Wednesday, April 22, 2015

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment