Wednesday, May 27, 2015

20-May-2015 Woodland Park, Seattle, Washington

Site locations
Recently I checked on the availability of fallen ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) cones in Seattle's Woodland Park.  As readers may recall, I didn't find any when I was there in 2011, but I was hoping that the trees had had a mast year in the mean time.  What I found was that the ponderosas in the park's core woodland had dropped few cones, and most of those were unopened.  Happily, however, several ponderosas growing on the woodland's edge had dropped numerous open cones.

Site by lower tennis courts. Cedars on
the left, pines center and right, courts
in background.
Although my plan for today had been to tap those "edge" ponderosa cones, I decided instead to tap cones from other species of pines that had fallen in places vulnerable to groundskeeping activities like mowing and mulching.  My assumption was that those cones will soon get "cleaned up" as the Parks Department prepares for summer.  I wanted to tap them before they disappeared.  My hope is that the ponderosa cones will be left in place since most had fallen in untended areas.  I tapped non-ponderosa pine cones at two sites: the west side of the lower tennis courts, and a spot on the west side of the south-end picnic area.

A contrast in substrates.
Photographed from under
the cedars.
Juvenile Enoplognatha sp. were
in both sets of tennis area cones
I got to work tapping fallen pine cones to the sound of tennis lessons on the nearby court: 25 cones on the lawn, and another 25 cones that had come to rest under an adjacent pair of mature western red cedars (Thuja plicata).  The lawn cones produced but one spider, a juvenile Enoplognatha (Theridiidae, probably ovata, based on coloration and markings) and one harvestman.  In contrast, the cones resting on conifer litter under the cedar canopy produced 8 spiders and 24 harvestmen.  These included more juvenile E. probably-ovata as well as a female E. thoracica, some juvenile crab spiders and a 6 mm long male clubionid I haven't identified yet.

Site opposite Picnic Shelter 2
Cones accumulated against log
My other site was located on the opposite side of the south picnic area, across the driveway from Picnic Shelter 2.  Here a few scattered pines had dropped cones on a sloping grassy lawn.  Numerous cones had accumulated against a log at the base of slope.  Tapping 30 cones from each 'zone', I collected 3 spiders and 39 juvenile harvestmen from the lawn cones and 3 spiders and 65 harvestmen from the cones against the log.  Both cone samples contained Tenuiphantes tenuis (Linyphiidae), but I also collected a female E. thoracica from the lawn cones. Many of the harvestmen from cones against the log were visibly larger than those I collected from the lawn cones, although only a few were mature.

Spiders have fangs, harvestmen
have pincers ("chela").

As I was tapping cones at my second site, a man stopped his car long enough to ask what I was doing.  "Looking for spiders!" was of course my reply, to which he said simply "Oh", and drove on.  But his curiosity must have caught up with him, because he returned later to ask if I'd had any luck.  Upon hearing that I'd found lots of harvestmen, he gave me a puzzled look that vanished into delight when I translated into the colloquial "daddy long-legs".  "I love those things!" he declared, and walked on smiling.

The only other conversation I had was a one-sided one with a crow who dive-bombed my head, as crows tend to do during nesting season.  Approaching in silent flight from behind, it expelled a loud caw at the moment it back-flapped its wings to give my hair a blast of air.  I was so startled that I nearly dropped my bucket.  It continued cawing at me from a pine branch, but eventually landed nearby and started exploring the lawn.  I was wondering if it had noticed the numerous (tasty?) earwigs that I kept emptying from my bucket.  They were almost as common as harvestmen in these cones.

This is what a sample with 65 harvestmen & 3 spiders looks like

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