Friday, October 23, 2015

20-Oct-2015 Blackpine Horse Camp, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
After several weeks of looking for Ozyptila praticola in the concrete jungle of the Seattle-area urban corridor, I was delighted to accompany Rod Crawford on a collecting trip to the very peaceful Blackpine Horse Camp located in Wenatchee National Forest.  We had scouted out this location last June when we drove up the Icicle Creek road to collect a sample in the neighboring Icicle Gorge gridspace.  We came away two species short of a full sample that day, so this day's goal was to collect a full sample at the horse camp, then pick up at least two additional species in the incomplete gridspace.

Pinus monticola (center)
Cones were found on mixed
conifer-deciduous litter
I knew from our previous visit here that Blackpine Horse Camp was missing the ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa) I found in the neighboring Icicle Gorge gridspace, but there were a few western white pines (P. monticola) dotted about.  I was able to find three trees in the camp for a total of 45 fallen cones to tap.  Accessing some of the cones required maneuvering through dense wet underbrush, but the effort was worth it for the interesting array of spiders they held.  The 45 tapped cones yielded 41 spiders from 6 families and 9 to 10 species, plus both Neobisiid and Chthoniid pseudoscorpions.  This was an unusually species-rich cone sample!

Cryphoeca in a retreat under a
riverside stone
Female Cicurina sp. #1 tapped
from a cone. Photo
copyright Rod Crawford
Not too surprisingly, I tapped more individuals of the common spider Cryphoeca exlineae (Agelenidae) from the cones than any other species.  I also collected it under riverside rocks, and Rod found it in litter.  Most of the 5+ linyphiid species present were microspiders, so ID determination will have to wait until the specimens cure.  But Rod was able to quickly identify another spider as the undescribed dictynid Cicurina sp. #1, an uncommon spider in Washington.

Gray jays
A few cars drove past during the course of the day, but as for the horse camp itself, Rod and I had it to ourselves.  Consequently I could enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, including a snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) starting to put on its white winter coat, coyotes (Canis latrans) calling (Rod and I agreed they were literally howling...with laughter at how we blundered through the underbrush that they so easily glide through) and a pair of gray jays (Perisoreus canadensis) that followed me around the camp.

By the way, whoever named the camps and trails in this forest sure did like compound names: Blackpine, Jackpine, Blackjack ...

Brilliant fall foliage
We had hardly an hour of daylight left by the time we left the horse camp and moved back down the valley into the Icicle Gorge gridspace to complete our June sample.  Although Rod swept grass and I beat shrubs, there weren't many spiders present and Rod was skeptical that we'd added any new species to the gridspace list.  Luckily Rod found a deposit of cottonwood litter to sift as twilight set in.  The final specimens were collected by flashlight as the air temperature slipped into the low 40s.  Our reward for working so hard was the sight of a buck and several does on the forest road as we departed.

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

Moonlit spider sampling - we must be getting close to Halloween!

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