Spider Collector's Journal (17th page: 2007)        Copyright © 2007 by  Rod Crawford

As explained on the first page, most of these notes of fun (and not so fun) trips to collect spiders for research at the Burke Museum, often accompanied by capable field volunteer Laurel Ramseyer, appeared in Scarabogram, newsletter of "Scarabs: The Bug Society," in their original forms. Dates of field trips head each paragraph. Maps showing the location of sites within Washington state follow the grid system outlined in the Washington Spider Checklist. RETURN TO INDEX

Where you see this button in a field trip account, click it to get a page of collecting site photos!

Washington map showing locality

16 IV 2007: I'd been hoping to visit Stone Quarry Canyon (south of Ellensburg and just into the eastern Washington steppes) since 2004, when it was rejected, sight unseen, by a botanist friend. This time I was with a more open-minded naturalist, Laurel Ramseyer, who wanted to experience spider collecting and had never been to eastern Washington. I don't think she was disappointed! The canyon itself is well hidden, with no public road access but a sizable chunk of state land along its length, mostly surrounded by private ranch land. On aerial photos, I'd spotted a small, intriguing group of trees in the canyon amid miles of sagebrush country. After briefly threatening rain, the weather started to clear; we parked on the passable side of a deep washout and hiked up into solitude, with meadowlarks and wildflowers adding to the day's pleasures.
          The canyon and its grove were easily found, the trees proving to be Douglas maple (not often found in this part of the state). Leaf litter wasn't too productive, but the several spider species found were all interesting. Laurel wished to be helpful, so I set her to looking under rocks on the steep canyon sides; she added a number of good records. Wolf spiders were active but all the mature ones were one species, Pardosa wyuta. The sagebrush and diverse riparian flora had a reasonably rich spider fauna. The best find of the day (spotted by Laurel) was a largish, pale crab spider on a flowering branch of Ribes: first eastern Washington record of Misumenops importunus! We hiked back to the car via an abandoned "earth house" where two additional species were found under boards. I brought home 3 immature spiders from under rocks, all of which matured within a week for additional records. The day's total, 25 species including rare members of Arcuphantes, Disembolus and Wubana (also several ticks, some of which made their presence felt after our return home); 2 young women on horse and muleback were the only humans seen.

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20 IV 2007: Laurel is hooked! She liked her first spider collecting trip so much, we've had regular outings since. Our second, on a short day (leaving town mid-morning) was to a relatively close place not easily reached by bus, which I'd found by investigating its intriguing name: English Boom. It was a bustling embarkation point for water transport of logs (by the English Lumber Co.) in the 1920s and 30s, but now is a peaceful salt marsh with scattered pilings rising out of Skagit Bay; the marsh, beach and some nice woods are an Island County nature preserve with some public access. See this page and this article for more details. The site was easily reached, and we walked east along the sandy berm (raised outer ridge of the beach).
          The first spider collected, a speckled lycosid on the sand, was a new state record of Arctosa perita (see album). Nearly all the other numerous wolf spiders were the more common Pardosa metlakatla. Sweeping the salt marsh was only minimally productive at the outer edge, but got better farther in. Salticus and Micaria were active on the logs. Andrenid bees, cantharid beetles, and paper wasps were numerous. Returning along the berm, we scanned all sandy areas carefully, and turned up two females of a habitat-limited jumping spider, Habronattus ophrys; unfortunately the spectacular males of this species were not to be found. In the woods above the beach, I sifted maple litter and got 20 species from this habitat alone! Understory and conifer foliage were also productive. On the way back to the car I couldn't resist beating one last fir tree, at the edge of a private yard; and got the rare Trachelas californicus there! Total, 48 species in about 6 hours!

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26 IV 2007: On our next trip, threatening weather led Laurel and I to return to the dry side of the Cascades. I had several incomplete spider samples from the Leavenworth area, souvenirs of trips with butterfly collectors (who flit from site to site like a butterfly visiting flowers). To make sure of completing at least one, we started at an area on Eagle Creek where I already had 13 species: a valley with wide riparian meadows (farmed, in part) and pine-fir forests interspersed with steppe habitat on the slopes. The site that looked best was just within the national forest.
          Overcast skies prevented any spider activity in the meadow, so we proceeded to the cottonwood-alder creekside woods. There, I sifted litter while Laurel swept understory foliage (mainly nettles - very potent at this season!) and investigated spiders in aerial webs and under log bark. The litter fauna included the shield-backed microspider Pelecopsis and the attractive litter jumping spider Sitticus sylvestris (see album). Then the sun penetrated the clouds and wolf spiders started to run! Pardosa mackenziana was in the woods; P. coloradensis, P. wyuta, Tarentula kochii and the antlike Micaria were running in the meadow. On the way back to the car, Laurel spotted a cobweb suspended over an empty small mammal burrow, and I impressed her by digging up a nice black widow from it. We wrapped up the Eagle Creek sample by beating some conifer foliage down the road. Laurel is especially interested in flower crab spiders because of a book she's writing, so we stopped a mile downstream by a hillside covered with blooming Balsamorhiza. Many of these hosted lurking immature Misumenops, and one mature male Misumena vatia was hiding behind a stem (see album).

The rest of the day was devoted to an area south of Leavenworth where I had only 3 previous species. I'd pre-selected a site on Mill Creek where an intriguing mountain meadow appeared to be just a little way off the road. Unfortunately there was no easy way to ascend the steep road cut onto the ridge with the meadow. However, there were small, scrubby bigleaf maples by the creek (which snow had only recently left), and some spiders were sifted from the litter. Laurel got some good records by turning rocks on a steep skid road across a tributary from the ridge. Several species were beaten from grand fir foliage. Dusk found us above the road in a small glade (access to the big meadow still eluded us) where Laurel found a photogenic Cyclosa conica web; its denizen later matured in the lab making 22 species from this second area. A productive day!

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28-9 IV 2007: Since February, I'd been trying to get together with old caving friend Larry McTigue on a cave-hunting / spider-collecting trip to Okanogan County. It finally materialized on the first nice weekend of the year. After a long, long (and expensive) drive we finally crossed into the state's second-largest county. At Pateros we took a little side trip up the Methow River so I could supplement a 10-species sample taken at nearby Alta Lake in 1963 by my old friend Bob Thomson. Hoping for a good leaf litter sample, I precariously picked my way down a steep gully into the Methow River canyon, but the cottonwood litter was so dry it yielded only 2 species - both good ones, though. One species was found under a rock and a nice male Xysticus was "sunning" on a riverbank boulder - then back up the gully for much more productive collecting in sagebrush near the car. By a major stroke of luck, the 12 species taken in 2 hours were all different from the 10 prior records, making 22 in all.

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On to the next stop! Larry's cave-hunting can sometimes be a little off the wall. This time he wanted to check out a place shown on maps as Pothole Canyon, in hopes that the "pothole" would be a cave. I tried to tell him that it sure didn't look that way on detailed maps and photos; but I was very willing to go there since I badly needed a spider sample from the area. So we wandered around intricate, poorly marked, bumpy roads in the foothills of the Okanogan Highlands, on land that may or may not have been public (certainly no private signs), for mile after mile. Finally (after passing a mesa that did look like it might have a small hole or two in it), we arrived at the spot called The Pothole on the topo map. "Well, here we are. This is the Pothole." "It ain't much!" So we drove back to the safe side of an open gate we'd passed, and camped in the ravine of Wanacut Creek which I thought looked promising, spider-wise.
          There was about an hour's worth of daylight which I used sifting aspen litter by my tent-site (see album) which at 7 species was the best-spidered litter on the trip. After a somewhat uneasy sleep due to moonlight shining right into my tent, I got up shortly after dawn to beat conifer foliage, putting several species into a vial which I promptly lost, and had to re-collect from more conifers! Fortunately for me, Larry had a nice comfortable bed in his truck and slept in while I crossed the creek and collected under stones and in sagebrush — finding an abundance of ticks in the process. Finally the sun emerged enough to make wolf spiders (Pardosa coloradensis and P. altamontis) active in the small streamside meadow. A pile of boards and a rotten log produced additional species for a total of 20.
          I next proposed to Larry that he drop me in a more accessible site back by the Okanogan River while he went on to the next cave lead, but he preferred to wait while I collected there. Fortunately the grassy riverside glades were so productive that I got a sufficient sample in just 1 hour, sweeping the grass, finding diverse aerial webs, and a few Pardosa xerampelina (see album) running about to bring the total for the gridspace up to 30. Despite being right by some railroad tracks (where I wouldn't let cows graze if they were my cows) there were lots more ticks here too.

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After checking out a roadside tunnel (which proved to be artificial and full of garbage), our last stop for the Okanogan weekend was the saddle east of Cave Mountain, parking area for well-known Albright Cave. This is a beautiful spot in the spring, and relatively tick-free. Larry went to rig the cave and check out a "digging lead" while I collected from young firs and grassy understory in the forest; willow litter beside Cave Lake; and sagebrush and rocks in steppe land over the ecotone on the south side of the saddle. Then I followed Larry back to the cave in search of males of the elusive microspider Anacornia microps, known in Washington only from this one cave. Three interesting spider species were taken in cave twilight, and two more in the lower level, including females of A. microps, but there were plenty of egg sacs and no males - I was too late again! It's too bad I'd used the last shot on my camera at the cave entrance: in the lower level, a resident pack rat (Neotoma cinerea) was suckling 7 young in a dazzling nest that looked as if it was made of multicolored confetti, but I think was probably flowers! Satisfied with the day, we obeyed mama rat's annoyed squeaks and ascended back into just-ending daylight. Back in Seattle at about 2 AM, was I ever glad to fall into bed!

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11 V 2007: My next trip with Laurel aimed to complete two partial samples made on a class field trip way back in 1976, in the Black Hills (Capitol State Forest) southwest of Olympia. I'd expected this actively working state-income forest to be alive with the sound of chain saws and log trucks, but on this weekday visit we saw and heard almost no one. Our first stop was a riparian forest and small wetland on Bozy Creek, not far from a circa-1989 clearcut (see album). Though not pristine, the site was very attractive and perhaps the most delightfully peaceful place I've visited since I was last in the Kuril Islands in 1997! Spider collecting here wasn't outstanding, but each of the habitats sampled produced several species, including understory foliage, aerial webs (which included some very large Tetragnatha webs over the creek), stream banks and gravel bar, alder/shrub litter, grassy roadside verge, and conifer foliage. Moss on dead limbs was especially productive with 9 species taken. Even though some species duplicated the prior records, we still boosted the sample up to 25. Laurel found 2 male Misumena vatia to photograph for her project, and one of them attempted to balloon off my finger (see album.)

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Our chosen site for the second half of the day was farther east at the McLane Creek Nature Trail, a Department of Natural Resources interpretive preserve with floodplain forest (chiefly bigleaf maple), large beaver ponds, and some tall grassland. Non-native species are present, but the nastier invasives are not dominant except in a few spots. We first hiked about half the network of nature trails (some of them under repair after last fall's storm damage) to scope out habitats, then set up in an off-trail tall grass area on the south edge of the preserve. No wolf spiders were active because the whole area was in the shade of nearby Rock Candy Mountain. I got several species from maple litter, but could have saved my time spent sifting moss — it only added one species. Laurel found a great crab spider "photo op" on an isolated apple tree in bloom, where three male Misumena were "guarding" a female preparing to molt to maturity in a curled leaf (see album). Later, she helped out by intrepidly braving the nettles and blackberries to beat the foliage of the one cedar tree in the vicinity, and also got an unusual small Antrodiaetus burrowing in a stump left from the old-growth days. With dusk approaching, I wanted to try one more habitat and luckily decided on sifting grass litter, which was so productive it was hard to drag me away — 9 species including 2 unfamiliar microspiders. This half-day visit alone got us 26 species from the site, making 34 with the prior sample. Our last official act was to photograph an unintentionally amusing DNR interpretive sign. All in all, a wonderful day.

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17 V 2007: Wanting to upgrade an old 4-species sample from the Carbon River area just west of Mt. Rainier National Park, I'd selected what looked like a nice semi-wetland mountain meadow up Tolmie Creek. To reach the site, Laurel and I drove up a steep, unfrequented forest road, then hiked a further mile and a half up a jeep trail too rough for her car. The trail crossed the creek on a half-washed-out bridge at the top of what looked like a mighty impressive waterfall, then switched back across again just below the "meadow" — which turned out to be a classic swamp (forested wetland, with alder, cedar and even some hemlock growing from the water among the skunk cabbage), beautiful but impenetrable by us. Alder litter, moss, logs and aerial webs at the swamp edge did produce some interesting species, most notably the primitive relict Microhexura idahoana, first record from that side of Mt. Rainier. Halfway back to the car, a rock talus field proved very rich in spiders, but mostly immature except for a lot of Bathyphantes alascensis; conifer foliage there was moderately productive.
          But we still didn't have enough species, and had found no meadow habitat for Laurel's flower-spider project. So we cruised around for a while down on the Carbon River road trying to get access to elusive riparian meadows, and finally settled on an artificial gravel-supply platform left by road builders, fringed by tall grass, buttercups and maples. This spot was surprisingly productive. I added 11 species to the day's take, and 4 or 5 different immature instars of the flower crab spider Misumena vatia kept Laurel happily posing them on buttercups until it got too dark for photography.

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26-28 V 2007: All year, Larry McTigue and I had been planning a giant Memorial Day weekend eastern-Washington expedition, with me hunting spiders and Larry hunting caves. Saturday morning, the forecast suggested a 50% chance of thunderstorms on Sunday, but was that enough to make us cancel? Of course not! We headed north from I-90 via the town of Wilbur, where my friends the Stoothoffs had collected 18 spider species from their house and yard in 1991. Half an hour at a good "wild" site SW of town sufficed to bring the sample up to 22 species; a lovely spot too, with many flowers blooming amid the sagebrush. You'd expect a gas station in a town of 1400 people, right? We found three in Wilbur — all out of business!
          Then on to our first official stop, the town of Hunters on the Columbia at the west edge of Stevens County. The area where I'd collected 7 species here in 1974 is now inaccessible, but some driving around led us to a strip of meadow and pines at the edge of public and private land along the road down to Hunters Campground, where I collected while Larry looked for the many limestone deposits in the area. I'd chosen well — the meadow foliage, pine foliage and Ribes shrubs at the edge of the clearing each produced a number of species, and a Bassaniana crab spider from pine bark brought me up to 20 species in just a couple of hours, making 26 with the old records. One jumping spider from the pines was completely unfamiliar. Larry returned, having seen few outcrops and no caves in the alleged limestone areas, and just at dusk we lucked into quite a nice campsite along a private logging road above the highway.
           The moon was out when I went to sleep, but just at sunrise I heard raindrops patter on my tent! It didn't last long, but long enough to make vegetation too wet for beating. But the sun came out, we got up and headed for one of Larry's major goals, Limestone Spring northeast of Chewelah, a name that practically shouted "caves here!" but required a long, circuitous drive on logging roads to reach. For collecting, I'd selected Johnson Lake on the ridge above the spring, a tiny secluded water body encircled by marsh meadow. The lake was another beautiful spot, with nary a sign of human activity, but I had to mark time collecting from unproductive alder litter and other peripheral habitats while the sun dried out the meadow grass from the dawn rain. Finally I was able to sweep on at least one side of the lake, and got a number of species; a mule deer joined me for a little grazing while I was chasing wolf spiders. Some species were added from conifer foliage, but I still didn't have quite enough when Larry returned, having finally found the "spring," really a seep, and no limestone outcrop anywhere around it (the limestone it's named for is some distance off). Fortunately, conifer litter back in the forest added just barely enough species to make a sample, including one unfamiliar linyphiid microspider.
          The early afternoon weather seemed lovely, so we headed north to a known cave on private land near Addy. Within minutes, the threatened thunderstorms had appeared, and Larry was getting rained on while talking to the cave owner and being denied permission to enter — it seems the ashes of her late husband, whom I'd met in 1979, were now in the cave! So, scratch that! Let's go look for reported sinkholes on Rabbit Mountain, still farther north. Big rainclouds continued to appear, and the road around the base of the mountain was a succession of huge puddles. Eventually we tracked down the road up to the ridge crest, which we'd no sooner reached when we encountered a man cutting firewood from a downed tree in the middle of the road. "Oh, this road just ends in a hundred yards, you might as well stop here." After waiting in a byway while the wet woodcutter cleared out, we continued more than a mile — he'd been lying, and right in front of his daughter too! But the woods were so thick, we couldn't have found a sinkhole except by falling into it, and the rain had settled into a steady downpour. Finally, even Larry had to give up. We tossed a virtual coin on whether to go west or south to escape the rain. South won, but everything still looked wet even as far south as Deer Park. Just at dusk, we camped in a ridge crest clearcut (with houses nearby) near a mysterious locality called "Hells Hole," on wet ground but under a clear sky.
          After midnight, an increasingly cold wind came up, and daybreak of May 28 felt more like winter! Unwrapping myself from the layers added during the night, I luckily managed to get my tent packed and a 7-species sample taken (to supplement 19 from a nearby pitfall study) before rain resumed. By the time I was securely ensconced in the truck, the rain was mixed with sleet. So much for a sunny, warm late spring trip. Larry was very receptive to the idea of moving into the central Washington desert, where I offered to guide him to Dry Falls Cave. We reached the Dry Falls overlook without incident, strolled over to the trail down to the cave: big steel bar across with "Trail Closed" sign! So, with possibly 10 hours of daylight left in our big trip, and the rain clouds trailing off eastward, we decided to have one more try at limestone country to the north — this time in Ferry County. A stop at Lime Creek (tributary of the Sanpoil River) looked promising for spiders, but I only got 4 species while Larry determined there was no rock outcrop in sight. Next, to a known marble deposit at the summit of Sheep Mountain — an area where I already had a good sample. There actually was some rock visible at the summit, but nothing looked karstic.
           Finally, I wanted to at least get a spider sample from an area along the east side of Curlew Lake where I and Jon Pelham had taken 11 species under rocks on a wet day in 1974. It was getting late, so we stopped at the first likely spot, a grassy clearing on Wolfe Camp Road with seral forest around. The clearing was newer than I suspected: a 1998 aerial photo shows a building on the site. The grass only produced 3 species, but conifer foliage and especially shrub foliage were very productive, and I got 16 species (including about 5 Dictyna) in a hour or so, making 27 total. Heading for home, we arrived in Okanogan County just before sunset and indulged in one last wild-cave chase in the face of rapidly overtaking darkness. Upshot of the trip: I got 5 valuable small spider samples, 4 of them supplementing previous incomplete collections, but never had a chance to get the big samples from outstanding habitats that I'd dreamed of. But Larry fared worse, with no caves at all (unless you count a roadside rockshelter we looked into on the way north from Dry Falls), and in many cases not even a limestone outcrop! Oh well, the best-laid plans of cavers and arachnologists...

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7 VI 2007: All western Washington naturalists are interested in the gravelly prairies (some mounded, some not) at the south end of Puget Sound for their distinctive flora and fauna. When the pioneers arrived, these covered very large areas, but most are now altered or overgrown. Smith Prairie in eastern Thurston County had no natural remnants known to me, but I spotted a possibility on satellite photos and went with Laurel to check it out. Glad I did! Although not pristine (much of the short grass replaced with taller species), the area we found is otherwise in great condition, with very little blackberry or broom. It has big scattered ash trees, and a big adjacent marsh. The surroundings were logged recently but a fringe of forest around the meadows was left intact, mirabile dictu. The first 12 species were taken by sweeping grass, the next 16 from beating fir foliage. I stood in a mysterious deep hole under an ash tree and sifted litter for 8 more. Laurel took the best species of the day on old fence posts, jumping spider Tutelina similis, last seen in these parts in 1895!! We moved north through a fine fir forest to a higher quality prairie remnant north of the highway, where Laurel took a mature male of the undescribed Aculepeira orbweaver common to all these prairies. Total, 47 species in about 6 hours. We ended a great day by scouting a future collecting site on the Nisqually River at McKenna.

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12 VI 2007: Today's goal was a place that's intrigued me for years, "Camas Land," a large mountain meadow in the Wenatchee Mountains not far south of Cashmere. In the past, much of this grassland has been farmed, but I thought I could discern some still-natural bits on aerial photos. I had no idea that a large and increasing part has been made a state Natural Area Preserve. Having no NAP permit this year, Laurel and I collected in an equally good bit on state and private land just outside the preserve. Unlike the previous week's Smith Prairie site, the meadows here aren't grass-dominated; almost every square foot exemplifies floristic diversity. Thirteen spider species were swept from the meadow, including an especially beautiful flower spider I dubbed "Miss Camas Land of 2007." Laurel sampled pine and fir foliage for quite a few more. The most interesting spiders of the trip were from litter of what turned out to be native hawthorn, not something you see often in the Cascades. I finally located some late wolf spiders in a wet part of the meadow, and other habitats brought us to 27 species, or 41 with prior records from the area. We also had a cordial conversation with one of the landowners.
           Way back in 1974 I'd been to Nahahum Canyon north of Cashmere with Jon Pelham, but he was ready to move on when I was just getting started. So now we devoted the last hours of daylight to bringing the old 9-species sample up to 21, which we managed, in the next canyon to the west, Hay Canyon. Summer dryness was taking its toll on the spiders here, but some (and the most interesting ones) were still in bigleaf maple litter on the canyon bottom. I spotted a mature Oxyopes lynx spider doing a crab-spider act on a pearly-everlasting flower; she dodged under the flower the moment she saw me coming! Laurel got several species from a white-flowered shrub high on the canyon side, and more were taken from fir foliage. A local man who'd driven up the canyon to service outhouses stopped to chat, and after he fully realized what I was doing, head-shakingly proclaimed "Heck of a hobby!"

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20 VI 2007: Scarab Pyle had recently (May 25) discovered a remnant of high-quality gravelly prairie sandwiched among farmland on the west side of the Chehalis River valley, well west of other such sites; Laurel and I had just time to visit it before lowland collecting season started to wind down. At first I could find no name for the site and was tempted to call it Pyle's Prairie, but I finally found the name Ford Prairie had been used in a once-similar area only about a mile to the north. Confusingly, there is also a Ford's Prairie far to the southeast in Lewis County. In any case, the weatherman was wrong and we had a beautiful sunny day to sweep the grass, herbs and flowers. The sweeping, plus a row of 5 pitfall traps, produced 20 species including a number of prairie-limited rarities: Tricholathys rothi, Aculepeira sp., Metepeira grandiosa (rare indeed in this region), a jumping spider not yet identified, Pardosa distincta, and best of all Pardosa ramulosa — which is alleged not to occur north of California! — together with its common sibling P. vancouveri, showing conclusively the two are distinct here.
           Returning to the car, we noticed a sizable oak grove right across the road from the little valley with the high quality grassland. The grove was not such high quality, though; invaded by ivy and Himalayan blackberry, with a higher proportion of non-native spiders, and no real spider rarities. But the litter, oak foliage and moss did add 10 species to our list. Just one km south of this oak grove is an old gravel pit supporting a pocket forest of conifers, alder and cottonwood, below the general land level and thus closer to the water table. Despite the obnoxious presence of Himalayan blackberry, this habitat boosted our day's take over 40 species. As a final touch, I wanted to search the banks of the Chehalis River itself for Pardosa californica, whose only Washington record is from along this river some miles to the south. I did get Pardosa there but it was only P. vancouveri; had an interesting conversation, though, with a couple of salmon fishermen from the nearby Chehalis Reservation.

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2 VII 2007: It was summer now, and seeking mid-elevation collecting sites I found Dailey Prairie in a list of Whatcom County "flats." Seeking more info, I was surprised to learn from this page that the site was a state Natural Area Preserve. I applied to the state office for collecting permission, which was soon granted, and David Wilderman in Olympia referred me to Christ Thomsen (his real name) in the Sedro Woolley office for a key to the gated roads into the area. Monday morning, final arrangements were made through Laurel's mobile phone as we were heading north. Everything went smoothly until we tried to drive in the way I'd planned instead of the way Christ recommended. We quickly ran out of road, and after a stop for gas in Acme, we tried again from the Mosquito Lake side, on unfamiliar roads that proved easy enough to navigate with the DNR district map. Soon we were at our destination, a large, beautiful, flowery, meadow-like montane bog with Twin Sisters Mountain looming to the east. The one factor making the spot less than idyllic was a very large mosquito population. I sifted Sphagnum (getting surprisingly few species) while Laurel swept; I later joined her and our joint sweep sample included 17 of the eventual 35 species. The adjacent old growth forest was a very thin fringe buffering the bog from adjacent clearcuts, but was a fascinating mix of Alaska yellow cedar, mountain hemlock and true firs; the conifer foliage was productive as usual. Bog laurel foliage (sampled by Laurel), pitfall traps, and assorted minor habitats all contributed. The most interesting species was the orbweaver Larinioides cornutus, which in Washington had been taken only on salt water beaches before. As usual with state Natural Area Preserves, it was a great spot, with good spiders, fascinating flora and magnificent scenery.

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11 VII 2007: A mountain range extending west from the Cascades south of the Skagit River, known as the Cultus ("worthless" in Chinook jargon) Mountains, was undersampled for spiders. I spotted a very promising site on aerial photos of Coal Mountain, with a meadow (probably a bog) surrounding a pond, a road leading up to summit forests, and a little outlying peak or "inselberg" surrounded by cliffs and talus. Laurel and I reached the site with little difficulty and sure enough, it was a Sphagnum bog. So I spent considerable time sifting Sphagnum, but as it turned out, most of the microspiders taken were immature and only one could be identified. Sweeping the bog meadow, Laurel and I took only 11 species (one being an unfamiliar Ceraticelus, best specimen of the day, and one being the first montane specimen of recently introduced Xysticus cristatus). Conifer foliage produced only one species that didn't duplicate the sweep sample, pitfalls in the bog yielded 2 lycosid species, and conifer litter produced nothing mature. All this time, we were donating blood to the fly families Rhagionidae, Tabanidae, Culicidae and Simuliidae. Two additional spider species were taken back by the road, which was blocked, preventing us from going higher than about 3400 feet.
          I hoped to supplement the bog spiders with under-stone fauna from the nearby talus. We couldn't figure out how to reach the talus south of the inselberg, but the boulder areas on the north side were just a matter of crossing a narrow clearcut – which was a painful maze of tangled woody shrubs, sharp slash branches, and deep holes hidden in vegetation. But I finally made it to the rocks, and found only one additional species there. Meanwhile, Laurel was sweeping in a second, non-bog meadow, where the 6 species taken all duplicated those from the bog. Result of all that work in this very beautiful site (see album), a suboptimal sample of 20 species. Bad luck? Poor judgment? Lateness of the season? Or some other reason – who knows?

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14 VII 2007: It was a dual-purpose trip. Laurel, with her friend Marie Rose and my friend Della, were going to soak in Baker Hot Spring while I alone was deposited at the Park Butte trailhead to hike in to Schriebers Meadow, south of Mount Baker at 3500 feet. The hike was short and pleasant, and once in the heart of the meadow area, I left the fairly busy trail and set up for collecting a quarter mile to the south, where I neither heard nor saw a human all day. This meadow is far from uniform, but is a patchwork of grassy-flowery places, little wetlands, shrub/heather areas, and tree clumps. The latter limit medium-range visibility (though one can always see Mt. Baker and other nearby heights), so I had to use my compass, flagging, and landmark recognition skills if I ever hoped to return to where I'd left my backpack and set my pitfall traps! Sweeping in the three varieties of meadow produced 9 spider species, with conifer foliage adding only 3 more. A short distance to the west was Rocky Creek, where I found 3 species under stones along a small tributary whose orange-stained bed (probably ferrous hydroxide) resembles streams polluted by acid mine drainage, though I know of no mines near here. No such deposit was seen on the vast stream-cobble floodplain of Rocky Creek itself, where I found a wolf spider remarkably like the early spring Pardosa lowriei. Whilst sitting on a log in the woods writing labels, I spotted a doe edging into an adjacent glade. The click of my camera made her leap away like the deer on a highway deer-crossing sign! Despite my poor results with Sphagnum the previous week, I tried sifting a little patch of the stuff found under some shrubs, and was surprised to get 3 mature species, including an unfamiliar Agyneta. The pitfalls produced 3 more wolf spider species and a Micaria, for a total of 22 before I was due to head out (leaving the mosquitos in possession). No doubt there is some season when one could get a richer sample here, but what I got today was worthwhile.

Washington map showing locality

26 VII 2007: Back in 1990, a typical butterfly trip (6 localities in 6 hours!) produced only 13 spider species from Quartz Mountain, one of the few places in this state where you can drive to an elevation over 6000 feet. Despite the late season, Laurel and I were confident of supplementing that good head start with this year's visit. Our first stop was Taneum Lake, a secluded, round mountain lake at 5270' reached by a short, easy trail mostly through forest. The conifer foliage habitat was rich in spiders, and while I was sifting conifer litter (for 3 species), a Cybaeus exlineae (new state record) happened to stroll by. Laurel came up with the first adult Araneus orbweaver of the season, and a few more species from understory and the very narrow riparian zone. On the way out, we passed the only humans we saw all day and stopped at a small but very rich meadow (see album).
           We still had hours of daylight left, and headed on up the road toward Hereford Meadow (5800' at upper end). In the process of trying 2 wrong access roads, we found an unofficial campsite whose home-made outhouse was decorated with some of the most scurrilous graffiti I've ever seen, but had 2 Pimoa curvata inside. Finally at the meadow (seasonally occupied by prospectors but in great condition habitat-wise), we found that sweeping produced several species not found at the lake, with Aculepeira packardi abundant. The forest edge was an unusual combination of subalpine fir, Engelmann spruce and whitebark pine. The outside walls of the miners' intact cabins were spider-free, but Laurel found one shed that had collapsed, with Orodrassus, Zelotes and Schizocosa under the boards, while the low-angled sun glinting off a web led me to a fine Steatoda albomaculata. The mosquitos were just getting started when we headed for home. My pitfalls near the lake trailhead had been unproductive, but we still got 31 species - 37 with the prior records. A coyote and deer crossing the road added interest to the trip out; the sun was just setting as we approached the freeway.

28 VII 2007: The Scarabs Bug Hike on Rattlesnake Mountain (south of Snoqualmie) was an unqualified success. Around 15 people (Scarabs, parascarabs, and potential Scarabs) showed up at the now officially opened trailhead. Instead of the official trail, we ambled up the old logging road I'd used in my trip a year earlier. The forest habitats along the way produced many interesting insects (including the uncommon wasp-mimic beetle Necydalis); between the road and the grassy powerline clearing we saw around 8 butterfly species and even a few dragonflies. I even added a few spider species to my last year's take. Weather was partly sunny but cool. For photos of this site, see last year's album.

Washington map showing locality

1 VIII 2007: Back in June, I gave a spider program at the Cedar River Institute, and Tom Van Buren, who works with habitat management at the Cedar River Watershed (it supplies the lion's share of Seattle's water) offered me collecting access to the closed-to-the-public areas. We and the weatherman finally got together on a date so late in the season that I needed a spot over 5000 feet high to get a good sample. The spot we settled on really seems to have no name. It is drained by Little Deer Creek (itself not on many maps); for easy reference I'm going to call the peak Mosquito Mountain. Laurel and I met Tom at the watershed offices and, using the director's SUV, we proceeded up nearly the entire length of the watershed and switchbacked up the mountain to a late-1990s clearcut just under the summit. Tom and I scrambled up the extremely steep clearcut to the summit ridge, where Laurel (who'd taken the easier forested route) joined us. My main goal, a meadow on the east side of the 5130-foot summit, was easily found and turned out to be about 2/3 beargrass – very unusual. Sweeping produced a few common meadow spiders plus Aculepeira packardi and a Xysticus still being reared. The conifers around the edge were better, and produced two Pityohyphantes spp. and to-date unidentified Dictyna and Theridion. Laurel left us to check out a lower meadow on the north slope shown on the aerial photo. She added no spider species there, but found some fascinating terrain (see album). After rejoining us, she decided to return to the car (maybe because of a mosquito repellant shortage) and on the way down the clearcut she scored the two best spiders of the trip, both jumping spiders: Pelegrina flavipedes and an unidentified Phanias. Tom and I stayed in the summit area to sample conifer litter (3 species), stumps and logs (5 species), and woody debris fallen from snags, richest habitat of the trip with 8 species. These habitats produced 2 uncommon spiders limited to montane old-growth, Frederickus wilburi and Lepthyphantes rainieri. Some collecting back down by the car added little, but the upshot was a 26-species sample, or 1 species for every 2 of my mosquito bites!

18 VIII 2007: The Scarabs beach trip to English Boom, visited earlier this year by Laurel and me, only managed to attract 5 people. The others must have been scared off by moist weather predictions that never materialized, at least where we were. Those who made the trip had a great time, with partly sunny weather and outstanding solitude. Numerous sand wasps were doing their thing à la Tinbergen, and Scarab Griswold nabbed several tiger beetles. Other catches or sights included histerid, coccinellid, and buprestid beetles; 4-5 butterfly species; a variety of bees including bumbles; ichneumonids; a horntail; both native and introduced paper wasps; Sympetrum dragonflies; katydids and many millions of grasshoppers (several species); and of course some weevils for Sharon. Not a raindrop fell until we were passing through Everett on the way home, when the clouds really opened up (briefly). For photos see the album from the prior trip.

Washington map showing locality

5 X 2007: On my own for the first part of October, I inaugurated fall collecting with a bus trip to the southeast corner of the town of Arlington, Snohomish County. From here, I hiked eastward into an unsampled area, Burn Hill which is rapidly being converted from woods and fields into housing. I'd located a powerline right of way (a usually reliable indicator of public access) along a ridge crest, and hiked along this to the end of the clearing with grass and herbs, forest on the sides, and a nice view northward of farmland in the Stillaguamish Valley (see album). I sifted bigleaf maple litter for a while and as usual got a number of species. While in sifting mode I decided to sift some litter that was out in the clearing, and to my surprise got an even better fauna including some rarities. There were few spiders on the cedar foliage, but moss back in the forest was fairly productive, and understory ferns yielded plenty. Two introduced orbweavers dominated the aerial webs. While sifting meadow litter, I turned around to see a big black dog (no doubt from a nearby house) watching me. I made friends with the dog, who eventually went away, all without a single bark. By the time the grass was dry enough to sweep, getting another diverse array of species, cows were mooing in the valley. Total for the day (just over 4 hours on site), 35 spider species including one Walckenaeria (see album) I didn't recognize. When the weather permits, fall spider collecting is great!

Washington map showing locality

13 X 2007: The following week, I again took advantage of Snohomish County's great bus system and headed northeast to Monroe; from the southwest corner of town, I walked into a wooded area just outside Lord Hill Regional Park (the abandoned road I was hiking was blocked by a huge blackberry thicket before I actually reached the park). This must once have been a great area, with lowland forest and natural balds, but the forest is being swallowed by Himalayan blackberry, and the bald I was able to reach appears about to be swallowed by a new rock quarry! Although I couldn't get far from the road, roadside maples had great moss and leaf litter, and some remnants of fern/salmonberry understory hung down the road's upper bank. A few spiders were found under rocks around the quarry, and blackberry-free parts of the bald provided good sweeping. The usual non-native orbweavers were common; the only conifer foliage at the site was red cedar, not very productive. From my site, a busy highway and a barking dog at the east base of the hill were all too audible, but warm sunny weather, solitude and fall foliage compensated. I came away with an even 40 species, but not including any rarities.

Washington map showing locality

23 X 2007: Laurel and I fulfilled a long-standing plan by collecting along the Centralia Canal near the town of McKenna on the Nisqually River. We reached the canal access road by hiking along railroad tracks. A beautiful and secluded spot, but peaceful? Well...there must have been a war game going on at nearby Fort Lewis! With us were two UW students, Jamal and Sean, who wanted guidance to collect a lot of orbweavers for research. Hiking along the tracks seemed quite an adventure to them. Once at the site everything went smoothly, and collecting proceeded through the day with grass sweeping, tree beating, litter and moss sifting, and collecting from webs, dead wood, understory, and under stones. A canal-drainage gate (somewhat leaky) had a bridge over it with lots of spiders on the railings. In the evening, a Holstein-colored cat from a nearby house came down through the woods and carefully climbed down the bank to drink from the canal! On examining the catch later, I was amazed to find 64 species (including unfamiliar species of Bathyphantes and Dictyna), surely one of my richest one-day, one-site collections.

Washington map showing locality

7 XI 2007: Back in 1991, my one-time assistant Karen Dorweiler took 5 spider species in a sweep sample while visiting relatives in the town of Toledo, Washington. A return trip to supplement Karen's collection was especially inviting on this day because online weather reports showed it as one of the few spots in the state missed by last night's unexpected rain showers. What Laurel and I hadn't bargained on was a traffic jam on the freeway between Maytown and Centralia – we never learned what caused it. My brilliant idea of paralleling the freeway on Old 99 worked out so well that an old lady walking with her cane passed us! However, the sun was shining over Toledo, and access to my planned site along the Cowlitz River was easy. The site was somewhat degraded (most of the habitat in a 1990 aerial photo is now farmed) but it was too late in the day to be picky. We swept tall grass and sedge along the river bank, and Laurel found a nice fat Tegenaria agrestis under a stone. Much of the riparian cottonwood belt had rather poor leaf litter, but I found one very good patch with 15 spider species including the rare Micrargus aleuticus. With an hour of daylight left, we adjourned to the Toledo town park, where park buildings produced 5 rural house spider species and we beat a few others from conifer foliage. The 32-species total and nice weather more than compensated us for the traffic.

Washington map showing locality

21 XI 2007: Across Possession Sound and the Snohomish estuary from Everett is a semi-rural strip of coastline where I had no spider records. Since we had a few sunny days before Thanksgiving and Laurel was out of town, a bus trip seemed in order. The bus was scheduled to arrive at my site a little after noon – actually it was nearly 1pm, giving me about 3 hours to collect. And with a mostly-dry landscape all around, I'd picked a site that was sopping wet, perhaps from heavy dew. Oh well, there I was. I hiked into the woods on a grass-grown, log-blocked track mislabeled as a street by Google Earth, through the fringes of a swamp and a lot of wet alder trees and salmonberry bushes, to find a nice grove of maples and cedars on a side road. Here, the leaf litter was very rich in spiders, almost guaranteeing me an adequate sample. I also sifted moss (only semi-productive) and swept understory ferns that weren't too wet under the trees. Other habitats produced little. To catch my bus I had to leave the site just after 4, sweeping the wet grass and rushes on the way out until my net was soaked. The total catch was 26 species, with only one that might be unusual.

Washington map showing locality

7 XII 2007: Fall collecting is still productive in December – if the weather cooperates. The day promised fair so Laurel and I headed to the place where it had rained least recently, Marrowstone and Indian Islands off the east coast of Jefferson County, reached via the Kingston Ferry (with a great view of snowy Olympics) and Hood Canal Bridge. Most of Indian Island belongs to the navy, but there is a public beach park at the south end. Beach habitats here included littoral forest with madrona; sand with seaweed wrack to sift (got Spirembolus and Erigone); driftwood of all sizes; small salt marshes and extensive beach meadow. There were no spiders in the park outhouse but several species on the outside. Total for this site, 15 species, including a rare Ceraticelus that I'd previously taken only once.
           Continuing across a causeway to Marrowstone Island, we headed to Fort Flagler at the north end where a coleopterist friend had collected 2 spider species back in 1976. This historic park features different kinds of littoral forest, lots of beach, and historic WW2 gun battery bunkers. We started collecting at a very productive forest site but a few minutes later I suddenly realized we were in the wrong end of the park to supplement those previous records! Just in that short time we'd taken 12 species, and I haven't yet recognized one microspider that Laurel swept from ferns. With under 2 hours of daylight left, we hurried to the right area and I collected from litter, moss and ferns while Laurel checked out the bunker across the road (finding several species on the walls) and beat salal and conifers up above it. The leaf litter here was too cold for the spiders to be very active, so I brought a bagful home for the Berlese funnel. We got 30 species from this site alone, making 42 with the beach collection and 44 with the prior records! A great day with fascinating terrain, lots of spiders and no mosquitos at all. Just one minor fly in our ointment – clouds moved in and cheated us of our sunset.

Washington map showing locality

31 XII 2007: This year's largely dreadful December weather finally cleared up for the very last day. No one else was available, so I took the ferry from downtown Seattle to downtown Bremerton, hoping to find enough habitat in city parks within walking distance to upgrade an old 9-species sample. Two wooded parks were within reach, and I made the mistake of trying the nearer first. As can be seen from the album, Evergreen Park was almost entirely lacking in spider habitat. Even the little leaf litter I was able to find was spider-free. So off to the other end of town and Forest Ridge Park. Habitat there was rather low-grade: the leaf litter layer seemed to be thin everywhere, invasive ivy was abundant and blackberry by no means uncommon. The restroom building seemed to have no house spiders at all, just a couple of juvenile orbweavers. Nonetheless, I got enough species from 2 kinds of litter, fir and understory foliage, and a little moss on madrona trunks to upgrade the Bremerton sample to 25 species. There was even a Bathyphantes-like spider I couldn't immediately identify. I also met a park ranger (at least, so he claimed, though he had no insignia or ID) who clearly thought I was some kind of wacko, even after all explanations. Definitely time for a haircut!

That's all, folks - 27 field days in 2007.


This page last updated 2 May, 2014