Posts Tagged ‘Mommy long-legs’

Small animals and killer hikes

May 11, 2013

We could start off the small animals category with birds.


This one has been parked at Moffett field for several days, near the levee trail, where I pass it on my bicycle route home. The tail says Travis (AFB). I have to admit that this bird probably doesn’t count as a small animal.

Well, how about genuine small animals? When Friedrich and Petra were here a week ago, I discovered a mommy long-legs in a corner of the dining room ceiling, complete with egg sac. I was not expecting results so soon, but…



If you don’t mind my saying so, I think this is really cool!

Saturday, 11 May

More small animals later, as we get into the killer hike. Bottom line first: 19.3 miles, 4970 feet of climb. What? It’s less than 20 miles, less than 5k feet? How can that be a killer hike? Maybe because it was 90 degrees plus today?


It didn’t start out at 90 degrees. It was a bit foggy when I started, right at 7. Lots of people out; I had to park almost at Mission boulevard, further from the trailhead than ever before. As always, the street was busy with people who came here to hike, driving up to the parking lot, hoping for a spot, then turning and coming all the way back. For me, I just take the first place available and hike.

I took Horse Heaven trail, as per usual. Most times, it’s practically deserted, but today was fairly busy. I was coming up behind a group of four hikers; we had just made a right-angle turn in the trail below a heavily vegetated embankment, when from behind came a long, loud, melodious Moo-oo-ooo. Startled, the hikers in front spun around. The only animate object anywhere in sight was … Dave.

When I passed them a few minutes later, I remarked that I could claim no credit for the entertainment.


By the time I reached the shoulder of the ridge, it was a sunny, pleasant day. The top of Mission Peak is to the left; I go down the slope to the right, to Sunol.


This is an industrial-grade hike by default, just to Sunol park headquarters and back to Mission Peak. If I go past the park headquarters, on up Flag Hill (above), it becomes a killer hike, at least on really hot days.


This TuVu is today’s first comparatively small animal. It was perched in a tree where I’ve seen them before, sometimes two or three.


Crossing the bridge between Sunol park headquarters and the Flag Hill trail, I see the stream full of mossy pillows. Pretty, but I don’t think I would want to go wading there.



Here’s how Flag Hill looks from near the bottom, about 900 feet above the stream.


Small animals, as in really small.


Coming up just below Flag Hill (above), which was populated with half a dozen other hikers (below). I perched on a rock and enjoyed the view and some calories.



Looking down from Flag Hill. I emerged from the Mission Peak trail into the Sunol headquarters parking lot just above and to the left of center.


The red roof just about dead center in the picture above is a house about 200 feet above the level of Flag Hill. The trail runs very close past it. Mission Peak is the high point about two thirds of the way to the right. I come over the shoulder just to its left, and go back over a trail to the right of the peak.


Came down Hayfield road, which runs past the old JB ranch. I understand the venue is sometimes used as a group camp, but it was not occupied today, except by hikers and a couple of mountain bikies.


Unlike Sunol headquarters, drinking water is available here. Though probably not from that tank.


Ok, small animals we want, small animals we get. There were zillions of earwigs. They didn’t like posing for photos, though, so I didn’t get pictures as good as I would have liked.



While I was shuffling around in the tall grass, I acquired a tiny spider. Here’s my little friend, finding its way through the hairs on my knee.


When I started looking closely at this thistle, I discovered all kinds of small animals in addition to the bee and the earwig.




And just to break the monotony, the Goodyear blimp flew over. This is tail number N10A, named the Spirit of America.


Back to the small animals…


I dropped back down to Sunol headquarters, where I drank as much as I could from the bottled water they bring in, then refilled my water bottle. It was enough to get me back, but I would have liked more. A lot more.


And what should to my wondering eyes appear, but an alligator lizard. Their defense mechanism is to freeze, which makes them good subjects for photographers. Nice colors!


Two things to notice: first, the really interesting shapes to its scales. Second, the blue-ish bulb behind the head is an engorged tick. Often they have more than one. I’m told that there is something in lizard blood that immunizes the tick from Lyme disease. Well, and third, look at the middle toe on the front foot!


Not long after, I found a lizard on a mossy tree trunk. Usually they scurry away, but maybe the alligator lizard had been on the horn to his buddy. “Just freeze. It works every time!”


The shoulder behind Mission Peak is a fire road with a hundred feet or so of ups and downs. A hiker came along, trailed by his dog. At the low point of a roll in the trail, the dog decided it had done enough work for one day, and laid down.

The hiker went back and picked it up. Nice of him. Just as well it wasn’t a really massive dog.


There were quite a number of these little guys. Doris tells me they’re horned larks, with their horns down. Inconspicuous: I might have stepped on a couple of them if they hadn’t moved!


At the bottom, looking back up. Not so much fog at this hour, and most of the people coming down rather than going up. Two or three hang gliders at the top, and another one had just landed near where I took this picture.

A nice day.

Mommy long-legs 3

June 17, 2012


I checked on things before going to bed last night. Everything seemed quiet. I just hope the eggs don’t all hatch overnight, so I won’t have a chance to see the excitement.

The first thing when I got up this morning was to go check again. Yep, we now have a ball of hatchlings, not a ball of eggs.

Notice that there are still several unhatched eggs in these pictures.

As to the babies, notice that the abdomens are pigmented, while the heads and legs are transparent. We also see tiny eye dots.

Actually, this is true to a certain extent of the adult spider as well. Jacky remarks that we can see mommy’s brain, and it may well be true.

I ate breakfast and checked in again half an hour later. I don’t see any unhatched eggs in the foto below.

Daddy has disappeared, intimidated by mommy’s ferocity. We know about ferocious females!

<Time passes>

I went out for a hike, got back early in the afternoon.

In prior years, mommy held onto a fluff ball for two or three days, comprising the husks of dead babies, presumably eaten by their siblings. Today, I don’t see a fluff ball, and mommy is free and clear.

The youngsters are strewn around. The smart ones stay clear of their siblings.

Every year, I make an effort to watch this drama, and most years I succeed. It is a terrific show!

Mommy long-legs 2

June 16, 2012

High drama!

I went into the garage to check on progress, and discovered mommy and daddy locked together, and not in an act of love! Daddy had clearly tried to raid the pantry, and mommy was going to have none of it!

The advantage of being an orb weaver is that the egg sac can be left behind, suspended from the ceiling, while mommy attacks daddy.

We can’t really see what daddy has in his pedipalps, but it’s clearly something.

We suspect he got at least an egg, if not an early hatchling.


And mommy goes back to the egg cluster. When I checked half an hour later, daddy had retreated to 10 cm or so, but was clearly hoping for a chance at dessert.

Mommy long-legs 1

June 16, 2012

I didn’t notice her until yesterday, a mommy long-legs with an egg ball, hanging from the garage ceiling.

I believe the swirls on the eggs are the legs of the developing spiderlings, showing through the semi-transparent membrane. They look to be just about ready to hatch.

In fact, the little dark spots on one or two of the eggs might even be the eyes of the spiderlings.

Just for grins, notice that she has at least eight eyes, and possibly more.

Not far away, another spider. Probably male, possibly the biological father of the egg mass. Paternity is not his focus; he’s interested in lunch.

I nudged him a little further away, but I’m not in the bodyguard business. Will he succeed in getting some of the little ones?

Watch this space!