Saturday, June 18, 2016

9-June-2016 Liberty, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
With rain likely on the west side of the Cascades, Rod Crawford and I headed across Snoqualmie Pass to (hopefully) drier weather and my favorite microhabitat, ponderosa cones!

We centered our collecting around the former mining town of Liberty.  Our first site was Liberty Meadow, located just west of town.  From there we headed a few miles north up Lion Gulch into a lovely ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forest about 700 feet higher in elevation.

Liberty Meadow

Isolated ponderosas in Liberty Meadow
Lots of cones!
Liberty Meadow features a number of isolated ponderosas, so I decided to tap 50 cones dropped by one tree.  What I found in them was a surprise: almost every spider I tapped appeared to be of the same species, and one I didn't recognize. But they sure were beautiful.

Juvenile Steatoda, 1 of 14!
Oxyopes scalaris from pine foliage
I wondered whether this was a fluke, and so decided to tap another 50 cones that had fallen from a different isolated ponderosa.  The result was the same!  In all, I collected 18 spiders from 100 tapped cones, 14 of them being what turned out to be a Steatoda (Theridiidae).  Although the palps on many of them looked well-defined to the naked eye, they turned out to be penultimate males and so we couldn't identify the species.  Drat!
UPDATE (2 July 2016): We returned a few weeks later and collected mature specimens, identified as Steatoda washonaRead more about it here!

Rod had exhausted the habitats he was interested in by the time I was done tapping those 100 cones and beating the pine trees' foliage, so we drove on to our site up Lion Gulch.

Lion Gulch

Looking down at cone tapping site
(near car) from nearby hillside
Tiger lily (Lilium columbianum)
The lupines and lillies growing between the ponderosas on the gulch slopes were at their peak, a lovely sight.  We parked at a campsite just off the road and I began tapping a set of 50 ponderosa cones.

Fallen ponderosa cones in Lion Gulch
Female Gnaphosa muscorum w/egg
sac found under hillside rock
I collected 9 spiders from 5 families.  Three species were identifiable: the theridiids Dipoena lana and Euryopis formosa, and the gnaphosid Poecilochroa montana.  None of the Steatoda from the meadow, however.  This was only the second time I've tapped D. lana from cones, but P. montana is no stranger to them and of course I find E. formosa in cones at about half of eastern Washington sample sites.

You can read Rod's trip narrative here and view his photo album here!

Chipmunk licking the sandstone monolith on a nearby hilltop

No comments:

Post a Comment