the pond contains new CA Tiger salamander eggs.
Mid January, 2017 © Mark Gary
Pond still contains CA Tiger salamander eggs.
Early February, 2017 © Mark Gary
Early March, 2017 © Mark Gary
Sierran Treefrog eggs are hatched, CA Red-legged Frog egg laying has begun, CA Tiger Salamander larvae are visible.
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early April, 2017 © Mark Gary
Sierran Treefrogs have laid more eggs.
Early May, 2017 © Mark Gary Early June, 2017 © Mark Gary Early July, 2017 © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Mid July, 2017. CA Tiger Salamander larvae still visible coming up for air.
© Mark Gary
Early August, 2017. Tiger salamander larvae still visible in pond. © Mark Gary Early September, 2017 © Mark GaryRecord heat, but water still present with many young CA Red-legged frogs seen in the pond.
Early October, 2017
© Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Mid October, 2017 © Mark Gary
Heavy equipment has been used to modify the earthen dam that maintains the pond. The outflow channel into the nearby creek has been moved to the other side of the pond and reinforced with rocks. The former outflow channel had eroded to the point that it was keeping the pond at a lower level when it was full. It will be very interesting to observe the pond in the coming years to see if this maintenance causes the pond to increase in size so much that it stops drying out. If the pond does not dry out, that creates the opportunity for American Bullfrogs, which prefer a permanent water source, to move in, which could be disasterous for the tiger salamanders and other amphibians that currently utilize the pond. Fortunately, maybe miraculously, bullfrogs have not yet been found in the permanent pond nearby or in any other nearby pond, to my knowledge.
Early November, 2017, after the pond has been modified. © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat      
December 1st, 2017 © Mark Gary
After only a little bit of November rain, the pond again contains some water and a lot of California Tiger Salamander eggs that were probably laid in late November.
     
 
2016

2016 began with the pond very full until it dried out in October and filled up again by early November.

tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
January 3rd, 2016 © Mark Gary
CA Tiger Salamander eggs are present
January 31st, 2016 © Mark Gary 
CA Tiger salamander eggs still present
February 6th, 2016 © Mark Gary 
CA Tiger salamander embryos with gills are visible. Some have already hatched.
Early March, 2016 © Mark Gary 
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early April, 2016 © Mark Gary  Early May, 2016 © Mark Gary  Early June, 2016 © Mark Gary  Early July, 2016 © Mark Gary 
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Mid August, 2016 © Mark Gary  Early September, 2016 © Mark Gary
For the past three years, the pond has been completely dry in September, but not this year.
Early October, 2016 © Mark Gary
Nothing left but a puddle.
Mid October, 2016 © Mark Gary
The rains have begun.
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat    
Early November, 2016 © Mark Gary
After a lot of rainfall, news reports are declaring the drought over in Northern California. The pond seems to agree when compared to the lack of water in the three previous Novembers.
December 3rd, 2016 © Mark Gary
CA Tiger salamander eggs were laid this year between November 26th and December 3rd.

   
 
2015

2015 started with the pond full before it dried up completely in August and filled again in December.

tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early January, 2015 (Full of Sierran treefrog eggs and CA Tiger Salamander eggs.) © Mark Gary Early February, 2015 - no rain since December. © Mark Gary Early March, 2015 © Mark Gary Early April, 2015 © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early May, 2015. Toxic Blue Green Algae has been discovered. © Mark Gary Mid May, 2015, after thunderstorms 
© Mark Gary
Early June, 2015 © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early July, 2015 © Mark Gary Early August, 2015 © Mark Gary Nothing but dirt again, Early September, 2015 © Mark Gary Early October, 2015 © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat    
Early November, 2015 © Mark Gary The pond is filling up, early December, 2015 © Mark Gary    
 
2014

2014 started dry but by March there was enough water in the pond for treefrogs and toads to breed. The pond was completely dry in July but in late November and early December a large rain event filled the pond up completely again.

tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
January, 2014 © Mark Gary


February 1, 2014 © Mark Gary


February 17, 2014 © Mark Gary
After the first large rainstorm in over a year. Sierran Treefrogs quickly laid eggs in the water. Maybe the CA Tiger salamanders will breed this year, after all.
Early March, 2014 © Mark Gary


tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Late March, 2014 © Mark Gary


Mid April, 2014 © Mark Gary Early May, 2014 © Mark Gary
Mark reports seeing California Tiger Salamander larvae in the pond. He heard from an East Bay Parks biologist that tiger salamander larvae have not been seen at most of the known breeding locations this year.
Early June, 2014 © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
June 21, 2014 © Mark Gary Early July, 2014 © Mark Gary Mid July, 2014 - dry again © Mark Gary Early August, 2014 © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early September, 2014 © Mark Gary Mid October, 2014 © Mark Gary Early November, 2014 © Mark Gary The pond is full again, early December, 2014 © Mark Gary
 
2013 (beginning in April)

2013 began with enough water for a good breeding season, with the pond drying up in August and filling again in December.

tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
April, 2013  © Mark Gary
May, 2013 © Mark Gary June, 2013 © Mark Gary July, 2013 © Mark Gary
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August, 2013 © Mark Gary September, 2013 © Mark Gary October, 2013 © Mark Gary
November, 2013 © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat      
December, 2013 © Mark Gary
     
       
Years Before 2013
California Red-legged Frog Habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
April, 2003 March, 2006 March, 2010 June, 2010
tiger salamander habitat pond tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
June, 2010 August, 2010 - As I was trying to photograph tiger salamander larvae in the water, a couple of biologists came and dragged a net through the pond. They found Sierran treefrogs with deformities caused by parasites spread by snails, and they told me that the dreaded chytrid fungus is here, too. February, 2011
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
March, 2011 May, 2011 July, 2011 August, 2011
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
November, 2011 © Mark Gary January, 2012 (Breeding Season) September, 2012 © Mark Gary
       

Comparisons of the California Tiger Salamander Breeding Pond During the Same Month of Different Years

       
January
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
January, 2012 January, 2014 © Mark Gary January, 2015 © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
January 3rd, 2016 © Mark Gary
CA Tiger Salamander eggs are present.
January 31st, 2016 © Mark Gary 
CA Tiger salamander eggs still present.
Early January, 2017 © Mark Gary
Following new heavy rains, the pond contains new CA Tiger salamander eggs.
Mid January, 2017 © Mark Gary
Pond still contains CA Tiger Salamander eggs.
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
January 1st, 2018 © Mark Gary
The pond is shrinking from lack of rain but a few mature eggs are still visible, either still developing, or maybe they're not viable.
Early January, 2019 © Mark Gary
The pond is full of water and California Tiger Salamander eggs are once again present.
Early January, 2020 © Mark Gary
California Tiger Salamander eggs laid in mid December are still visible in the pond looking like they're close to hatching. The water level is fairly low compared to most Januarys shown here.
January 2nd, 2021 © Mark Gary
The pond level has decreased significantly since its mid December peak due to a lack of rainfall. Most of the many California Tiger Salamander eggs observed in mid December that were laid in relatively shallow water are no longer visible after the decrease in pond level. At least one adult remains in the pond.
tiger salamander habitat      
January 1st, 2022 © Mark Gary
This year begins with an overflowing pond containing tiger salamander larvae from eggs laid in October and November and some new eggs laid during the second half of December. Treefrogs have already laid eggs in other nearby ponds. It's going to be a very interesting year.
     
       
February
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
February, 2011
Early February, 2014 © Mark Gary Early February, 2015 © Mark Gary February 6th, 2016 © Mark Gary 
CA Tiger salamander embryos with gills are visible. Some have already hatched.
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early February, 2017 © Mark Gary
February 1st,, 2018 © Mark Gary
The pond is full again, and treefrogs are breeding. © Mark Gary
February 27th,, 2018 © Mark Gary February 3rd, 2019 © Mark Gary
California Tiger Salamander and Sierran Treefrog eggs present.
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
February 5th, 2019, after light snowfall.
© Mark Gary
February 3rd, 2020 © Mark Gary
The first Sierran Treefrog eggs have appeared.
February 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
After a good rain event, the pond has filled again. Some adult salamanders were observed in the drying pond a few days before the rain and apparently they bred again as some new eggs were observed after the rain.
February 1st, 2022 © Mark Gary
Despite a very dry January, the pond is still as full as possible. Almost all of the visible tiger salamander eggs have hatched. The level of a nearby pond has decrease two feet, stranding many tiger salamander eggs above the water level, but eggs laid lower than two feet down have survived and hatched.
       
March
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March, 2006 March, 2010 March, 2011 Late March, 2014 © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early March, 2015 © Mark Gary Early March, 2016 © Mark Gary  Early March, 2017 © Mark Gary
Sierran Treefrog eggs are hatched, Red-legged Frog egg laying has begun, CA Tiger Salamander larvae are visible.
March 23rd, 2018 © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early March, 2019, between rainstorms in a very wet winter. © Mark Gary March 2nd, 2020, after zero rainfall in the entire month of February. (The last time that happened, Abe Lincoln was president.) California Tiger Salamander unfolded embryos observed. Other eggs were observed already hatched on 2/20. © Mark Gary March 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
Sierran Treefrogs have started laying eggs in the pond.
March 1st, 2022 © Mark Gary
Four pairs of California toads in amplexus were observed in the pond, along with treefrog tadpoles and California Tiger Salamander larvae.
tiger salamander habitat      
March 1st, 2022 © Mark Gary
Some new predators have been spotted in the pond - Hooded Mergansers - small diving ducks that feed mostly on fish but also eat other aquatic life including aquatic invertebrates, tadpoles, and frogs. It's possible they are also eating tiger salamander larvae.
     
       
April
California Red-legged Frog Habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
April, 2003 April, 2013 © Mark Gary
Mid April, 2014 © Mark Gary Early April, 2015 © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early April, 2016 © Mark Gary  Early April, 2017 © Mark Gary
Sierran Treefrogs have laid more eggs.
Early April, 2018 © Mark Gary
Toad eggs now present
Early April, 2019 © Mark Gary
Even greener than March was.
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat  
April 2nd, 2020, with some new green after it finally rained a little bit.
© Mark Gary
April 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
Small tiger salamander larvae are observed along with treefrog tadpoles, but there's no sign of toad or red-legged frog breeding activity. A dry winter means this will probably be another drought year.
April 1st, 2022 © Mark Gary
The pond is still full, but little precipitation in March is causing the surroundings to dry up. California Toads bred in early March in larger numbers than we have observed here before. Thousands of tadpoles hatched in mid March but two weeks later they were almost all gone, apparently eaten up by tiger salamander larvae and other predators. Three size classes of tiger salamanders were observed, which correspond with the three spaced breeding events that were observed this season.
 
       
May
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May, 2011 May, 2013 © Mark Gary Early May, 2014 © Mark Gary
Early May, 2015 © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early May, 2016 © Mark Gary  Early May, 2017 © Mark Gary Late May, 2017 Early May, 2018 © Mark Gary
Tiger salamander larvae observed eating toad tadpoles. Diablo Range Gartersnake observed eating tiger salamander larva.
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early May, 2019 © Mark Gary. Small tiger salamander larvae, red-legged frogs, and gartersnakes observed. May 1st, 2020. A small amount of toad breeding in area ponds was finally observed in mid April, a single mass of red-legged frog eggs in this pond were destroyed after a few days, probably trampled by cattle, and no tiger salamander larvae have been seen lately. This has not been a good year for area amphibians.
© Mark Gary
May 3rd, 2021 © Mark Gary
The pond is drying up abnormally early. Califiornia Tiger Salamander larvae are still seen in the rapidly diminishing pond, but will they be able to achieve metamorphosis this year before it dries up completely?
May 3rd, 2022 © Mark Gary
The pond is still full, which isn't unusual for early May. The largest size class of tiger salamander larvae are already developing dark mottling.
       
June
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June, 2010 June, 2010 June, 2013 © Mark Gary Early June, 2014 © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early June, 2015 © Mark Gary Early June, 2016 © Mark Gary  Early June, 2017 © Mark Gary Early June, 2018 © Mark Gary
Tiger salamander larvae observed hunting tadpoles.
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat CA Tiger Salamander Egg
Early June, 2019 © Mark Gary. The pond is still overflowing. Large larvae are present along with predatory gartersnakes. June 2nd, 2020. No tiger salamander larvae present. Eggs were laid and they hatched, but none of the larvae appear to have survived. © Mark Gary June 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
52 dead, dying, or doomed California Tiger Salamander larvae were counted in a couple of small puddles that were all that remained of the pond. This is the earliest we have seen the pond dry out since we began watching it Contra Costa County and a large part of Northern California are reported to be in an exceptional drought, the highest rating of drought by the U. S. Drought Monitor. There will be no new transformed tiger salamanders this year unless some of them managed to undergo metamorphosis in the past month.
June 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
Several California Tiger Salamander larvae stranded in the last bit of water remaining the pond.
       
July
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July, 2011 July, 2013 © Mark Gary Early July, 2014 © Mark Gary Early July, 2015 © Mark Gary
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
Early July, 2016 © Mark Gary  Early July, 2017 © Mark Gary Mid July, 2017 © Mark Gary
Tiger Salamander larvae still visible coming up for air.
Early July, 2018 © Mark Gary
Tiger salamander larvae still observed in pond.
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Early July, 2019 © Mark Gary. The pond level is high for July as it was last year, due to a wet year and maybe the Fall 2017 pond construction. Tiger Salamander larvae, a few tadpoles, and California Red-legged Frogs are visible. July 2nd, 2020. The pond is prematurely dry and free of vegetation, with few amphibians remaining. © Mark Gary July 5th, 2021 © Mark Gary
The pond is completely dry as are most of the other small ponds in the vicinity.
 
       
August
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August, 2010 - As I was trying to photograph tiger salamander larvae in the water, a couple of biologists came and dragged a net through the pond. They found Sierran treefrogs with deformities caused by parasites spread by snails, and they told me that the dreaded chytrid fungus is here, too. August, 2011 August, 2013 © Mark Gary
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August, 2014 © Mark Gary Early August, 2015 © Mark Gary Mid August, 2016 © Mark Gary  Early August, 2017. Tiger salamander larvae still visible in pond. © Mark Gary
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Early August, 2018 © Mark Gary
Tiger salamander larvae still observed in pond but not tadpoles.
Early August, 2019 © Mark Gary. There's lots of water left for August and still lots of amphibian activity. California Tiger Salamander larvae, California Red-legged Frog tadpoles, and recently transformed juvenile red-legged frogs and Sierran Treefrogs are also present. August 3rd, 2020. Nothing but dirt remains. It looks like a larger pond nearby might also dry up this year, which would be unusual. © Mark Gary August 2nd, 2021 © Mark Gary
Once there was a pond here.
       
September
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September, 2012 © Mark Gary
September, 2013 © Mark Gary September, 2014 © Mark Gary Early September, 2015 © Mark Gary
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Early September, 2016 © Mark Gary  Early September, 2017 © Mark Gary
Record heat, but water still present with many young CA Red-legged frogs seen in the pond.
1 September, 2018 © Mark Gary
California Tiger Salamander larvae are still observed in the puddle.
Early September, 2019 © Mark Gary.
With plenty of water remaining, the pond is full of recently-metamorphosed California Red-legged Frogs and California Tiger Salamander larvae are still present.
tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat    
September 16, 2020 © Mark Gary
There once was a pond here. Massive wildfires in the region closed access to the pond, but permission was granted to take a picture. Fortunately, the area around the pond was not burned.
September 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
NOAA is predicting a 70 percent chance of a wet La Nina winter this year, but even if it happens, will it extend far enough south to fill the pond?

The lack of water at this time of year is not a problem for the salamanders since they have evolved to live in ephemeral ponds. The dry period prevents salamander predators from taking up residence in the pond which benefits them also.
   
       
October
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October, 2013 © Mark Gary October, 2014 © Mark Gary Early October, 2015 © Mark Gary Early October, 2016 © Mark Gary
Nothing left but a puddle.
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Mid October, 2016 © Mark Gary
The rains have begun.
Early October, 2017 © Mark Gary Mid October, 2017 © Mark Gary
Heavy equipment has been used to modify the earthen dam that maintains the pond. The outflow channel into the nearby creek has been moved to the other side of the pond and reinforced with rocks.
Early October, 2018 © Mark Gary
The pond is reduced to a puddle once again. A cow got stuck in the mud and had to be pulled out, so the puddle has been temporarily fenced off to prevent any more stranded cows.
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October 1st, 2019 © Mark Gary.
Tiger salamander larvae remain in the pond, which is unusual for October. Many recently-metamorphosed California Red-legged Frogs also remain in the pond.
October 2nd, 2020 © Mark Gary
The sky is full of haze from massive wildfires burning in the region in what has already become California's worst fire season on record, with the season not yet over.
October 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
No rain yet, which is not unusual since it typically starts later this month or next.

According to CBS News, the California Department of Water Resources reports that a total of 11.87 inches of rain and snow fell during the 2021 water year - October 30th 2020 through September 30th 2021. That's less than half of the annual average of 28.2 inches. (The report measures the average precipitation for the entire state, not this specific location, though conditions here were also exceptionally dry.) You have to go back to 1924 to find a drier year, though the 1977 drought was close.
October 26th, 2021 © Mark Gary
From extreme drought to extreme precipitation overnight. The dry pond has filled with about 4 feet 4 inches of water, as measured by a new hydroperiod stake installed in the pond in September. And even more surprising, the breeding season has already started. Several adult California Tiger Salamanders were observed in the water on the 26th and a few eggs were spotted on the 28th, only four days after the main rain event. The salamanders are not known to enter ponds in October, and November is even a bit early for them, but this year has been an exception due to the unusually heavy precipitation.

Two days previous, October 24th, the Bay Area experienced its stongest storm in 26 years (according to the SF Chronicle 10/24/21) the result of a category 5 atmospheric river - tropical moisture pulled northeast from the Pacific Ocean - that was caused by a bomb cyclone, an area of extreme low pressure. This low pressure system tied the record for the all-time lowest pressure measured in a storm in the northeast Pacific. SF Gate.com (10/25/21) shows the 48 hour preciptation totals for 10/24 and 10/25 in Livermore, which is not far from the pond, as 4.28 inches, but since the pond is higher in elevation, it most likely received more than that. (Nearby Mt. Diablo received 8.44 inches in the same 48 hour period.)
       
November
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November, 2011 © Mark Gary November, 2013 © Mark Gary
November, 2014 © Mark Gary Early November, 2015 © Mark Gary
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Early November, 2016 © Mark Gary
After a lot of rainfall, news reports are declaring the drought over in Northern California. The pond seems to agree when compared to the lack of water in the three previous Novembers.
Early November, 2017, after the pond has been modified. © Mark Gary Early November, 2018 © Mark Gary
Almost completely dry. Temporary fence to exclude cows still in place.
Mid November, 2018 © Mark Gary
No rain yet. Temporary cow fence removed.
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November 1st, 2019 © Mark Gary.
A mature tiger salamander larva was found near the end of the month, so maybe it will overwinter. Few recently-metamorphosed California Red-legged Frogs remain, perhaps a result of recent cold weather.
November 3rd, 2020 © Mark Gary
Still waiting for rain.
November 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
A few adult salamanders are still in the pond and even more eggs are visible. California Red-legged Frogs and Sierran Treefrogs have also entered the water.

 
       
December
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December, 2013 © Mark Gary Early December, 2014 © Mark Gary Early December, 2015 © Mark Gary December 3rd, 2016 © Mark Gary
CA Tiger salamander eggs were laid this year between November 26th and December 3rd.

tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat tiger salamander habitat
1 December, 2017 © Mark Gary
After only a little bit of November rain, the pond again contains some water and a lot of California Tiger Salamander eggs that were probably laid in late November.
Early December, 2018 © Mark Gary
After a little rain, the pond is once again ready for salamander breeding.
December 2nd, 2019, just after the first heavy soaking rain of the season, which began the night of December 1st, after five days of light rain. © Mark Gary.

The afternoon of the 3rd, several adult California tiger salamanders were observed swimming in the murky pond. These were probably males awaiting the arrival of females. No sign of eggs or amplexus was observed.

No sign of eggs was observed on the 6th. Eggs were first seen on the 9th. Evidence of a larger breeding event was then observed on the 11th, including several adults remaining in the water.
December 1st, 2020 © Mark Gary
Usually the pond has begun to fill by now, but not this year.

After it finally rained, eggs were observed on 12/17, and more than 400 were visible on 12/26. Adult salamanders were observed swimming in the pond on 12/15 and there were still a few in the water as late as 12/26.

 

tiger salamander habitat      
December 1st, 2021 © Mark Gary
The older eggs are already hatching.
     
       

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