As rains finally fall on fair California, and ponds fill, and creeks begin to run, the seasonal newt dance has also begun.
For much like the skunks, this is also their time of year to look for love.
So they make the march to water. To where they were born.
For the Sierra Newt, Taricha sierrae, this means mountain streams and ponds, and even the stillwater edges of large rivers.
I come from down in the valley
Where mister when you're young
They bring you up to do like your daddy done
Me and Mary we met in high school
When she was just seventeen
We'd drive out of this valley down to where the fields were green
We'd go down to the river
And into the river we'd dive
Oh oh down to the river we'd ride...
- The River, Bruce Springsteen
The males go first, and set up shop in those perfect places they know the ladies like to lay.
Which can lead to the occasional confusion...
"Hey baby - come here often?"
But a greater contributing factor to these awkward moments is that most newt males go down to the river to breed every year, and les femmes newtale... not so much. Every other year. Or less.
So most of the newts in the river are males.
Yep, it's true. Newt parties are total dude-fests.
Which means that if you're a hot-to-trot male newt, and you find a lady that likes your style, you really have to hold on to her.
Giving new meaning to the term clingy.
Male (top) and female newts in their mating embrace (called "amplexus" in amphib geek)
But it's a must, because, as you can see in this 37 second video, the other males can get pretty pushy in their attempts to meet your gal:
Video of second male sierra newt trying to break apart pair in amplexus
In fact, newt males have adaptations to help, which can be useful for sexing them in the field.
Black nuptial toe pads and roughened thighs of breeding male sierra newt
Black toe pads are even visible from the top when newts are in their aquatic phase
Because when in their terrestrial form, they can be pretty impossible to sex.
A sierra newt from under a nearby rock still in terrestrial form
And it can get pretty rough out there. The competition for breeding females can even turn into those infamous "newt balls," with multiple males all trying to get at a single lady newt.
Churning and spinning ball of male sierra newts trying to break apart a couple in amplexus
But in the world of newts, ball brawls are how they prove health, and separate men from boys.
To the victor, the genetic spoils
And it appears that lady newts are well worth the wrestling.
We'd go down to the river
My baby and I
Oh oh down to the river we'd ride
Ay, yai, yai...