Saturday, February 21, 2015

6-Jun-2012 Wachusett Reservoir Gate 13, Massachusetts

Sample location
Although afternoon rain was in the forecast, the morning sunshine and the fact that I'd already been rain-delayed for two days induced me to risk a possible drenching.  As it turned out, I wasn't the only one making hay while the sun shone.  A crew in search of trees infected by the scourge of our eastern forests, the invasive Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), was already hard at it when I arrived.  It was nice to be in the company of other scientists for a change.

Calico pennant (Celithemis elisa)
Pine colonnade
After a bit of scouting around and photographing some dragonflies, I set to work along the western edge of the peninsula that juts north from Boylston's Kendall Hill.  Immediately inland from the arborvitae skirt I found a double row of eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) that created a needle-strewn corridor stretching most of the quarter mile length of the peninsula.  Further inland, the forest is an oak-pine mix.

Ceraticelus fissiceps
The fallen cone and needle
litter microhabitats
Fallen cones were plentiful within this "colonnade" but their scales were poorly opened and they were damp from rain the night before, especially on the ground side.  None of that kept out the spiders, however.  From 100 cones (I got ambitious), I collected 28 spiders as well as a tick, mites and juvenile harvestmen.  So far I've identified 5 species, including this 1.5 mm-long Ceraticelus fissiceps (Linyphiidae), but numerous microspiders remain TBD.

Sheep laurel
At the northern end of the peninsula I took a moment to enjoy a view of the reservoir and admire the flowering sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), then turned around and gathered up needle litter on my way back down the colonnade. The vast majority of the litter spiders were microspiders, and most appeared to be the same species I'd found in the tapped cones.  But that's just a guess, as the litter spiders are also TBD.

Little guy
I've included this photo (right) of one of the mystery microspiders to illustrate why they're called "microspiders".  Those are grains of beach sand that he's laying on - that's how tiny microspiders are!

Later in the day, when I found a tick embedded on my belly, I decided I had to rethink my habit of reclining on the ground while sifting litter.  Picnic tables, so convenient to safely sift litter upon, simply do not exist at the Wachusett Reservoir.

Leucauge venusta
Leucauge venusta in her web
The onset of rain chased me from the woods, but as I hiked back to the car the sun came out briefly and illuminated this orchard orbweaver Leucauge venusta (Tetragnathidae).  What a beauty!

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