Friday, July 29, 2016

23-July-2016 Union Creek, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge
Last summer Rod Crawford and I collected spiders at Sand Ridge Trailhead, located southeast of Mt. Rainier in Yakima County.  Today we decided to check out Union Creek Falls, located northeast of Mount Rainier about 20 miles due north of Sand Ridge Trailhead.  Since the elevation of the two sites is about the same, I figured I'd find ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) cones to tap just as easily this time as last time.  That is always an attractive prospect to me.  But Union Creek was a doubly enticing destination since to reach it we would drive through the little enclave of Greenwater.  Greenwater is the next town "up-canyon" from Enumclaw, which is the most southeastern place in western Washington where I've found the introduced thomisid Ozyptila praticola.  I was eager to make a brief cone-tapping stop in Greenwater to see if I could find O. praticola there.


Rod sorting a sweep sample in front of
my cone source
The fallen cone microhabitat
I decided to stop at the long-closed Buzzy's Greenwater Cafe.  Being closed, it offered plenty of parking, and the grounds were unlikely to be fastidiously manicured.  A towering Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) growing near the restaurant's main entrance had dropped numerous cones on tree litter and sparse herbs.

Enoplognatha thoracica
I tapped 50 cones and collected a juvenile harvestman and 2 juvenile spiders, a Xysticus and an erigonine.  I also turned over a few rocks and found a female Enoplognatha thoracica (Theridiidae), who immediately set to work rolling her egg sac, presumably in preparation for repairing the damage I had caused to her nest.  This introduced species is fairly common in western Washington; I have tapped if from cones at a dozen sites, and Rod and others have collected it from a variety of other microhabitats.  In the brief time I was tapping cones, Rod collected numerous additional species from herbs and conifer foliage.  Since Greenwater is in an unsampled gridspace, we have a good head start on a dedicated field day there.

Union Creek

Rod crossing log
bridge over Union Creek
A boulder-eye view of Union Creek
Falls and gorge
I noted a spindly western white pine (P. monticola) growing in the picnic area next to the trailhead.  I thought it might come in handy if I didn't find any ponderosas on the trail.  Our first destination was Union Creek Falls, but first we had to cross Union Creek.  The creek was running just high enough that rock-hopping wasn't possible.  Then Rod spotted the makeshift bridge: a log over the creek.  Someone had thoughtfully tied a rope above it to steady the wobbly.  Just a few minutes scramble from there and we were in the small but attractive Union Creek Falls gorge enjoying a cool, fine mist from the waterfall.  There were no good cone sources here, so after collecting spiders from the creek boulders and gorge wall, I continued up the trail in search of pines.

A ponderosa (l) and white pine
(r) flank the trail but neither
provided accessible cones
Perhaps this lizard and I were doing
the same thing in this bark pile:
hunting spiders
Several times along the trail I glimpsed tantalizing pines, but all were either out of reach on the other side of boulder talus, had dropped their cones over cliffs, or were too small to produce cones.  I finally gave up and tapped 50 Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) cones.  The resulting 3 spiders weren't terribly exciting, but at least one was mature, a female Lepthyphantes mercedes (Linyphiidae).

White pine cone source
near trailhead
Fallen white pine cones
Upon return to the trailhead I found that the pine I'd noted earlier had only a few fallen cones beneath it.  This was a disappointment.  But as I crossed the footbridge over Union Creek on my way to find Rod and let him know I was ready to leave, I found what I was looking for.  A towering western white pine was growing on the opposite bank of Union Creek, and it had dropped dozens upon dozens of cones!  I tapped 50 cones and collected only 5 spiders but 4 species.  That's a high maturity rate for a cone sample!  Besides another L. mercedes this sample contained a Micaria pulicaria, which we didn't find in any other microhabitat this trip.

Read Rod's trip narrative here.

The rock walls of Union Creek gorge were a good place to find Callobius
My camera barely captured the subtle lilac sheen on the abdomen of
this female Callobius.

Monday, July 18, 2016

13-July-2016 Friends Landing, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
It's getting late in the dry season for low elevation collecting, but Rod Crawford had a site in mind in Montesano where he hoped the coastal influence had maintained moister habitats.  He was right!  The forest understory around Friends Landing, which lies in the Chehalis River floodplain, was still lush and green.  A well-maintained paved trail, boardwalk and footbridge around Lake Quigg made the hike from the trailhead to the west end of the lake a breeze.  Looking at aerial photos, Rod had spotted a few conifers in the deciduous forest near the lake outlet, so we agreed it would be a good place to start collecting.

Lake Quigg Outlet

Rod photographing Sitka spruce trunk
Fallen Sitka spruce cones
The conifers turned out to be Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis).  I'd only tapped Sitka spruce cones once before, in a dry meadow on Lummi Island.  In contrast, the spruce trees at Lake Quigg were in a tidal swamp, each tree creating its own tiny island.  The only fallen cones available to tap were those that had escaped "tidal cleansing" by falling onto these tiny islands.  I managed to find and tap only 46 cones.  Many cones were still loaded with seeds, meaning there wasn't room for spiders in the cone scale pockets, so I wasn't too surprised to collect only two spiders from the lot.  One was a juvenile linyphiid, the other a penultimate male Xysticus (Thomisidae).

Theridion varians female with
egg sacs and spiderlings
Footbridge over Lake Quigg outlet
While Rod sifted moss and leaf litter, I turned my attention to footbridge railings and found numerous female Theridion varians (Theridiidae) with egg sacs on the underside of the top rail.  Back in June Rod collected an atypically colored T. varians (photo here) on the banks of the Nisqually River.  The females I collected from the Quigg Lake footbridge presented yet another color morph.  Just another reminder that you can't necessarily rely on coloration when identifying spiders.  Theridion varians is a tiny species, so I didn't see the details of what I was photographing at Lake Quigg until I downloaded the images.  As it turned out, I photographed not only a female and egg sacs, but a whole herd of spiderlings as well!


Male Poecilochroa
Moving on to the very tidy campground on the south shore of the lake, I would have stepped on this male Poecilochroa (probably) montana (Gnaphosidae) had he not moved.  Presumably the species didn't evolve that coloration to be cryptic on asphalt, but for sure they are.

Douglas-firs were second cone source
A row of Douglas-firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii) growing between the campground office and the tent camping area provided me with another opportunity to tap fallen cones.  Despite the general moist lushness of the area, the scales on these cones were completely open.  A pleasant surprise!  Yet the spider sample I tapped from them was another yawner.  From 50 tapped cones I collected only 2 spiders: 1 male and 1 juvenile Tenuiphantes tenuis (Linyphiidae).

Read Rod's take on the day here!

Young swallows have almost outgrown their nest
under the eaves of a fishing shelter

A female Lariniodes patagiatus in her daytime retreat
on the outside of an outhouse
Lariniodes patagiatus female

Saturday, July 9, 2016

8-July-2016 Puyallup and Parkland, Washington

Site location map.  Click to enlarge.
Today I was back on the trail of the introduced crab spider Ozyptila praticola (Thomisidae).  My goal was to tap cones in the Puyallup area in order to close a gap in my samples along the apparent southern edge of O. praticola's local range.  A drive along Pioneer Way on the southern edge of the Puyallup Valley gave me a refreshing peek at some of the farms in this rich valley before I began my upland urban and suburban sampling.  I took two samples in Puyallup, the first at South Hill Mall and the second at a small apartment complex.  I completed a third sample in Parkland on my way back to Seattle.

South Hill Mall

South Hill Mall cone source
A fallen P. nigra cone
A small grove of the black pine trees (Pinus nigra) grows on a sliver of land between the South Hill Mall parking lot and some neighboring businesses.  The area under the trees had largely escaped the ravages of groundskeeping, and so I had no trouble finding 50 cones to tap, most lying on luxurious beds of pine litter.  In an urban setting, this is a real treat!

I tapped 50 cones and collected 21 spiders and 5 species, a fine start to my day!  As is so often the case in this part of the state, the introduced species Tenuiphantes tenuis dominated the sample.  But I did find a few native spiders, including two species of Tachygyna as well as Phrurotimpus borealis.  As for the target species: I found no O. praticola.

Apartment Complex

One tree...
...many cones.
Like the mall site, this spot had escaped the rake and had accumulated hundreds of fallen Scots pine (P. sylvestris) cones, all lying on pine tree litter.  But when I tapped 50 of these cones, I found only one juvenile linyphiid.  Well, at least the apartment residents were friendly, which I always very much appreciate.


Towering ponderosas...
...dropped plenty of accessible cones
I've read about the natural disjunct population of ponderosa pines (P. ponderosa) that grows within the boundaries of Joint Base Lewis McChord, but I've never had the opportunity to tap its cones.  So as I worked my way west towards JBLM and Interstate 5, I was delighted to see the occasional ponderosa towering over homes in Spanaway and Parkland.  Not all of the disjunct population grows in forbidden territory!  All of the trees I spotted were growing on private property, however, so it wasn't until I spotted these trees on two opposing street corners in Parkland that I found caches of accessible fallen cones.

Female Lepthyphantes leprosus
Juvenile Micaria sp.
Tapping 50 cones I collected 12 spiders and 2 species, P. borealis again and Lepthyphantes leprosus.  The cones also held 3 large juvenile Tegenaria, reminding me that the size of the gap between cone scales is probably a limiting factor in which individuals can utilize a fallen cone's inner spaces.  I also tapped a juvenile ant mimic Micaria from these cones, the only spider all day that made me say "wow!".  My photo (right) doesn't do it justice.  In life, it looked like a red and black ant.  A really beautiful animal.

The sets of spiders I collected from Puyallup and Parkland were quite similar in composition to others I've tapped from cones in urban or suburban sites in the southern Puget Sound region.  And like those collected from other sites south or west of the Puyallup River, they lacked O. praticola.

A C-17 military transport from JBLM took wing as I tapped cones in Parkland

Sunday, July 3, 2016

First Records of Zodarion rubidum (Zodariidae) in Washington, USA

Zodarion rubidum female from
Gold Bar, Washington
On a stop in Gold Bar on 6 June 2016 to tap an additional set of spiders from fallen Douglas-fir cones, I collected a mysterious female spider that I couldn't immediately identify.  When I showed the specimen to Rod Crawford yesterday, true to form he worked his way through numerous keys until he discovered the answer: my spider was a Zodarion rubidum (Zodariidae), a Washington first!

Zodarion rubidum is a European species first collected in North American in Wampum, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania in 1967.  It was subsequently collected in Colorado in 1999, Quebec in 2003, Indiana in 2013, Illinois in 2014, and British Columbia and Ohio on dates unreported in the links.

I decided I had better re-check the first set of spiders I collected from Gold Bar on 9 May 2016, because according to my notes I had collected a male spider that I hadn't gotten around to identifying yet.  The main reason I had been sampling in Gold Bar was to determine the local range of the introduced thomisid crab spider Ozyptila praticola, so identification of other spiders has been of secondary importance to me.  I checked that male specimen today, and it too turns out to be Z. rubidum!

Next I re-checked other unidentified specimens I'd made notes on like "odd eye arrangement".  Sure enough, I had previously collected juvenile Zodarion in DuPont on 28 November 2015 and in Tacoma on 1 April 2016.  Indications are that Z. rubidum is established in western Washington.

Map of Zodarion rubidum or Zodarion sp. collection sites in Washington.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

26-June-2016 Liberty Meadow & Red Top Lookout, Washington

Sample site location map. Click to enlarge.
I was glad that Rod Crawford had another gridspace off of Blewett Pass Highway (US97) in the stack of suggested destinations for the day, because I was eager to make a quick stop back at Liberty Meadow.  I had tapped over a dozen unusual-looking but unfortunately immature Steatoda (Theridiidae) from 100 fallen ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) cones there a few weeks prior.  I was eager to return and tap some (hopefully) now-mature specimens so that we could identify the species.  So we chose the area around Red Top Lookout on the Teanaway Ridge as our primary destination for the day, but first took a detour to Liberty Meadow on our way there.

Liberty Meadow

Immature Steatoda washona photographed 9-Jun-2016
in Liberty Meadow
On our return trip to Liberty Meadow I tapped 28 previously untapped cones from one of the Steatoda-rich deposits I'd sampled last time.  This time I collected 8 Steatoda, half of which were mature.  Yay!  Rod identified them as Steatoda washona.  In 1960, based on records available at the time, W. J. Gertsch described the range of S. washona as "Oregon and California, southward in the mountains into northern Baja California and eastward into Idaho and Utah and northern Arizona".  In other words, Washington not included.  But in 1984 Wayne Maddison collected S. washona near Kennewick, Washington (Benton County) in an Artemesia steppe environment.  The S. washona we collected at Liberty Meadow are the first to confirm Maddison's 1984 Washington finding, and will constitute the first specimens of the species in the Burke Museum's collection.

Meadow North of Red Top Lookout

Stunning meadow flowers
One of my cone sources on
the meadow
Our first collecting spot in the gridspace we were sampling this day was a meadow just north of the Red Top prominence and surrounding forest.  The wild flowers were in peak bloom, a truly lovely sight.  Seeing no pines in the area, I decided to tap cones dropped by the Douglas-firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii) that dotted the area.  I got skunked!  All I found in 50 cones was 5 juvenile Leptobunus harvestmen.  Spiders had been in those cones, though; I found their abandoned silk structures in many.

Female Steatoda albomaculata
on my thumb
Darker female S. albomaculata morph
Seeing as there were innumerable rocks to turn in this glorious meadow, I shifted my efforts to that microhabitat and soon discovered that another species of Steatoda, S. albomaculata according to Rod, was dominant here.

Female Steatoda adding silk to her
egg sac
Male S. albomaculata found beneath
cliffside rock
Usually the S. albomaculata were clinging to the undersides of the rocks I turned over, but one rock had been serving as the roof of a nursery chamber.  I had the pleasure of watching a female adding silk to the exterior of her fluffy egg sac.  Steatoda albomaculata were also the most common species I found under and around the exposed cliffside rocks along the trail to the Red Top summit.

Red Top Summit

Stunted Douglas-firs on Red Top
Spider-free summit cones
Growing on the Red Top summit are a few stunted Douglas-firs and, surprisingly, due to the altitude, ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa).  I tapped another set of 50 Douglas-fir cones and again got skunked.  But if you're looking for ants, these are the cones for you!

Blue Creek Trailhead

Cone source at Blue Creek
trailhead: western white pine
Fallen western white pine cones
After wrapping up our Red Top sampling, we stopped at an additional site about 500 meters lower in elevation.  This put us solidly back in the ponderosa pine zone, which was our goal.  But by chance there was a western white pine (Pinus monticola) conveniently located at the trailhead, so I opted to tap 50 of its fallen cones.  Many of them were laden with sand washed from the trail by runoff rainwater, but I was still able to collect 10 spiders and 3 species: the common Cryphoeca exlineae (Agelenidae), the not as common Zanomys aquilonia (Amaurobiidae), and a Meioneta (Linyphiidae) still to be identified.

Be sure to read Rod's account of the day here!
Distant meadows and Teanaway Ridge visible from trail to lookout
Sphecid wasp on yellow flowers
Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva) growing in the scree
"In-flight beverage service"
Male Steatoda albomaculata fighting in a cliffside web.  Chelicerae
open wide, fangs bared, lots of fearsome lunging.