Saturday, February 6, 2016

2-Feb-2016 Bay View, Washington

Sample sites. Click to enlarge.
Back in the field with Rod Crawford and Ben Diehl!  The focus of our spidering activities this day was the "census-designated area" of Bay View.  Bay View is situated on the southeastern shore of lovely Padilla Bay in Skagit County.  Our first stop in Bay View was the dike-top trail Padilla Bay Shore Trail. We then drove a mile or so north to the Bay View Cemetery.

Neriene digna penultimate
male in web on metal
garage wall
This south-facing corrugated
metal wall was loaded with
overwintering spiders.
We began our day's collecting in the trail's parking lot, which is surrounded by large maintenance or storage buildings and a scattering of old rusty equipment.  Collecting linyphiids from their webs on the building with corrugated metal sides was straight-forward, but it took me some time to find the orb weavers that had built webs on the old wooden structure.  I did finally find one by following its trip line to its hiding place - under a big curl of peeling paint!

Spider-hiding paint peel
Translocated spider microhabitat
(cones and pine needles)
Rod had spotted a few shore pines (Pinus contorta subsp. contorta) in photos of the trail head itself, so I had some small hope that I might find a few cones there to tap.  Unfortunately a groundskeeper had removed the cones and pine needles from beneath the pines.  I later found these materials dumped at the edge of the marsh.  Why do groundskeepers insist on doing this?  Cones and needles are not just spider habitat, they're ornamental!  Leave them be!

Tiny male Tachygyna ursina approaching
a sizable juvenile Philodromus rufus
Juvenile Philodromus rufus in "tiptoe"
pre-ballooning posture
After our productive day of spidering at the Nooksack Cemetery last October, I was looking forward to collecting at Bay View Cemetery.  But February isn't October, and in the end I found only two spiders on headstones in the entire cemetery.  Humorously enough, I didn't even see the tiny male Tachygyna ursina (Linyphiidae) until it approached the juvenile Philodromus rufus (Philodromidae) that I was busy photographing.  Apparently the ursina startled the rufus when the former tried to walk over the latter, because the rufus jerked the ursina off its leg and send him dangling by his drag line.  The thrills, the spills!

Douglas-fir trees and fallen cones
A fallen Douglas-fir cone = great
spider habitat!
I didn't spot any pine trees at the cemetery, but a stand of Douglas-firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii) next to the utility shed had a nice accumulation of open cones lying beneath it on needle littler. I tapped 50 of those cones and collected 11 spiders.  Most were juveniles of the introduced species Enoplognatha probably-ovata (Linyphiidae), but two native linyphiids were present as well: Tachygyna vancouverana and T. ursina.

Caterpillars were more common than
spiders on the grave monuments
Moss 'highlighted' monument messages
One of the delights of frequent spider collecting is that, in addition to gaining spider knowledge, I am able to observe the seasonal changes in weather, flora and fauna.  Something I noticed this week were pairs of birds in synchronous flight.  A pair of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) near the head of the Padilla Bay Shore Trail alternated short flights together with sitting in close proximity on treetop branches and chatter-calling.  [A pet peeve of mine is that movie makers always substitute the scream of the red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) for the eagle's chatter call, probably because eagles sound like whiny seagulls.].  At Bay View Cemetery, I also saw a pair of ravens (Corvus corax) flying synchronously from tree to tree.  Looks like spring courtship has begun for these species.  Maybe this is why Valentine's Day is in February?

Read Rod's trip narrative here.

Sunset over Padilla Bay during low tide

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