The Pine Ridge Association at Henry W. Coe State Park

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The Long Journey Home

by Marlene Testaguzza

calnewt02For many female California Newts, it was time to leave the pond.  They had left fertilized eggs, encased in transparent, firm-jellied globular clusters attached to parts of plants and other objects in the pond.  Now they could begin their journey home.

One newt, in particular, caught my attention.  She had just emerged from the pond and seemed to be visually scouting the area.  Then, she began, with purposeful steps, to move across the meadow.  She's probably not going far, I naively surmised; so I decided to join her.

Thirty-five minutes and more than 30 yards later, we arrived at her burrow.  After watching her climb over clumps of dirt, twigs in the grass, and sharp stones . . . going down a three-foot embankment, crossing a two-foot wide creek, then making her way up the steep, almost vertical hill on the other side, I needed a rest.  Not her!

She did pause a few times along the way, perhaps to check her surroundings, but she never once looked my way.  She did take some time trying to go under a log and then around the log.  But, in the end, she climbed over the log.  She was relentless in her journey.  We passed dozens of burrow openings along the way, but they were of no interest to her.

Finally we reached her burrow, a small opening under a rock that jutted out a bit on the steep hillside.  She slowly inched her way in, and when the last of her tail disappeared from view, I sat down, dug in my heels, and thought about my time with her.  I felt a certain admiration for this tiny six-inch long salamander, who knew exactly where her home was and how best to journey there.

(...to be continued...)