Monday, February 16, 2015

12-May-2012 Wachusett Reservoir Gate 35, Massachusetts

The trail beckons.
The forest surrounding the Wachusett Reservoir is crisscrossed with gated access roads open to hikers, birders and other low-impact users.  According to the gate map, Gate 35 would give me access to miles of wooded trails.  As luck would have it, however, I didn't need to walk in more than 600 feet from the gate before finding a serviceable sampling site, the first of two I collected from that day.

Site A on embankment above road
Site A, an upland site, was on an embankment above the access road.  The forest overstory and understory were comprised almost entirely of sugar maple (Acer saccharum) punctuated with the occasional oak (Quercus sp.) and mature eastern white pine (Pinus strobus).

Site A cone beneath poison ivy
Much to my dismay, the herbaceous layer contained plenty of poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans).  As I would soon learn, this was true throughout the reservation.  Avoiding the area's pervasive poison ivy and ticks would remain a challenge throughout the survey. 

Happily, I was able to tap 9 spiders from 50 cones without getting a poison ivy rash.  The three species I found, Neon nellii (Salticidae), Phrurotimpus alarius and P. borealis (Phrurolithidae) would be familiar friends through most of the summer.

Site B at reservoir margin
Site B cones
Site B lay about 2000 feet from Gate 35 alongside a short side trail leading to the margin of the reservoir.  Here, white pines were scattered among sugar and red (Acer rubrum) maples.  An incomplete curtain of arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) separated the forest from the reservoir's margin.  The arborvitae, intended to help prevent debris from blowing into the reservoir, was planted along much of the reservoir perimeter shortly after the construction of the dam and reservoir were completed in 1902.

Glimpse of the water through thick veg.
Phrurotimpus sp.
The 50 cones I tapped at Site B produced 8 spiders and the same three species as Site A, plus Xysticus fraternus (Thomisidae).  I didn't sift litter at either of these sites - litter sifting began the following week. Stay tuned!

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