Monday, July 24, 2017

18-July-2017 North Mountain, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
Since habitats on the east side of the Cascades are now too dry to be productive, Rod Crawford and I decided to head north to North Mountain, a mid-elevation site near Darrington in Snohomish County. We collected in the area in May of 2016, but at lower elevations. I was excited to reach to fire lookout atop North Mountain and take in the views of Whitehorse Mountain, Mount Baker and perhaps even get a glimpse of Glacier Peak. Oh, and collect spiders there, too...

Rod on final approach to the
fire lookout.
Mt Baker as seen from the lookout. The
view was hazy due to moist marine air.
After some confusion as to which road was the one leading to the lookout, we arrived at the locked gate and continued the final 1.5 miles on foot. It was a hot and somewhat humid hike, but a refreshing breeze was blowing through the lookout, which was under renovation and therefore had no windows. The views were just as stunning as I'd hoped.

But to work! After feasting my eyes on the scenery, I came back down to earth and set about tapping Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) cones near the base of the lookout. Except for a few harvestmen, however, those cones were arachnid-free.

Female Orodrassus canadensis
guarding her egg sac.
Female Pardosa mackenziana with
egg sac
The renovation work on the lookout meant that there were pieces of wood scattered about, so I next began looking beneath them for spiders. I didn't find many, but what I found certainly made the effort worthwhile. One wooden post on a concrete slab was sheltering a male Cybaeus reticulatus (Cybaeidae) and a female Orodrassus canadensis (Gnaphosidae). When I rolled the post aside, the top of the Orodrassus' nest-refugium got pulled off. This left her and her egg sac visible for a nice photo. I also found a few female Pardosa mackenziana (Lycosidae) under stones in a roadside outcrop a few hundred feet below the lookout.

Male Misumena vatia stepping onto
draglines that led to...
...a female Misumena vatia eating
a fly.
Big swaths of goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) were in full and glorious bloom along the roadside, so while Rod searched for conifer litter to sift, I began examining goatsbeard inflorescences. Not surprisingly, everyone's favorite crab spider Misumena vatia (Thomisidae) was numerous therein and conspicuous. I spent quite some time observing a male traveling on draglines between two adjacent inflorescences. Each inflorescence had an actively-feeding penultimate female near its apex.

Clubiona pacifica nest in goatsbeard
Opening the Clubiona pacifica nest
made in goatsbeard leaflet
As fun as it always is to watch Misumena vatia, the really exciting, novel observation of the day came as Rod and I began our walk back down to the car. As Rod was diligently sweeping roadside herbs, I was quite honestly just enjoying a leisurely downhill ramble while photographing the occasional bee or spider in the nearly endless stream of roadside goatsbeard. That's when I noticed that something had folded the end of a goatsbeard leaflet into a neat, triangular package.

Opened Clubiona pacifica
nest after removal of female.
Clubiona pacifica nest in alder leaf
Upon opening it, we discovered a female Clubiona pacifica (Clubionidae) and her egg sac inside! Water droplets on the inside of the silk-lined package indicated that this was perhaps a moisture-retention mechanism as well as a predator control device.

Clubiona pacifica juvenile in silken tube
Shortly thereafter I spotted another triangular C. pacifica nest, this time made from an alder (Alnus) leaf. I also found a third, albeit juvenile Clubiona in a tubular silken structure in a goatsbeard leaflet that had been folded in half lengthwise.

Lower Doug-fir cone site
Productive Doug-fir cones
Heading back down the mountain, we stopped in a stretch of mature Douglas-fir and red-cedar (Thuja plicata) forest where Rod spotted some old stumps and downed wood he wanted to tap. I decided to take another crack at tapping Doug-fir cones, and this time had some luck. I tapped 100 cones and collected 16 spiders from 3 families. At 7 individuals, Cryphoeca exlineae (Agelenidae) dominated the sample and was the only identifiable species present.

Read Rod's account here.

A female clodius parnassian (Parnassius clodius) near the
North Mountain lookout

View of Whitehorse Mountain as seen from a clearcut on North Mountain.
Fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) in foreground.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

16-July-2017 Granite Falls and Lake Roesiger, Washington

Collection sites of mature Ozyptila praticola (blue) and
O. pacifica (yellow). The red pin marks the location
of Granite Falls. Ozyptila pacifica data courtesy of
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.
Back in May, 2016, I tapped pine cones in Granite Falls for my ongoing study of the distribution of the introduced crab spider Ozyptila praticola (Thomisidae) in Washington state. Frustratingly, what I found there were juvenile Ozyptila. Although I suspected that they were O. praticola, I can't rule out the possibility that they were the native species O. pacifica (or some other species) since the Washington ranges of O. praticola and O. pacifica overlap (see map, right). I returned to Granite Falls this month in hope of collecting mature Ozyptila.

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
I tapped cones at two sites in Granite Falls, then drove south to Lake Roesiger Park to tap an additional two sets. Both locations are in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. I'm looking to see if there is evidence that O. praticola has crossed that threshold.

Granite Falls

Pine cone source at car wash
Cozy nest of pine cones and needles
My first site in Granite Falls was the car wash on the east side of the business district. I had eyed this spot numerous times as I passed it on the way to Mountain Loop Highway and the innumerable hiking destinations beyond. The site has a planting strip that includes a black pine (Pinus nigra) tree surrounded by dense shrubs. Fallen needles and cones get ensconced in the shrubs, escaping removal by groundskeepers. I tapped 110 well-opened cones but collected mainly juvenile harvestmen (18!). Of the 7 spiders present, only Platnickina tincta (Theridiidae) was identifiable to species and the only crab spider in my sample was a Philodromus. Although spiders were relatively few there, I certainly enjoyed friendly conversation (and permission to continue!) with the owner of the car wash and others who happened by as I was working.

My second site in Granite Falls was in a residential area a few blocks from the car wash. I tapped 100 fallen Pinus monticola cones that had come to rest under a rhododendron hedge and collected 38 spiders from 6 families. Four species were identifiable, but the most common spiders were juvenile Tegenaria (15) and juvenile Steatoda (11). The Ozyptila count here: 1 juvenile and 0 adults. That's even more frustrating than the 3 juveniles I collected in 2016. It's the curse of the juvenile Ozyptila! I decided it was a good time to stop for a delicious and very satisfying late lunch at Barbeque Bucket before proceeding to Lake Roesiger.

Lake Roesiger Park

Site 1 at Lake Roesiger Park
I tapped my first set of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) cones beneath a small grove of trees right by the lakeshore. It was quite pleasant to smell the fresh lake air and hear people frolicking in the water as I tapped 100 cones. The exercise produced a multitude of harvestmen but only 9 spiders, most of which were Cryphoeca exlineae (Agelenidae).

Site 2 cones on needle and
maple leaf litter
Site 2 at Lake Roesiger Park
My second set of cones came from the forest edge opposite the parking lot with respect to the lake. Here, 50 tapped cones produced only two juvenile spiders, a Callobius (Amaurobiidae) and a gnaphosid. I found no Ozyptila in either set of cones.

Monday, July 17, 2017

12-July-2017 Ruby Creek, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
Although it was getting late in the dry season for trips into the ponderosa pine belt, Rod Crawford and I decided to make one last foray. Our destination was the Ruby Creek watershed in Chelan County. In retrospect, we should have selected a higher elevation site; after a solid day's work, we had collected only 17 or 18 species. The habitats were just too dried out. And unlike in recent weeks, my cone samples didn't contribute even one species to the site list this time. However, I was able to take three full cone samples and one partial one. Each of them contributes to our knowledge of which spider families use the fallen cone microhabitat during the dry season. Data points aren't always individually flashy, but together they do paint a picture. Or so we hope.

Northwest End of Tronsen Ridge

Fallen Doug-fir cones on
ridgetop roadside
Fallen ponderosa cones
under ceanothus shrub
Our first stop was on the ridge separating the Ruby Creek and Little Camas Creek watersheds, elevation about 3,660 feet. This little ridge is itself part of the larger Tronsen Ridge. Tronsen Ridge in turn is part of the Wenatchee Mountains, the range in the Cascades that separates the Yakima River and Wenatchee River watersheds.

The introduced sulphur cinquefoil
(Potentilla recta) was in full bloom
Sleepy Parabagrotis moth
tapped from a cone
I tapped a full set of 50 Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) cones here as well as a partial set of 25 ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) cones. The Doug-fir cones were easily accessible roadside cones. The ponderosa cones required a little hill scrambling and then burrowing under a redstem ceanothus (Ceanothus sanguineus) that encircled my cone source. I collected 7 juvenile spiders from the Doug-fir cones and 3 juveniles from the ponderosa cones. The families represented were typical for this microhabitat: Amaurobiidae, Anyphaenidae, Gnaphosidae, Linyphiidae, Pimoidae and Thomisidae.

Ruby Creek

Looking uphill to source of
roadside ponderosa cones
The lush surroundings that the closed
road cones rolled into
We made our second stop where the forest road crosses a tributary of Ruby Creek. I tapped two full sets of 50 ponderosa cones nearby, both at elevations of about 2,660 feet. Both sets of cones had accumulated where steep hills met a roadside ditch. I found one set along the main forest road, where it was fully exposed to the sun. The other set was along a shady, closed forest road that was quickly being overtaken by bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum).

Rod the Rock Chucker making the
road surface safe for my city car
I collected 2 juvenile spiders from the "sunny" set and 6 from the "shady" set. The families represented in these samples (Agelenidae, Araneidae, Clubionidae, Linyphiidae, and Lycosidae) were again typical, for the most part. I rarely tap araneids from fallen cones, but it has happened before. The absence of theridiids from all of the day's samples was unusual since the family Theridiidae accounts for 23% of spiders tapped from fallen cones in eastern Washington. However, like the odd araneid in a cone tapping sample, an absence of theridiids has happened before.

A Lorquin's Admiral (Limenitis lorquini) sipping salts from Rod's pack.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

2-July-2017 Cooper Pass, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
Rod Crawford had been wanting to sample this gridspace for two years, and now we were finally able to fulfill his wish. I had high hopes that we'd find some western white pines (Pinus monticola) there, since that was our experience in the neighboring Cooper River gridspace.

Douglas-fir cone source with
a glimpse of Cooper Lake
Lots of fallen cones
My first collection site was a rocky clearing just north of Cooper Pass that offered a nice view of Cooper Lake and the surrounding countryside. Based on a still-smoldering campfire and the occasional wad of used toilet paper in the underbrush, this was a popular camping spot. Finding no pines here, I tapped 100 Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) cones and collected a disappointing 6 juvenile spiders. Two of them were Euryopis formosa (Theridiidae) which can be identified to species here from juveniles, so at least there was that.

Male Misumenops sierrensis trying
to mate with female Misumena vatia
Ceanothus in bloom harbored two
species of crab spiders
Whenever the breeze quieted, the mosquitoes began swarming. I found this a great motivator to keep moving, and so collected quite thorough beat samples from conifer foliage and Ceanothus velutinus shrubs. While collecting from the Ceanothus I happened to scoop a female Misumena vatia and a male Misumenops sierrensis (both thomisids) into my dry vial at the same time, with an interesting result. The male immediately climbed onto the female's abdomen and began maneuvering into mating position.

Rod emerging from a marsh
with a bag of leaf litter
Penstemon and Sedum on
rocky outcrop
Since my Douglas-fir cone sample was so disappointing, Rod suggested we take a closer look at a small white pine that we had passed on the walk to our site. I agreed and sure enough, was able to find 17 cones in the dense stand of bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) beneath. Unfortunately they, too, were spider-poor and contained only one juvenile lycosid. What these cones did have in abundance was resin that had transformed in the summer heat from a solid into a gummy liquid. My hands became so sticky that I could barely get my hand into my pocket to retrieve my dry vial. After I was done tapping those cones I had to use alcohol from a wet vial to clean the resin from my hands. Otherwise, they would have stuck to the steering wheel!

A tailed frog in Kachess River
Impressive structure complete
with shelves, oven and chimney
From there we drove to the nearest Kachess River crossing. Seeing no pine cones, I collected spiders from a rather complex stacked-stone oven at a makeshift campsite, then photographed a tailed frog (Ascaphus truei) on the riverbank before accidentally stepping into the river myself.

Kachess River near Mineral Creek
trailhead, looking upstream.
Female Cybaeopsis macarius
guarding her egg sac under
a streamside rock
Our final stop of the day was further down the Kachess River at the Mineral Creek trail crossing. There were a number of stumps standing midstream, indicating that the river had changed course at some point. I turned riverside rocks while Rod sifted a final batch of leaf litter. Among the three species I collected was Cybaeopsis macarius (Amaurobiidae), a species I had collected in pine cones at Cole Creek the week before.

Read Rod's trip description here.

Sedum in bloom, Arctostaphylos uvo-ursi developing fruit

27-June-2017 Cole Creek, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
Rod Crawford and I headed into the Cole Creek valley, which lies southwest of Easton. The Forest Service roads were in good repair but were in active use by fully loaded logging trucks. I appreciated the attentive driver of one such truck who stopped so that we could pass safely. I was relieved when we turned off onto a side road the loggers weren't using and parked near the restful Cole Creek crossing.

Near Cole Creek

One of my cone sources in the
dense forest above Cole Creek
Fallen cones in dappled light
Scouting out the area, I quickly spotted a western white pine (Pinus monticola) growing along another side road that was almost grown closed with alder (Alnus rubra). But although there were numerous cones on the tree, I could find none on the ground beneath it! Luckily, several additional white pines were visible in the surrounding forest. It took some uphill bushwhacking to reach them, but my efforts paid off. I found and tapped 56 fallen white pine cones, which produced 29 spiders from 9 families. Eight species were identifiable, but none dominated the sample. This was the only microhabitat in this gridspace from which we collected 4 of these 8 species.


Roadside cones
Looking south down the road,
pine tree on right, part of Cole
Butte in distance
After my Cole Creek cone sample was in the bag, I thought I'd indulge in a little sightseeing. My plan was to visit a small subalpine lake farther up the valley that I'd seen on the map. When I didn't find the lake after walking far enough to have reached it, I realized that I had taken the wrong road. But the road I was on did offer some nice consolation prizes. Not only did I enjoy exploring a beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) meadow and have great views of Kachess Lake and Three Queens mountains, I found a nice deposit of fallen white pine cones right next to the road!

Male Philodromus oneida
tapped from cone
Beargrass and lupine in
a forest clearing
As chance would have it, I again found 56 fallen cones to tap. This batch of cones produced 34 spiders, 22 of which were Tennesseellum formicum (Linyphiidae).

Only one of the 4 species identifiable in this sample was collected in any other microhabitat this day. Adding the three cone-only species I collected here to the four I had collected from the site near Cole Creek, 7 of the approximately 34 species that Rod and I collected this day were collected only from fallen pine cones!


Roadside ponderosas in Easton
Some cones were on gravel, others
on pine needle litter.
On the way home we made a quick stop in Easton to tap some ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) cones. Since the cones had fallen near the Burlington Northern railroad tracks, we saw this as an opportunity to perhaps find more Zodarion rubidum (Zodariidae). But 50 tapped cones landed us almost no spiders at all: only 2 juvenile linyphiids and a juvenile philodromid.

Read Rod's account of the day here.

Looking north from below Goat Peak: Cabin Creek on valley floor,
Kachess Lake in the distance, and Three Queens on the horizon.