Wednesday, April 6, 2016

1-Apr-2016 Fife, Tacoma and Fircrest, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
Last December I spent a rainy afternoon scouting out future cone tapping sites in and near Tacoma.  As I said at the time, greater Tacoma was my destination because it is the next metropolitan area south of Federal Way, the southern-most place I've found the introduced crab spider Ozyptila praticola (Thomisidae).  Now, four months later, I finally had the opportunity to return and tap those reconnoitered cones.

Fallback site in Fife
1. Fife
My first stop was the industrial area along the the northern bank of the Puyallup river, in Fife.  My plan was to tap cones dropped by the tall pines flanking the gates of Praxair, which I'd spotted months ago from Interstate 5 and had been dreaming of tapping ever since.  When I arrived, however, I found road construction materials and machinery lining the road in front of Praxair and disturbing my intended cone accumulations.  The congested roadway also made collecting along its margins too dangerous for my taste.  So much for plans!  Turning the car around, I was happy to almost immediately spot some large black pines (Pinus nigra) growing in the back corner of a nearby parking lot.  Beneath them were dozens of well-opened cones.  This would be my first site of the day.

Black pine cones on needle litter, Fife
Birdsong had been the soundtrack of my cone tapping on Lummi Island.  Here the soundscape was composed of peculiar clicking sounds coming from locomotives parked on the railroad tracks across the ditch, the bang-clang of rail cars being linked together, gaseous squeals emanating from Praxair, and the dull roar of Interstate 5.  Urban sampling: not so glamorous.

I tapped 75 cones and collected 7 spiders, all juveniles.  Most were the introduced European species Enoplognatha probably-ovata (Theridiidae), one of the most common spiders I find in fallen cones in western Washington.  I found no O. praticola.

A ponderosa pine dominates
the tiny greenspace next to
the fire station
Shore pines with fallen cones beneath
2. Tacoma Fire Station 2
Next I crossed the river and entered Tacoma proper.  A tiny triangle of land behind Tacoma Fire Station 2 supported three species of pine, each of which had dropped fully opened cones.  I sampled two separate cone accumulations.  Set I was comprised of Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and black pine (P. nigra) cones lying on mossy and/or grassy ground or needle litter.  Set II was comprised of shore pine (P. contorta var. contorta) and black pine cones lying mostly on bare ground or a very thin layer of pine needles.

Set I cones on moss
Xysticus cristatus female
I tapped 75 cones from set I and collected 7 spiders and 2 identifiable species. Both were introduced: Tenuiphantes tenuis (Linyphiidae) and Xysticus cristatus (Thomisidae).  From set II I tapped 100 cones and collected 12 spiders and 2 identifiable species, this time X. cristatus and a linyphiid which I haven't identified yet.  I hadn't been aware of the presence of X. cristatus in Washington until our recent trip to Lummi Island, where I found it in meadow sweeps as well as fallen cones.  Just in the nick of time to prepare me for identifying these Tacoma spiders!

I found no O. praticola in either set of fire station cones.

Shore pine cones
Shore pines
3. Near Humane Society
Continuing westward, I next stopped at a semi-industrial plaza at the corner of Center and S. Pine that had a row of shore pines planted along its border.  Tapping 50 cones there I collected only one spider, a juvenile Phrurotimpus sp. (Phrurolithidae).  I often find one or more juvenile Phrurotimpus in my western Washington cone samples, and indeed had already done so this day in the Fife and fire station samples.  While I was processing the cones, a crow plucked a stick from the tree canopy above me.  Nest-building time!

Massive western white pine
in Fircrest
4.  Fircrest
To this point none of the day's samples had been very speciose.  That changed with the fallen western white pine (P. monticola) cones I tapped in suburban Fircrest.  I collected 25 spiders and 7 species from 55 cones!  I haven't yet identified two of the species, but the others were all western Washington urban cone standards: the theridiid Cryptachaea blattea and the linyphiids Lepthyphantes leprosus, Tachygyna vancouverana, and Tenuiphantes tenuis.  No O. praticola, however.

The Ozyptila praticola question
All told, I tapped 355 cones at 4 sites this day.  If O. praticola is present in the greater Tacoma area, it isn't numerous or widespread enough to be detected by my sampling method.  I also didn't find any O. praticola last fall in the cities of Lakewood and DuPont, which lie immediately south of Tacoma.

Nest-building crow with twig in beak.

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