Spider Collector's Journal (29th page: 2019) Copyright © 2019 by Rod Crawford
Here's the 29th page of narratives of fun (and not so fun) trips to collect spiders for research at the Burke Museum, some accompanied by capable field volunteers: Laurel Ramseyer and new recruits. Most also appeared in Scarabogram, newsletter of "Scarabs: The Bug Society." 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!
15 III 2019: In December and January we were far too busy moving mountains of stuff to the new museum building. In February, we had a record-breaking snowfall! So it was March before things came together for the first (and last) field trip of the winter of 2018-19. The weather finally warmed up in mid-month, so Laurel and I headed for Bayshore Preserve on Oakland Bay (near Shelton) on the 15th. The preserve is a former golf course subsequently acquired by Capitol Land Trust; it occupies part of a small peninsula in the bay, sharing same with a Department of Wildlife parcel, where we parked in becoming-warm sunshine.
My first order of business was to beat conifer foliage, which produced 10 spider species but nothing rare. Near where I'd been beating, I spotted some nice deep leaf litter deposits, well segregated into cottonwood and maple litter. Sifting cottonwood litter produced a lot of spiders so I kept doing it; to my later chagrin, all but 1 of the many spiders were the common Microneta viaria; only one isopod species too! The nearby maple litter was a little better, increasing the litter spider species to 5; some maple litter from a large tree in a grass field made that 9 litter species, not so bad after all. I swept 6 species from the very extensive grasslands (no doubt formerly the golf-course lawns), and understory added one.
Meanwhile, Laurel did a lot of moss sifting, getting 7 species from tree trunk moss in the golf course area and 3 more from trees by a stream. On the other hand, moss on the ground added nothing at all that was mature, which is fairly typical. She also got a few under wood on the ground, and tapped 100 Douglas-fir cones which produced the day's most interesting species, an unidentified erigonine female. At this site, practically at sea level, I spotted one unmelted patch of last month's snow!
Finally we stopped in the town of Shelton where Laurel had spotted some pine cones (of the non-native Pinus nigra) on the drive in, in a tiny pocket park. Tapping 65 of these added no different species, but I added a couple from nearby buildings, for a grand total of 37. For a change, we ate at Dairy Queen..
21 III 2019: Fall before last, we'd hiked in from the Gold Creek Trailhead in Green Mountain State forest, Kitsap County, to a fine wetland and other good habitats. This time (on the 2nd day of Spring), we wanted to sample the area closer to the trailhead, where we only took 3 species in passing before. It was the very last area to sample on the Kitsap peninsula! On the way, Laurel stopped for sandwiches near Gig Harbor and found some pine cones by the parking lot; adding 2 species for that area including a range extension for recently introduced Zodarion rubidum.
It was cool and sunny at the trailhead. We hiked a half mile or so to where the trail crosses Gold Creek and forks; here Laurel collected from the bridge (13 species!), I sifted alder litter (added 4) and beat understory (added 3 and duplicated many of the bridge spiders), and Laurel sifted moss (added 5). Though a weekday, the trailhead parking lot was crowded and there were lots of hikers on the trail. Curious ones who asked questions! Halfway back to the trailhead, at a spot where there were maple and Douglas-fir trees, I sifted (added 3) and Laurel tapped cones (added 2, including the very first Ozyptila pacifica found in a cone). One more spider from the trailhead outhouse, then we were headed north to different habitats in the Tin Mine Creek area.
Parking at a gated road, we walked up to an 8-year-old clearcut where conifer foliage added 6 species, roadside grass added 2, and a juvenile wolf spider and Cyclosa were easy to rear, making in all 40 species for the day; the prior sample from the trailhead makes it 43. The Kitsap Peninsula is all sampled now!
31 III 2019: It was the last day of March, unseasonably warm and sunny, and I had a shiny new trip plan for sites on the South Fork Nooksack River in south central Whatcom County. Laurel and I left Highway 9 on Saxon Road and stopped first at Saxon Cemetery, a seemingly old country burial-ground where most of the graves I saw were relatively new. Woodland around the fringes, non-native evergreen shrubs and slightly unkempt grass promised productive habitats. However, we found spiders here to be relatively sparse — enough, however, for a sample. First, I beat 6 species from the few accessible conifer branches I could find. Laurel added 2 good species from fir-cones and sifted 7 from tree-trunk moss. I settled down to sift 3 bags of maple litter, but the litter spiders were rather sparse here; diverse enough, however, to give me 11 species. Laurel added 3, including 2 nice females of Metellina mimetoides, from grave monuments and a storage container. We moved on from here with 26 species, including the only Ozyptila crab spider of the trip, a female O. pacifica from litter.
Our second site was Saxon Bridge, crossing the South Fork with a nice parking area and lovely habitats. Here, my first concern was to hunt for wolf spiders on the gravel bar (I'd only seen and missed 2 at the cemetery). No sooner was I on the gravel when a nice big female Pardosa lowriei started leading me a merry chase, several times scooting out into the river and back, but I finally got her. A male was much easier, and a smaller male at the edge of a sandy stretch proved to be Pardosa xerampelina, both very nice records. Meanwhile, Laurel had been trying the riverside moss but found it very uncharacteristically dry and not giving her what she wanted. We added some species from bridge guardrails and fern understory, and I sifted some more maple litter with only 2 species different from the cemetery. Still, even with rather sparse pickings we finished a fairly short day with 36 species and some good records to boot; also having seen some brand new territory.
26 IV 2019: Finally, after most of a month of wet or iffy weather, we had a field-friendly day! I had a dozen or so trip plans, and Laurel selected the one to the Nooksack River delta. We started at Marietta Veterans Park, just over a mile up from the bay on a side channel called Silver Creek. The park was fairly dry (although it's known to flood in the spring) and had a variety of spider habitats; leaf litter alone gave 11 species so it obviously hasn't flooded this year, including another record of the introduced wolf spider Trochosa ruricola. Laurel added 3 species from sifting some sparse moss, nothing much from Douglas-fir cones, and Salticus from the playground. I swept 8 from grass and dandelions (no Misumena though) and found one solitary Pardosa vancouveri active. We were just outside the Lummi reservation but the park is decorated with native carvings (see album). 22 species so far.
The south trailhead for the Nooksack dike top trail had different habitats, marshy meadows with lots of Pardosa metlakatla running around, and forest with a lot of Sitka spruce. Spruce foliage gave me 11 species including a very good sample (both sexes) of Dismodicus #1, a little red-legged erigonine. We both added a few from sweeping grass in different habitats. Laurel finally found some moss on willows beside a backwater channel, which added a couple of unusual microspiders. Then she finally found one Misumena on a dandelion! Toward the end, Laurel happened to spot a jumping spider peeking out of the spent seedhead of a bull thistle; a male Metaphidippus mannii! So she spent some time sampling the seedheads getting other cool spiders including the second Washington record of the ant mimic salticid Synageles venator! Tappping spruce cones gave good stuff too, including a male erigonine I can't yet identitfy. Total for the area, 43 species.
I tried also walking south along the river from our site on an unsigned, sandy dirt road; but the habitat was totally different, largely blackberry. A very curious thing seen on the main road: a Lummi Nation police car, all lights flashing but going very slowly, leading a sort of parade of 5 other assorted vehicles!
30 IV 2019: Laurel and I, this time with the welcome assistance of Jerry Austin, set off for the town of Sumas on the Canadian border, in between Lynden and Maple Falls where we'd collected last year. We had 3 sites picked out around the town, and hoped to find accessible forest in a range of hills to the SE. Each place contributed something.
The first site, a flood control tract on Johnson Creek, was mostly overgrown with blackberry but some moss on a maple tree allowed Laurel to add a data point for the introduced crab spider Ozyptila praticola, while Jerry found a big female Trochosa under wood and we swept a few others: 7 species, 5 of them introduced. Next stop Howard Bowen Park where Laurel added 3 good species from buildings, I found a few under lumber and an old carpet, and Jerry worked hard sweeping some remnants of field grass for very few spiders, but including several good ones, an uncommon orbweaver and yet another locality for the newly introduced ant mimic jumping spider Synageles venator. Then we moved on to the Sumas Cemetery which added zero spider species, but gave Laurel a chance to tap 100 pine cones, giving more data for that project. And yet more Synageles — one year after first finding it, it's already getting common!
Investigating the forested hills, we found nothing accessible along Reese Hill Road, so we tried farther south on South Pass Road, and quickly found an overgrown, unmarked side trail that took us down to a perfectly good riparian forest habitat on Breckenridge Creek, hooray! Of course my first order of business was to find some nice-looking maple litter and sift it. Very, very few spiders to be found! But it did add 4 good species. Laurel found the moss here unexpectedly dry but it did add 6 more species. Both Jerry and I swept understory (he grass, me ferns) which yielded 8 species; then we both tapped dead wood for a total of exactly 1 identifiable specimen! Spruce cones, aerial webs, and grass by the highway each added one more species for a total of 41, a good result from a beautiful pleasant day.
5 V 2019: Now it was May and we hadn't been to eastern Washington yet. So, choosing a day when west side weather might be iffy, we crossed the pass and collected around the small town of Kittitas. First and best, we worked on a strip of public land where Cooke Creek crosses the regional rail-trail at the south edge of town. I swept riparian grass near the creek for 8 species, while Laurel swept along the trail getting 4 that were different and 3 the same. Most importantly, she swept a small wolf spider (only adult wolf spider taken) that turned out to be Pardosa wasatchensis, our first specimen ever of this rarity! Also at this site, I added 4 species from willow litter; the gate, a Russian olive tree and some pine foliage added one each. Just to the south, Laurel had spotted some pine trees (a non-native species) at a sewage treatment plant; the pine cones there produced 6 species (3 new for the site including uncommon Tibellus gertschi). Finally, the new habitat discovered last week, bull thistle heads, was tried producing only 2 species, but one was the extremely rare, tiny jumping spider Talavera minuta!
Our second site in Kittitas looked very nice from the air, Palmiero Park, but it turned out to be mostly mowed grass and the wooded part was extremely narrow. Still, I added 2 species from cottonwood litter and Laurel, 2 more from pine foliage. In all, 27 species at Kittitas, making 29 with two prior house spider records.
We had a couple hours left, and I wanted to get a start on sampling the area directly south: Badger Pocket, a place I'd seen on maps for decades but never visited. It's a valley of farmland within a loop of irrigation canal, with forbidden Army land on the other side, and nothing public but the county road rights-of-way; a nice challenge to get a sample! We started at the south, most distant edge of the valley on Silica Road, where we found a nice roadside stand of sagebrush to beat. The spot was extraordinarily peaceful, with no traffic to speak of and just a gentle breeze. The sagebrush got me only 3 species (others were present, but juvenile) while Laurel added 7 more from sweeping along the non-Army side of the canal. I found nothing under the few rocks, and a second sweep site a half mile north added nothing new. But on our way out, we stopped at a roadside row of planted Ponderosa pines where tapping the cones added 4 more species and I added one additional Dictyna from plant-head webs. Fifteen, a nice start for the area, and a lovely, not-too-hot day to do it in. We barely made it to Mountain High Hamburgers before it closed.
12 V 2019: For a change, we went south this week on a relatively short trip to a "hole" in my collection coverage in rural Pierce County. The primary site was Alder Cemetery, on a sort of peninsula in the middle of large Alder Reservoir on the Nisqually River. Pleasantly remote but easily reached, the site is on a one-lane rural road that had perhaps 2 vehicles per hour. You couldn't exactly call it peaceful, because the farm right across the road rejoiced in a gaggle of peafowl that were relentlessly noisy! But apart from the avian cries, all we heard was occasional motorboats. While Laurel hunted some cones to tap, I beat 10 species from conifer foliage, quite a nice start. In contrast, Laurel found few spiders and only one additional species on 100 Douglas-fir cones. On the lake shore, reached through a fringe of woods beyond the cemetery fence, I found several accumulations of driftwood that had enough spiders under it to keep me looking for some time, though in the end only two species added to the list. Laurel was now sifting moss which, though rather sparse, added 7 species, while the leaf litter I found behind shaded drift logs above the lake added 8. By this time the tall grass (some along the road, some along the lake and some — with stealth nettles — at the cemetery edge) was dry enough to sweep, adding 6 species; understory added 3 more. Laurel and I found 4 varied species active on the ground, including uncommon, attractive gnaphosid Callilepis pluto. Tombstones and flowering shrubs added nothing new, but Laurel found the 40th species under a rock by the lake.
On our way back to the highway, we stopped by a more lush-looking riparian forest on Lillie Dale Road. Here, further moss-sifting added 5 more species, while I found abundant Tibellus and Pardosa metlakatla in an adjacent small meadow, making 47 for the area, a splendid sample! On the way in, Laurel's sharp eyes had noted a fine accumulation of pine cones in front of an apartment building in Eatonville, which we stopped to sample on our way home. This completely made up for the poor earlier fir-cone sample; 100 cones had 8 identifiable species, including some unusual records and adding 7 to the 26 species previously known from that gridspace. A good day!
18 V 2019: Around 3 miles east of Kittitas, where we collected on May 5, the old time railroad men dubbed a siding "East Kittitas" hoping it would become another successful town. Now the railroad itself is gone, turned to a trail, and at East Kittitas (besides the trailhead) is one house and a hay barn grandiosely called a trading post. But it made a fine spider locality! Right off, Laurel and I swept 8 species from adjacent grassy fields including a mature Thanatus and a good set of Metepeira foxi. I then beat 5 additional species from sagebrush while Laurel added 6 more from the walls of the hay barn (excuse me, trading post), including another female of the rare wolf spider Pardosa wasatchensis she'd taken at Kittitas. Next, we hiked a half mile up the trail (shared by a friendly couple with horses and dogs) to a rock cut where we could access an old shale quarry. Here we got 5 species under rocks (Laurel catching the prize, Phrurotimpus parallelus) and another orbweaver, Metellina mimetoides. 25 species already!
Next stop was a roadside irrigation canal where there were some pine trees, but alas, the cones if any were inaccessible. However, I swept 3 more species beside the water. To finish off the East Kittitas sample, we crossed the freeway to Boylston Road where my hopes of an accessible willow grove were fulfilled. Sifting the litter added 4 good species, while Laurel added some others from the bridge over Parke Creek and a little more sweeping. Zero to 35 species in 2/3 of one field day!
Our last goal was to supplement the earlier partial sample from Badger Pocket to the south. I'd selected 3 roadside sites that I hoped would have different habitats. First site, at Nicolai Road, gave us plenty to sweep where a canal runs along the road with no man's land in between. While several horses studied us with keen interest, we swept 11 species of which 4 were new to Badger Pocket. Next stop, along Morrison Road, gave us a nice triangle of unclaimed land between a county road and a canal, containing a big pile of concrete rubble and an elm tree with litter under it! The under-concrete fauna added nothing new, but Laurel found a Dictyna terranea between 2 plastic flowerpots there. Sifting elm litter added 2 species while Laurel got one orbweaver on the canal bridge, one wolf spider under a rock, plus Linyphantes aeronauticus and one unknown male by sweeping. The third pre-selected site didn't pan out. On the way out, we stopped off at Laurel's pine cone site (WPA Road) from last time, where I beat pine foliage adding the pale jumping spider Phanias watonus. 27 species from nothing but county-road roadsides! Insert imaginary cartoon of us patting ourselves on the back.
24 V 2019: Trying to coordinate 4 people and a vascillating weather forecast for a field trip is something I wouldn't want to try every week. But on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, 3 of us (me, Jerry Austin and Della Scott) headed north for a site predicted to be "partly sunny," Swantown Lake on the NW coast of Whidbey Island. It was raining in Seattle and Everett and Arlington — but dry by Mount Vernon. However, after we crossed the Deception Pass Bridge things looked dismally wet. Almost there, we soldiered on, and arriving at our destination things still looked iffy but at least not soaked. We had lunch in a picnic shelter at nearby Joseph Whidbey State Park, then I set out to collect from the vast marsh and meadow on the north side of Swantown Lake county habitat preserve. I had hoped for some marshland rarities here, but the best-laid plans… The road-edge vine thickets prevented access at most points, and at the few places I could get through that, cattail stands were too dense to penetrate and too stiff to sweep! But I got a sweep sample anyway by sweeping beside the road and in a small but accessible field at the north end, getting at least 7 species plus a Pardosa moesta active in the field. Sifting grass/leaf litter under a large shrub that shaded out the vines added 3, plus a juvenile Ozyptila crab spider. Across the road, I searched in vain for Salticus on the beach house fences, but found some pine cones and tapped 15, adding 2 species, one of them uncommon Erigone cristatopalpus. Meanwhile, Jerry was doing miserably and added only one species, a Zelotes fratris under driftwood. The last specimen from this site was a male Ozyptila praticola, far out of range, in short-term pitfalls (Laurel says "Noooo!").
Our second site was the edge of a Douglas-fir stand along the Crosby Road right-of-way. I beat 15 species from the fir foliage! Some of them duplicated the sweep sample, but it still added quite a few, including uncommon Theridion agrifoliae. Jerry got one more sweeping the roadside. Finally we stopped at a further bend in Crosby Road where I gathered in a couple of bags of alder litter within the right-of-way, sifting it with Della's help and adding 6 more species including uncommon Blabomma californicum. Total, 33 species including some fine records, and the last unsampled area on Whidbey Island taken care of!
The move to the new museum building is all done, and it's great to be back in the field!