Now doesn’t that sound like something for a witch’s brew? ... something I should save for Halloween? Halloween is a long way off and right now is the time to see these two things.
I’ve been watching and sketching rough-skinned newts,Taricha granulosa, at a little reservoir about twenty miles from my home. From my Journal:
“A few Ods (Odonata - dragonflies and damselflies) are flying. A 4 PM half the pond is in shadow. Dale found a hot spot for newts. I sat down quietly with my sketchbook and waited for them to relax. He saw at least 8 within my immediate viewing, all in the water, but at first I don’t see any. Soon a gnarly head peeks out from between underwater rocks ... and another. A third drifts slowly up and parks itself just beneath some floating pond weeds -- hunting? Over to my right two more swim to the surface for a quick gulp of air. One sinks back down immediately; the other hangs suspended between the surface and the pond floor three feet below. I marvel at how he can choose where to suspend himself.”
Rough skinned-newts are wonderful fun to draw. Much of the year they live on land, but now many are in the pond mating and egg laying. They live in slow motion, and since they often come up near the water’s surface, I can get a good look. It took me awhile to verify each has four toes in front and 5 toes behind. Their tail is used for swimming. When one wants to go somewhere, it tucks all four leg next to its body and just wiggles its tail in a fluid motion. The male's tail reminds me of a long, long tadpole tail -- flattened vertically. The Female's is rounder.
Rough-skinned newts have the deadliest natural toxin yet discovered, far deadlier than potassium cyanide. Pufferfish and blue-ringed octopuses have the same poison, tetrodotoxin. Fortunately the newts aren’t out to get me. Their toxin is a defense. As long as I don’t eat one, or inject their poison I’m safe. But I should wash my hands if I handle one.
While eating lunch I suddenly realized this spider was about 5 feet from me. It had ‘sewn’ two leaves together to make a little shelter. Little bits of last night’s cobweb, an orb, still slung to one of its leaves. She (?) looked very cozy in her hidy hole. Puddles in the area told me it had rained recently. I suspect she stayed dry.