Tuesday, February 24, 2015

19-Jun-2012 Quabbin Reservoir Gate 5, Massachusetts

"The MWRA Water System"
(Credit: Massachusetts Water Resources Authority)
I wasn't new to pine cone spider collecting, but I was new to spider identification.  When working previously with Rod Crawford in Washington state, he had IDd all the spiders I collected.  But here in Massachusetts, it was just me and my copies of Spiders of Connecticut, Spiders of North America and a dissecting scope.

Sample site locations
Spiders are, in fact, very delicate creatures.  It is easy for unpracticed hands to accidentally puncture or dismember them under the microscope.  So before I started working with important specimens from my Wachusett Reservoir study, I wanted to practice on some similar but less-important specimens.  Pine cone spiders from Quabbin Reservoir seemed to be ideal for this purpose.

The Quabbin is the western-most reservoir in the same drinking water system that includes the Wachusett Reservoir.  I collected from two pine stands located in the southwest corner of the Quabbin Reservoir reservation along Old Enfield Road (which is now a gated service road).

Site A
Site A cones
Site A was a stand of red pine (Pinus resinosa) growing on a roadside berm 50 to 100 feet from the shoreline.  I tapped 50 cones that I found on the berm face and got 4 spiders.

Site B
Site B cones
Site B was a stand of eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) located about 1500 feet from the shoreline.  Tapping 50 cones from the top and face of the roadside berm, I collected 8 spiders from at least 3 species.

Water snake
Painted turtle
I had happened upon a major reptilian basking session during the hike in.  Where the old asphalt-covered road bisects a wetland, I found two big northern water snakes (Nerodia sipedon) and a painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) soaking up the midday heat.  The turtle was camera-shy and quickly disappeared into the undergrowth, while the water snakes started moving into striking posture.  I backed away and left them to resume their heat-sponging.

As often happens on my spider collecting trips, I didn't see a soul during the working part of the day.  But this time, out of curiosity (and looking for easily accessible pine cones, of course), I did visit the second final resting place of the 7,613 souls whose graves had to be disinterred and moved to higher ground during the reservoir's construction.  I didn't find any cones, but I did find this massive, intriguing door beneath the pines that looked like it fell right off of a page of fantasy fiction.
A door into the hillside at Quabbin Park Cemetery.

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