Wednesday, April 29, 2015

15-Jul-2011 Ravenna Park, Seattle, Washington

Site location
In Washington state, ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) grows almost exclusively east of the Cascade Range crest.  The only* naturally-occurring ponderosa stand west of the Cascades grows, unfortunately for me, completely within the bounds of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a military base in Pierce County that uses the forest for live ammunition practice.  It is theoretically possible to get permission to tap cones there, but the request process has so far proven too cumbersome.

There are, however, a few places in Seattle where ponderosas can be found.  One is located in Seattle's Woodland Park.  Nobody seems to know how the ponderosas got there.  According to the park's vegetation management plan, "As yet it is a mystery how the mature ponderosa pine became established in Woodland Park".  Whatever their origin, a fairly extensive grove of ponderosas now grows in the park.  Unfortunately I found no fallen cones to tap when I visited the park earlier in 2011.

A few ponderosas also grow in the southeastern section of Seattle's Ravenna Park.  Conveniently for me, not only were they were located a short walk from Hogan's Corner Laundromat where I was doing laundry this day, but they had dropped open cones in a scruffy area apparently ignored by groundskeepers!

Dashing into the woods first while my clothes washed and then again while they dried, I tapped 33 cones and collected 8 spiders and 2 species.  Although one of the species, Enoplognatha thoracica (Theridiidae), is introduced from Europe, I only found one individual.  The other identifiable species, Phrurotimpus borealis (Phrurotimpidae), is native, as were the genera of the other spiders I collected.  This was quite a departure from my springtime cone samples from Seattle's Green Lake Park (here and here) and Golden Gardens Park (here), which were teeming with introduced species.

*Ponderosas reportedly have grown in isolated patches in Clallam County and Mason County.  However, I've not found any modern confirmation that they still grow there, and haven't yet checked the areas myself.

17-Jul-2011 Salmon La Sac, Washington

Sample site locations (click to enlarge)
Rod picked the Salmon La Sac area as the destination of our next collecting day.  Although I was enchanted by the curious and mysterious name, I was initially disappointed to find that our sampling sites appeared to be outside of the pondeosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) zone.  But disappointment soon faded with the discovery that western white pine (Pinus monticola) was part of the area's forest mix.  And as it turned out, their cones harbored quite a rich array of spiders.

Site 1. South of Little
Salmon La Sac Creek
Site 1 cone microhabitat
At Site 1, located south of Little Salmon La Sac Creek, I tapped 55 cones and collected 16 spiders and 6 species.  The most common identifiable species was Zanomys aquilonia (Amaurobiidae), but I also collected specimens of several uncommon species including the linyphiids Agroeca ornata and Tachygyna exilis.

Site 2. Rod (L) and my
P. monticola cone source (R)
Site 2 cone
At first the gravel pit that was to be our Site 2 didn't look at all promising from the cone tapping standpoint, but a single western white pine growing at the forest edge saved the day.  I could only find 40 cones to tap, but from those I got 16 spiders and 2 species.  Even the cones I found lying on bare gravel contained spiders, not just those that had fallen on the forest side of the tree.  Euryopis formosa (Theridiidae) was the most common species present.

Trillium in meadow near Scatter Creek
View from the meadow
Next we did some unplanned sampling in a meadow next to Scatter Creek, which was using the road bed for a river bed and prevented us from reaching our intended destination.  No pines there, but it was hard to feel  disappointed about absent cones while wandering around a beautiful mountain meadow in full flower.

Site 3 was behind that
thick wall of green
Callobius canada guarding egg sac
Evening was setting in, but Rod was game for a quick stop at Wish-Poosh Campground (Site 3) on the way home so that I could tap some ponderosa cones.  Like the up-slope sites, the cones at Wish-Poosh were productive.  Tapping 51 ponderosa cones got me 21 spiders and 5 species, including an undescribed dictynid that Rod had also collected from maple leaf litter at Site 1, and a female Callobius canada (Amaurobiidae) guarding her egg sac on the underside of a cone.

Be sure to check out Rod's take on the day here!

Twinflower (Linnaea borealis) growing beneath the lone western white pine on the rim of the Salmon La Sac gravel pit.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

10-Jul-2011 Rimrock, Washington

Site locations
It was a bit difficult getting myself up, out the door and over to Rod Crawford's place this morning.  I was still tired after my previous day's solo collecting trip to Chiwawa River Valley.  But my love of exploration and discovery has always been a greater motivator than love of sleep, so by mid-morning we were in the car and on our way to the far side of Mt. Rainier.

As Rod describes in his trip narrative, our destination, Thunder Lake near Rimrock, was located in a more southerly portion of the ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) belt than we'd sampled to that point.  It was about 90 miles south and 1000 feet higher in elevation than were my Chiwawa River Valley sites the previous day.

I didn't tap the toilet cones
Doused fire pit full of beer trash
Judging by the quantity of toilet paper in the grass and beer cans in the fire pit, Thunder Lake was a popular party spot.  That didn't surprise me since it's a beautiful place (if you ignore the trash).  What did surprise me was the discovery that someone had left a fire burning unattended in the fire pit.  Who does that, when lake water is just steps away?!  I spent quite some time hauling water to douse that fire before starting my cone tapping.

Thunder Lake
Lakeside cones
Thunder Lake was a bit grandly named, being hardly more than a pond, but it did offer two zones for cone tapping: riparian and upland.  Altogether, 120 tapped cones produced 28 spiders and 5 species.

Female E. formosa in cone
Spider with its exuvium in cone
Unsurprisingly, Euryopis formosa (Theridiidae) was the most numerous species I tapped from cones, and was present in both zones.  Also present were some rarities: the undescribed dictynid that I'd tapped from ponderosa cones on Table Mountain the month before, and an undescribed Dipoena sp. (Theridiidae) that had been collected only once before.

Ponderosa grove in Fish Flats
Unusual multi-stemmed pine
After a brief stop to hunt spiders around some nearby Forest Service cabins, we headed to a gorgeous place called Fish Flats.  Getting there required navigating Forest Service roads and a hike, but it was worth it just to see this wet meadow with its grove of open-grown ponderosas in the middle.   Tracks in the churned up mud beneath the trees indicated that an elk herd liked this spot too.

As beautiful as the area was, however, it didn't have much to offer in the way of cone spiders.  I got just one juvenile, a gnaphosid, from 50 tapped cones.  Too bad I wasn't collecting earwigs, since the cones were loaded with them.

Mt. Rainier at sunset

Friday, April 24, 2015

9-Jul-2011 Chiwawa River Valley, Washington

Site locations
Wanting to tap as many pine cones as possible before moving to Massachusetts in August, I decided to squeeze in a day of solo collecting in the Chiwawa River Valley, located north of Lake Wenatchee, the day before a planned collecting trip with Rod Crawford to the southeast side of Mt. Rainier.

My plan was to start at the highest-elevation site in Chiwawa River Valley where I could find either ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) or western white pine (P. monticola) easily accessible, then work my way back down the valley towards its confluence with the Wenatchee River.

Site 1. Schaefer Creek
Schaefer Creek Campground, located about 15 miles upstream from confluence of the Chiwawa and Wenatchee rivers, served as my up-valley starting point.  The site was nearly devoid of people, but there were plenty of western white pine cones laying in and around the dusty campsites.  Tapping 63 cones got me 11 spiders from 2 species.  Seven were Euryopis formosa (Theridiidae), including males, females and juveniles.

Site 2. NF-62 SE of Chikamin Creek
Site 2 was a selectively cut ponderosa pine forest located just south of the Chikamin Creek crossing, which is about 6 miles down the valley road from Schaefer Creek Campground.

Site 2. Cones and buried sign
I didn't see the half-buried "No Trespassing" sign until I was nearly done sampling, but perhaps the spiders had; fifty tapped cones produced only 1 spider, a juvenile Tarentula sp. (Lycosidae).

Site 3. N of Huckleberry Ford
What a difference a small distance can make in forest characteristics!  Less than a mile further down the valley road from Site 2, the roadside forest where I established Site 3 was again a dense, mixed-species assemblage containing white pine.  In contrast to Site 2, where fallen cones were highly exposed to solar radiation, the forest floor at Site 3 was only "sun dappled".  Tapping 50 white pine cones resulted in 13 spiders and 1 species, amaurobiids and agelenids being the most common.

Site 4. Alder Creek
Site 4. Ant mimic Micaria sp. (L)
and crab spider Ozyptila sp. (R)
Site 4, located near Alder Creek, provided me with another opportunity to tap ponderosa pine cones.  Unlike the exposed working ponderosa forest at Site 2, however, Site 4 was in a dense, mixed-species forest.  Tapping 50 ponderosa pine cones at Site 4 produced 12 spiders and 2 species including the rare crab spider Ozyptila yosemetica (Thomisidae).  Also of interest were several juvenile ant mimics, Micaria sp. (Gnaphosidae).  Euryopis formosa was again the most numerous species present.

Site 5. Near E end of Lake Wenatchee
Site 5. Thanatus formicinus
in ponderosa cone
My fifth and final stop was in an area of open ponderosa pine forest located near the east end of Lake Wenatchee.  Sixty tapped cones produced only 3 spiders, but each was identifiable to species.  Besides the two most common "pine cone spiders", E. formosa and Pholcophora americana (Pholcidae), also present was a female Thanatus formicinus (Thomisidae).  Her size and coloration made her quite visible even before I expelled her from the cone.

Thanatus formicinus female expelled from a Site 5 ponderosa pine cone

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

3-Jul-2011 Bumping Lake, Washington

Site locations (click to enlarge)
Rod getting his bearings
About 15 miles due east of Mt. Rainier lies Bumping Lake, the focal point of the watershed that Rod Crawford and I sampled in this day.  Our first of two sampling sites was located near an unnamed meadow on an unnamed creek feeding the south shore of the lake, which we bushwhacked to with the aid of Rod's dead reckoning skills.

The P. monticola cones were big!
P. monticola in mixed forest
near Bumping Lake
While Rod focused his efforts on the streamside meadow, I tapped western white pine (Pinus monticola) cones in the mixed-conifer forest on slightly higher terrain.  These were some impressively large cones - easily twice the size of other P. monticola cones that I've sampled.  I tapped 16 spiders from 103 cones.

Novalena web & spider in
P. monticola cone
The only identifiable species I collected was Euryopis formosa (Theridiidae), but a juvenile Novalena sp. (Agelenidae) and its cone-encompassing funnel web provided a great photo op.

Massive ponderosa pines at
Cougar Flat Campground
Picnic table smashed by
storm-tossed tree
Our second sampling site was located upstream along Bumping River at Cougar Flat Campground.  What a treat to be sampling among such massive ponderosa (P. ponderosa) pines!  And we had the place all to ourselves because the campground was officially closed; a storm and flood had destroyed some of the lower-lying sections.

Female Philodromus rufus, with prey
Juvenile Novalena intermedia in web
I tapped 240 (!) fallen ponderosa cones and collected 23 spiders from 7 species.  Novalena intermedia (Agelenidae) was the most common identifiable species present, while a female Philodromus rufus (Philodromidae) who managed to hold onto her prey during the cone tapping process was perhaps the most impressive.

Be sure to read Rod's take on the day here!

Bear scat

21/22-Jun-2011 Okanogan Highlands, Washington

Site locations (click to enlarge)
Road trip!  With my move to Massachusetts quickly drawing near, Rod Crawford and I decided to make a whirlwind collecting trip to the Okanogan Highlands, a relatively under-sampled section of Washington state.  (View Rod's map of WA spider collection coverage at the bottom of this page.)  Friend and longtime field collector Jerry Austin joined us for the fun.

Site 1. North Cascades Basecamp
Site 1. Callilepis pluto in refugium
Our first site was North Cascades Basecamp, located in beautiful Mazama.  I had done a bit of cone tapping there in July 2010 while on a family vacation and found Euryopis formosa (Theridiidae) present in fallen ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) cones, but unfortunately the cone count data didn't get recorded.  Now was my chance to take a solid, well-documented sample.  And solid it was - I tapped 173 ponderosa cones and got 24 spiders from 5 species.  Most numerous were juvenile Gnaphosa sp. (Gnaphosidae), but also present were the reliable "pine cone spiders" species E. formosa and Pholcophora americana (Pholcidae).

Site 2. Jack Creek
Site 2. Fallen cones and
flowering lupine
Site 2 was Jack Creek, a narrow, steep-sided valley dominated by fire-scarred ponderosas.  The terrain was steep enough that cones frequently rolled downhill and accumulated in depressions, a phenomenon I've observed frequently in hilly terrain.  The 106 cones I tapped yielded 11 spiders and 4 species.  Finding 5 E. formosa juveniles in the sample was not a surprise, but finding a Cyclosa conica sure was, given that this common orbweaver (Araneidae) makes aerial webs.

After dropping Rod and Jerry off at the Thirteenmile Creek trailhead, where they were camping for the night, I headed north to Republic and a hotel bed.  After a long day of driving and spider collecting, I could see that the twisty, twilit back roads leading to town held a certain romantic beauty, but I was too tired to really enjoy it.  But a good night's sleep had recharged my batteries, and I eagerly set out early the next morning to collect a cone sample in Republic before returning to Thirteenmile Creek.

Site 3. Near Ferry Co. Hospital
Site 3. Cones sampled from the
hillside as well as from the roadside
As is typical in urban settings, there were plenty of ponderosa trees around Republic, but it took some searching to find any that had dropped cones in an accessible spot.  I eventually spotted a nice ponderosa grove on a hill across the street from Ferry County Hospital and tapped 12 spiders and 4 species from 100 fallen cones.  The most interesting specimen was the first male collected of the same undescribed species of Neon (Salticidae) that I had tapped from a cone earlier in the month near Teanaway Campground.

Site 4. A perilously steep patch of
ponderosas on Thirteenmile Creek trail
Site 4. fallen cone microhabitat
By the time I returned to Thirteenmile Creek Trailhead, Rod and Jerry were up and about but impatient for the dew to dry from their tents as well as the vegetation.  While they sampled non-cone habitats, I hiked up the trail to the nearest ponderosa grove and tapped 100 cones for 13 spiders and 2 species, E. formosa and Phrurotimpus borealis (Phrurotimpidae).  The Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus) growing alongside the trail was in full bloom, a lovely sight.

Site 5. Aeneas Valley. Grassy cone-
strewn lane between marsh & hill
Site 5. Flower bedecked cone
Onward to Aeneas Valley, where Rod had managed to find a dot of public land that included a ponderosa-decked hill with its toes in a marsh.  I don't often have the opportunity to tap ponderosa cones associated with water.  Tapping a total of 150 cones from the foot of the hill as well as the hillside, I collected 19 spiders and 4 species.  Phrurotimpus borealis was the most numerous, but lycosid juveniles came in a close second.  Meioneta fratrella (Linyphiidae) was perhaps the most interesting catch.  But there were no E. formosa!  Well, that happens about 50% of the time in eastern Washington cone samples.  There were also several agelenid webs covering the hillside cones, but no agelenids turned up in my tap sample.

Site 6. Near Crumbacker Lake
Site 6. cones in grass and chapparal
On the way to our final collecting site we made a brief stop near Crumbacker Lake so that I could get one more sample from ponderosa cones that had fallen in a chaparral understory.  100 tapped cones produced only 8 spiders, mostly E. formosa and juvenile gnaphosids.

Our 7th and final collecting site was in the evocatively-named Hornet Draw, where Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) trees dominated and ponderosa cones (but not mosquitoes!) were hard to come by.  Still, I managed to scare up and tap 50 ponderosa cones and collected 6 spiders from 4 species.  Only later, after several more years of cone tapping, would we realize that 3 of those species were the three species most commonly found in pine cones in eastern Washington: E. formosa, P. americana and Meioneta fillmorana (Linyphiidae).

Be sure to click over to Rod's website for his take on the trip (and photos of Hornet Draw, which I forgot to take!).

Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus) growing along Thirteenmile Creek trail.