Monday, August 1, 2016

27-July-2016 Mount Zion, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
We left Seattle a little earlier than usual in order to catch the 9:40 a.m. Edmonds-Kingston ferry, only to find it delayed by fog.  Well, that gave Rod Crawford and me plenty of time to talk over our collecting strategy for the day.  Our destination was Mount Zion, located a few miles northwest of Quilcene in Clallam County.  This would be my first opportunity to tap pine cones in Clallam Co.

A day for fog horns
Gnome-plant in bloom on
the dark forest floor
The Mount Zion trail must be magical to hike in the spring, when the rhododendrons are in bloom.  Rhodies are a major part of the forest understory here, growing 8-10 feet tall and in places probably creating a sort of "flowered tunnel" effect.  This time of year, nothing so showy was happening.  However, two intriguing myco-heterotrophic plant species were blooming subtly on the forest floor, woodland pinedrops (Pterospora andromedea) and gnome-plant (Hemitomes congestum).

Pine with a deceptively white
Pinedrops backlit by
a setting sun
After reaching the summit, I continued hiking along the ridge towards the southeast where some cliffs were supposed to provide an excellent view as well as, I hoped, a different spider fauna from what we were finding in the forest.  About half way to that point I was delighted to spot some western white pine (Pinus monticola) cones next to the trail.  It took me a few minutes to locate the tree dropping them because, like I'd found near Square Lake in neighboring Kitsap County, the trunk was uncharacteristically white with what I presumed were epiphytic lichens.  If I hadn't seen the cones around it or noticed the whorled branching pattern, I probably would have mistaken it for an alder.

Callobius nomeus female with egg sac
on a cliff face in the forest
Fallen cone microhabitat
I tapped 50 cones and collected 7 spiders and 3 species.  All three were common litter species, but one of them, Walckenaeria cornuella (Linyphiidae), I had never tapped from fallen conifer cones before.  And, this was the only microhabitat we collected it from this day.  In addition to spiders, these cones also contained native harvestman and centipedes.

Snail on cliff face in forest
Female Zygiella dispar with spiderlings
on a sign at the trailhead
The trail was remarkably silent the entire day.  No rushing water, no crickets, no cicadas, no birds except for one raven, no mammals except for one barking chickaree and a few passing humans.  And no airplanes flying over or highway traffic rumbling in the distance.  Just wind.  It was one of the most silent trails I've ever been on.

This rock dove (Columba livia) joined us for the morning ferry crossing to Kingston

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