Thursday, May 26, 2016

25-May-2016 Enumclaw, Black Diamond & North Bend, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
Blue = O. praticola found
Red = O. praticola not found
Having recently found the introduced crab spider Ozyptila praticola (Thomisidae) in Auburn, Sumner and Snoqualmie I decided to press further eastward from those locations by taking samples in Enumclaw, Black Diamond, and North Bend.


Enumclaw cone source: Scots pines
As is so often the case, I was easily able to find cones to tap in the town's strip mall section.  A row of Scots pines (Pinus slyvestris) planted between a parking lot and a driveway had dropped hundreds of cones.  This site also featured some native vegetation in the understory and a thick, intact litter layer.  The latter was due no doubt to the fact that the business on this property was closed, so groundskeepers hadn't recently been "cleaning up" (a.k.a. destroying) the habitat.

Enumclaw cones and salal
(Gaultheria shallon)
Postpartum female O. praticola
Tapping 50 fallen cones I collected 9 spiders from 3 families.  Only one species was identifiable: Ozyptila praticola.  It was also the most numerous species present, with 1 female and 5 juveniles.

Black Diamond

Black Diamond cone source
Nice cones but almost no spiders
My excitement at seeing a ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa) growing between The Smoke House and More and Black Diamond Bakery was quashed when I saw that all fallen cones and litter had been removed from beneath it.  Ah well, can't win 'em all.  So I settled for tapping Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) cones down the block.  There were lots of cones but I only found 1 spider in the 50 that I tapped, a juvenile Tegenaria.  I did enjoy friendly conversations with a women who was walking her dogs and another woman who was a cyclist.  What Black Diamond lacked in cone spiders it made up for in friendliness.  Too bad I had already eaten lunch by the time I got there, because I bet those businesses had a lot to offer too.  Sure smelled good on Railroad Ave.!

I had intended on tapping cones in Hobart before driving across Tiger Mountain to get to North Bend, but I wasn't able to find a good deposit in this little hamlet.  The best cones I could find were under the grove of Douglas-firs at Johnny Lazor Ball Field, and they'd been heavily trampled.  I did tap a pair of mature dictynids from the few cones that had escaped trampling by rolling up against a cyclone fence, but it wasn't enough to count as a full sample in my Ozyptila project.  So on to North Bend!

North Bend

North Bend cone source
The scales on many cones were
barely open
In contrast to my difficulty in finding cones in Hobart, North Bend offered a huge cache of black pine (Pinus nigra) cones right on North Bend Way, the city's main east-west thoroughfare.  Similar to the situation in Enumclaw, the litter and cones under the tree in North Bend had probably been allowed to accumulate because the tree was in front of a vacant building site.  I suppose that after the planned new building goes up, most of the cones I sampled will be removed to make the parking area nice for customers.

Many fallen cones were closed, but with some searching I was able to find and tap 50 open or semi-open cones.  I collected 6 spiders, one of them being a female O. praticola.  The only other identifiable species present was the very common Tenuiphantes tenuis.

The sidewalk along Railroad Ave. in Black Diamond
was colored and textured to look like wood.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

23-May-2016 Auburn, Sumner & Orting, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge. Red pins: Ozyptila
not found; Blue pins: O. praticola confirmed.
Many of my recent searches for the introduced crab spider Ozyptila praticola have been dedicated to finding the northeastern extent of its local range.  For a change of scenery, I decided to shift my efforts southward this day.  Ozyptila praticola doesn't appear to have spread southwest of Federal Way into Tacoma or points beyond, but how far it might range southeast of there remains unknown.  My plan for the day was to begin sampling in Auburn, then follow the White River and Puyallup River valleys south into Sumner and Orting.


Auburn cone source
Fallen Scots pine cones
Three Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) growing in the back corner of a suburban parking lot provided my first set of fallen cones for the day.  Tapping 50 of them, I collected 7 spiders and 3 species.  The most numerous species present was none other than O. praticola, with one each of a female, a male and a juvenile in the sample.


Sumner cone source
Tiny Scots pine cone and even
tinier female O. praticola
Scots pines again were my cone source in Sumner, this time located in the heart of the city on Main Street.  I tapped 50 cones and collected 4 spiders, all of them O. praticola!  Only once before, last November in nearby Kent, have all the spiders I tapped from a cone deposit been O. praticola.


Orting Doug-fir cone source
Orting shore pine cone source
I tapped 50 Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) cones from the south end of the business district and collected only 1 spider, a juvenile Philodromus (Philodromidae).  Just south of the city limits I tapped 50 shore pine (Pinus contorta var. contorta) cones and collected 3 juvenile linyphiids and 1 juvenile Enoplognatha (Theridiidae).  In other words, no O. praticola.  I would have liked to have tapped cones in at least one more spot in Orting, preferably two, but I unfortunately ran out of time for the day.

There's more sampling to do before the southeastern extent of O. praticola's range becomes clear, but this day provided some useful information.

20-May-2016 Rock Island Creek, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge
Across the Columbia River from Wenatchee looms Badger Mountain, a part of the Columbia Plateau towering up to 1,000 meters above the city at its feet.  Much of Badger Mountain has been converted to agricultural use, but some areas of native shrub-steppe vegetation remain, as does an outlier population of ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa).  I tapped ponderosa cones once before on Badger Mountain, on 1 May 2009.  On that day I collected 3 species: Euryopis formosa (Theridiidae), Pholcophora americana (Pholcidae) and Xysticus locuples (Thomisidae). Would I find anything different a few miles to the south on this day almost exactly 7 years later?

View of riparian vegetation from the
shrub-steppe zone
Rod Crawford navigated us to the upper reaches of Rock Island Creek, where I was in cone tapping heaven.  There were ponderosas in the riparian zone, ponderosas in the sagebrush on the hillside above the riparian zone, and ponderosas straddling both habitats, providing me with an opportunity to tap cones that had fallen onto a variety of substrates.

Road Cones

Road cones and their source
The road cone microhabitat
I decided to sample the easiest set of cones first: those dropped onto the dirt road by a ponderosa growing in the riparian zone.   I tapped 50 cones and collected 14 spiders from 8 families.  Not bad for some dusty cones!  All the spiders were juvenile, with Anyphaena sp. (Anyphaenidae) being the most numerous, but Rod was able to identify Bassaniana utahensis (Thomisidae) and Poecilochroa columbiana (Gnaphosidae).

Riparian Cones

Source of riparian cones
Fallen cones in lush riparian zone
Next I hiked up the head of a very short tributary, which appeared to be spring fed.  A mature ponderosa growing beside the tiny headwater stream had dropped cones in the riparian zone.   From 50 tapped cones I collected only 7 spiders, but three species were identifiable.  These included the most common "pine cone spider" Euryopis formosa (Theridiidae), Dictyna uintana (Dictynidae) and a Pocadicnemis (Linyphiidae) still to be identified.

Near-Riparian Cones

Source of near-riparian cones. Note
chaparral on up-slope side of tree
Cones on thick bed of needle litter
My next set of cones had fallen beneath a ponderosa pine whose drip line straddled the riparian and sagebrush zones.  I again tapped the usual 50 fallen cones and collected 13 spiders from 7 families and 3 species: Anyphaena pacifica, B. utahensis and the second-most common "pine cone spider" Pholcophora americana (Pholcidae).

Hillside cones

Hillside cones & lupine
Hillside cone source
The final 50 cones I tapped had fallen from a ponderosa pine growing up-slope from the near-riparian pine.  Here the surroundings were classic shrub-steppe vegetation: Artemisia tridentata, Lupinus, Balsamorhiza, Ribes, etc.  From these 50 cones I collected moths, beetles and a lovely lilac-colored caterpillar, but only 1 spider, a juvenile E. formosa.

Searching out and tapping these 200 cones took up most of my sampling time, but it also added 4 species to the site list.

Female Psilochorus herperus
with egg sac
The eye arrangement on this
under-rock exuvium says lycosid
After tapping all those cones I was happy to assist Rod in a little rock turning.  Almost immediately I found a female Psilochorus hesperus (Pholcidae) carrying her egg sac in her chelicerae.  And then I found another, and another, and another...  Intriguingly, the rock pile I was examining was only 5 or 6 feet from the pile Rod was looking at, yet he found no P. hersperus there.  It makes me wonder whether this species is somewhat colonial.

Be sure to read Rod's account here!

Tiger beetle tapped from fallen ponderosa pine cone

In the headwaters of Rock Island Creek...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

16-May-2016 Machias, Lake Stevens and Granite Falls, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
Returning to the search for the introduced crab spider Ozyptila praticola (Thomisidae), I tapped fallen cones in three towns located northeast of Snohomish: Machias, Lake Stevens and Granite Falls.

Machias Cemetery

Two Doug-fir clumps providing cones
at Machias Cemetery
Fallen cones in Machias Cemetery
I tapped a total of 100 fallen Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) cones taken from three separate accumulations in the Machias Cemetery.  In all cases, I found the cones on tree needle and twig litter, sometimes with a bit of grass or other herbaceous vegetation poking through.  Juvenile harvestmen were exceedingly abundant in these cones, but spiders were harder to come by; I collected only 7, and none of them were O. praticola.  I did, however, collect a nice pair of mature Enoplognatha thoracica (Theridiidae) and a few female Tachygyna (Linyphiidae).

Lake Stevens City Boat Launch

Lake Stevens cone cource
The fallen cone microhabitat
Moving a few miles north I found two nice accumulations of Douglas-fir cones on needle litter in the parking area for the city's public boat ramp.  I began by tapping 50 cones from beneath the trees growing along the fenceline, and knew pretty quickly that I wouldn't need to sample the other accumulation as well.  These cones contained 2 female and 1 juvenile O. praticola.  Also present were Tenuiphantes tenuis and E. thoracica for a total of 10 spiders and 3 identifiable species.

Granite Falls

White pine towers over neighborhood
Fallen cones beneath a rhodie almost
done blooming
I had initially planned on tapping some Pinus nigra cones that I spotted beneath a lone tree in front of the car wash on the corner of Stanley St. and Alder Ave., but the area was so busy that I decided to look for a quieter spot.  Just a few blocks away in a residential section of town I found my cone source: a huge western white pine (Pinus monticola) growing in a lawn but whose fallen cones had been allowed to accumulate under a large rhododendron.  I tapped 50 cones and collected 19 spiders and 7-8 identifiable species.  What a rich deposit!  Among the species present was O. praticola, although only represented by juveniles.  The search for the boundary of Ozyptila praticola's local range continues!

Female Ozyptila praticola tapped from Douglas-fir cones in Lake Stevens

Lake Stevens under a heavy sky.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

12-May-2016 Darrington, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
This was one of those days where we had so many excellent options to choose from that it was hard to decide where to go. We finally chose the Darrington area, with a focus on Squire Creek Park.  Leaving Rod Crawford there to start his collecting, I continued on into Darrington to tap some urban cones.  I didn't expect to find any Ozyptila praticola in this part of the state, but there was only one way to be sure!

Northward view from the center of
Nels Bruseth Memorial Park
Lots and lots of fallen Doug-fir cones
In the north part of town is a wooded park called Nels Bruseth Memorial Park, named in honor of a U. S. Forest Service worker, recorder of native American stories and amateur painter who made the small city his home.  I tapped 100 fallen Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) cones there and collected 11 spiders, 10 of them being Phrurotimpus borealis (Phrurolithidae).  The other spider was a juvenile Xysticus (Thomisidae).  Not a diverse sample, but still worthwhile since we didn't collect P. borealis anywhere else this day.

Pardosa xerampelina female with egg
sac, found under driftwood
Pardosa dorsuncata female with egg
sac, found under driftwood
Returning to Squire Creek Park, I took a break from cone tapping and collected spiders from the picnic shelters and other structures, then found 3 species of wolf spiders under wood and cobbles on a beach on Squire Creek.

My cone tapping companion
Pardosa lowriei female found under
rock on shore
I may as well have continued sampling non-cone microhabitats because when I did tap 50 Douglas-fir cones from the area around the ranger station, I got skunked!  Not one spider present!  That's been a rare occurrence west of the Cascades crest.  Although I didn't find any spiders in those fallen cones, I did enjoy the companionship of a very sweet dog who decided to keep me company while I was in that section of the park.

Shore pines at power substation
Sun-bleached & brittle shore pine cone
After exhausting the microhabitats in the park, we visited a nearby power substation and powerline cut.  Although the power station was well out of sight of the highway, someone had planted shore pines (Pinus contorta var. contorta) along its south side, presumably as a visual buffer.

Whitehorse Mountain towering over the power station
The trees had dropped numerous cones, so I couldn't resist tapping the usual 50.  The cones were so dry that many simply crumbled when I tapped them.  Likewise, the needle litter was so dry that it crackled and popped when I walked on it.  I can't say whether it was due to the desiccated conditions on the ground, but one of the two spiders I collected, a female Grammonota kincaidi (Linyphiidae) was already dead when I found it. The only living specimen I tapped from these cones was a juvenile Philodromus spectabilis.  Like the Darrington cone sample this one wasn't diverse, but it provided species we didn't collect in other microhabitats.

Read Rod's account here!

A hairstreak (?cedar, Mitoura grynea) on the Squire Creek shore
Nels Bruseth's painting of Sloan Peak, as viewed from Sunup Lake.  The original
hangs in the Darrington Ranger Station. Copied from Destination Darrington