Sunday, August 2, 2015

31-Jul-2015 Mt Ellinor, Washington

Site location map (click to enlarge)
One way to extend the collecting season into the dry summer months is to collect at ever-higher elevations.  This principle led Rod Crawford, Jessi Bishopp and me to Mt. Ellinor, a popular hiking destination on the Olympic peninsula featuring old-growth forest, panoramic views of the Olympics and Cascades, and mountain goats. The peak was named by 19th century geographer George Davidson in honor of his fiancĂ©e Ellinor Fauntleroy, later described by their daughter as a woman whose "knowledge of life and the world made her inclusive rather than exclusive -- an universalist in religion and deed".

Mountain hemlock cone microhabitat
Cryphoeca exlineae female in
mountain hemlock cone
Before reaching the trailhead we stopped to collect a lower elevation sample near Skinwood Creek.  I tapped 50 Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) cones that I found lying next to the road and collected 1 spiderling.  Hiking up into the hemlock-fir forest on the Mt. Ellinor trail I tapped a second set of cones, this time from mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana).  Tapping 50 mountain hemlock cones got me 3 spiders and 1 harvestman.  Two of those spiders were female Cryphoeca exlineae (Agelenidae).  I found each in a web located between cone scales.

Boulder talus on upper Mt. Ellinor
Araneus gemmoides
The ascending trail eventually leaves the closed-canopy forest and skirts a boulder talus field before reaching the peak.  Despite the intense heat in the talus field, I found numerous orb-weaver webs strung up between the stones.  From one of these came what for me was the most striking spider of the day, a melanistic Araneus gemmoides (Araneidae) female.  Usually this species is orangish-brown in color.

Mt Rainier viewed from talus
field on Mt Ellinor
The talus field was as high in elevation as I got, but Jessi bounded on up to the summit with her net.  She apparently did some great spider p.r. while up there because numerous descending hikers smiled and asked whether I was collecting spiders too.  Several stopped to talk, including two energetic little boys who wanted to pick up any spiders that I might have in my net.  It was fun to get so many positive responses when "ew!' is the norm.

Goat hair
Everyone I asked had seen mountain goats along the trail, but much to my disappointment I never did.  However, I did find tufts of goat hair stuck here and there to the vegetation.  This helped me spot goat-made game trails that otherwise I probably wouldn't have noticed.

Read Rod's account of the day here!

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