Every season has its unique attractions in the East Bay Regional Parks and elsewhere in the world of nature.
In autumn, there's the annual migration of tarantulas in search of mates. As the rains begins, newts travel from summer fields to winter ponds and streams for the same purpose. From December through February, monarch butterflies roost at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont as part of their multigenerational life cycle.
And now, ladybugs have joined the show. Ladybugs are a variety of beetle. Entomologists prefer to call them ladybird beetles or lady beetles. There are many other varieties besides the red-and-black kind with which most of us are familiar.
Gardeners prize ladybugs, because some beetles eat the aphids and other insects that can damage plants. However other ladybug varieties can be agricultural pests. Check the Internet for a full rundown.
In any event, ladybugs have made their appearance at Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, and probably many other parklands. During the winter, the adult ladybugs gather in clusters on bushes and shrubs for warmth, sort of like the butterflies on Ardenwood's eucalyptus trees.
It's hard to predict where the ladybugs may show up, though there were clusters the other day near the park entrance on Redwood Road. Park supervisor Di Rosario says the insects are also gathering on the information panel and park bench at the junction of the Stream and Prince Trails.
One cautionary note: please do not collect ladybugs to take home. Leave them in place for other park visitors to admire. All the regional parks are essentially wildlife preserves from which it's illegal to remove plants or animals.
A SATURDAY STROLL: Maybe you'll see some ladybugs if you join naturalist Sara Fetterly for the next in her series of Saturday Strolls. It's from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Redwood Regional Park! Meet Sara at Skyline Gate on Skyline Boulevard at Pine Hills Road for a moderate three-mile loop on the East Ridge, Prince and Stream Trails. The hike is free of charge. For information call 510-544-3187.
MEET THE WOODRATS: The secret life of woodrats will be exposed in a program from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley, hosted by naturalist aide Morgan Rani Evans.
During this season, woodrats roam the nature area at night looking for ripe coffee berries. They also share their nests with other animals. The program is free. Meet Morgan at the Environmental Education Center at the north end of Tilden's Central Park Drive. For information, call 510-544-2233.
explore the lake: The Wednesday Walkers, an informal hiking group to which all are welcome, will explore Lake Chabot in Castro Valley during a moderate, four-mile shoreline hike starting at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, led by naturalist Chris Garcia. Meet at the Lake Chabot Marina on Lake Chabot Road just north of town. For information, call 510-544-3282 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
FERNS, FERNS, FERNS: Ferns are the focus of a program from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 2 at Sunol Regional Wilderness in southern Alameda County. Nancy Ceridwyn will lead a hike up the Shady Glen Trail to see and learn about these ancient plants and their folklore.
The hike is free, but registration is required. To register, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program 1055.
Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at email@example.com.