Our after school canyon adventure with classmates marked the first catch (and release) of a newt this season.
Other wildlife sightings: juncos, one raven swooping low through the canyon & many squirrels. None held.
From fellow adventurer Julie Desmond on the newt (thanks, Julie!):
It was a California newt. They go through a terrestrial phase (non-breeding, where their skin is all bumpy) and an aquatic phase (breeding, where their skin becomes smooth and they develop a swollen 'vent' (what we were noticing on its underside) and rough 'nuptial pads' on their hands each year once they reach maturity (after 2-3 years). They tend to return to the same breeding spot every year, sometimes traversing miles over land to get there (they're often seen in large numbers after spring rains heading to breeding spots). Their skin secretes tetrodotoxin, 'a potent neurotoxin which can cause death in many animals if eaten in sufficient quantity' (but note that the poison can also be ingested through a mucous membrane or a cut in the skin, so care should always be taken when handling them). Tetrodotoxin is the same toxin that pufferfish produce.