Monday, May 21, 2018

14-May-2018 Van Zandt, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
Rod Crawford still has several gridspaces in Whatcom County that he wants to sample that are also of interest to me in my search for the introduced thomisid, Ozyptila praticola. With this dual purpose in mind, we spent the day collecting in the vicinity of Van Zandt, Washington. I've already found O. praticola in Bellingham and, most recently, in Lynden. However, neither of us turned up any in recent visits to nearby Nugents Corner or Everson, so I had no particular expectations for what we might find this day.

Cemetery cone source in the distance
The fallen cone microhabitat
We started the day at the Van Zandt Cemetery, where I quickly homed in on a batch of fallen cones dropped by a huge Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) tree in the cemetery's back corner. I tapped 61 cones and got only two spiders, but both were identifiable: a female Micaria pulicaria (Gnaphosidae) and a juvenile Bassaniana utahensis (Thomisidae).

Molting Platnickina tincta
Mating Platnickina tincta
The top rail of the cemetery's chain link fence was already uncomfortably hot to the touch by the time I started perusing it, but that didn't stop numerous spiders from using it. Salticus scenicus (Salticidae) were especially noticeable running along the rails, as well as darting in and out of the narrow gaps between rails and the rail sleeves that connect rail pipes end-to-end. But the most exciting rail-running salticid I found was a male Synageles. Synageles has been collected only twice before in Washington, once by me during the Roy BioBlitz in 2009. It is so rare and was so long ago that I had totally forgotten about it until Rod reminded me. He posted a nice photo of one of the spiders from Roy here. The underside of the fence rails was also a busy realm, especially for the theridiid Platnickina tincta (Theridion tinctum). Individuals of this species were using the space to both molt and mate.

Rod sifting litter near one of my
moss source trees
Male Callobius pictus 
From there we moved on to Hard Scrabble Creek Gulch, an invitingly shady oasis on what was turning out to be quite a hot day. While Rod sifted litter, I sifted moss, then sifted more moss. The usual denizens were present, although I found no Ozyptila of any species. Though I'm pretty new to moss sifting, I've quickly learned that when I remove a slab of moss from a tree trunk and see that I've broken through a quarter-sized tunnel, I should keep a lookout for Callobius (Amaurobiidae) making a fast break from my sifting cloth. They can really move, especially on a hot day like this!

Lush riparian vegetation
Piggyback plant (Tolmiea menziesii)
blooming by creek
By this time I was not only hot but also feeling grimy from all the spores, pollen and other dusty stuff that billows out of dry moss when you harvest and sift it. Sweeping riparian vegetation and looking for spiders in aerial webs next to a babbling Hard Scrabble Creek proved to be just what I needed. Feeling refreshed, I collected riparian tree trunk moss and had one more sifting session before calling it a day.

Oops, left in the field too long
Headstone a handy height
for labeling samples
On the way home, Rod and I stopped briefly in Bryant and Arlington to pick up some cardboard live traps that I hadn't been able to retrieve as soon as I would have liked. Having been in place for over a month, and made of thin, single-sided cardboard, they were a little the worse for wear thanks to local gastropods. But the real disappointment came when I opened them and dozens upon dozens of baby earwigs (Order Dermaptera) tumbled out. Every channel was crammed with them. The only spider daring to enter one of these earwig nurseries was a Salticus scenicus, which had sensibly sequestered itself in a silken retreat.

These horses near the cemetery studiously looked away whenever
I got out the camera, but otherwise watched everything we did.

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