Posts Tagged ‘Wolf spider’

Morgan territory

March 29, 2015

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Kent and I have been trying to arrange a hike for years, and something has always come up at the last minute. But today, we’re really going to do it! I went to his house in Livermore at 1, having spent the morning attacking purple star thistle at Rancho San Antonio open space preserve.

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We hiked at Morgan Territory regional preserve. I’m not sure I’ve ever been here before, but it’s a beautiful place, especially at this time of year while everything is green. Open oak forest, mostly, with manzanita at one corner, and the poison oak fairly well contained: large and visible where it exists.

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Wildflowers everywhere. Most of them not very dramatic in themselves, but they add up to a nice show.

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And a swallowtail, first one of the season, I believe.

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The view off toward the east or southeast, the windmill farm not doing much right at the moment. Looking further north, we could see snow-capped Sierra, dimly, but unmistakably.

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And my favorite, as you would predict: a wolf spider, and pretty good sized for this early in the season.

A good hike in good company, a great day.

New boots, Windy Hill, Small animals

May 25, 2013

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Last weekend, I had new hiking boots, and set off on a 19-mile hike under the assumption that they were going to be just fine. Not!

REI took them back without a squawk, dusty as they were. What a great company! How many places would do that!

With a new, new pair of hiking boots today, I’m a little more cautious. I went to Windy Hill, whose short loop is about 8 miles, and whose long loop is about 12. As well as being able to turn around and go back, I can stitch these together to a total trek from roughly 8 to 24 miles, in 4-mile increments, assuming I go around not more than twice.

Bottom line: twice around, once on the outer loop, again on the inner loop. 15 miles, 3000+ vertical feet. Sore medial malleolus of left tibia, until I loosened the laces. I think they will be okay.

It was chilly. I set off without a jacket, but there was enough wind that I went back to the car and put on my padded vest. Glad I had it; even in the afternoon, it was chilly.

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The day started off with a dragonfly, considerately posing on the trail for photos. I hope no one steps on it.

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When a millipede goes for a walk, it’s a really big deal! Either that, or it’s nothing to even think about. Or maybe both.

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But when mom takes the kids for a walk… well, shouldn’t the kids do at least a little bit of the work?

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By the way, this is a really special sighting, one that doesn’t happen very often at all!

She got tired of posing for photos and headed for a convenient hole at the side of the trail.

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An unintended consequence, but a good one: minutes after she ducked into her hidey-hole, upward of a dozen runners came along the trail. I probably increased her odds of survival by several orders of magnitude.

The trail is indeed a pretty dangerous place. I noticed another millipede, squashed, an antique Packard beetle, squashed, a little snake, likewise, a lizard, flattened. Mountain bikies are worse than pedestrians because riders don’t see as much, and they flatten more territory.

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It is the time for larvae and pupae.

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I was thinking about the common and the rare small animals, and how they change, year by year. Some are obvious: last winter was relatively dry, and I find few banana slugs, scorpions and newts. But some animals vary a lot, for no apparent reason.

Assuming that I spend about the same amount of time, at about the same locations, the same seasons, the same time of day, and that I am no more nor less observant in one year than in another — questionable assumptions, all — assuming all that, I think there are radical changes in the population of small animals over time.

Some years, I see no tarantulas; some years there are dozens. This year, there seem to be very few snakes around; some years, there are lots: gopher snakes, rattlesnakes, even ringnecks, not all of them in the same years. Fewer snakes? I don’t even see very many snake tracks in the dust of the trail this year.

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This year, there seem to be a lot of alligator lizards.

Some animals have found the area a congenial habitat recently. For example, it is only within the last five years, to pick a random number, that I have seen wild turkeys, and now they are quite common.

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It is the season for moths. Lots of them flying in clouds. This one was on a moss-covered oak in the forest.

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I stopped for calories at the top of the climb, second time around, and this little guy came out to cross the trail. Pretty! Notice the nozzle with which it can suck up nectar from flowers.

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Finally, just before returning to the parking lot, I stopped at Sausal pond and waited quietly for whatever might be in the neighborhood.

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I continue to boggle at the fact that the leading edge of a dragonfly’s wings are completely open, no membrane whatever. I wonder whether some aeronautical engineering student (or professor) has analyzed and simulated this with a view to using the idea in short takeoff or hovercraft.

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Ribbit!

The alligator is back

April 7, 2013

Sunday, 7 April, 2013

I went out on the bike for 40 miles, 2400 vertical feet. Everyone in the world was out enjoying the day. Nice.

Normally, the back deck is full of tiny spiders, busy going about their business. When an alligator lizard took up residence under the deck, a year or two ago, the spider population plummeted! Then I didn’t see the lizard for quite a while, and the spiders began to recover.

Over the last week or three, I see fewer spiders than I would expect, and today, I see why.

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Not only is there one alligator lizard, but there are at least two. I saw what I think was a third, same colour as the one above, but much shorter tail. Raising a family, are they! Too bad about the spiders.

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I conjectured that the lizards had taken up summer residence from their haunt in the firewood pile. So I went over to the firewood, which is busy, busy, busy, with hundreds of wolf spiders, many of them carrying egg pouches.

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It will be interesting to watch the balance of forces here.

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A wolf in the back yard!

November 2, 2012

I stepped out onto the back deck to enjoy the autumn sun, and noticed a spider. Well, of course I took a closer look. A wolf spider, complete with the 747-style upper deck that includes side (and maybe rear) windows!

Not very big, nowhere near as big as they sometimes get. This one could run around on a dime. But she was carrying a dozen or so eggs, that were just in the process of hatching out.

Not far away, I found another spider, this one really small, enjoying lunch.

The grand vistas of the Rose Peak hike

May 28, 2012

The out-and-back hike from Sunol to Rose Peak was the original inspiration for my term Killer hikes. I have recently expanded the category by stitching together trails from adjoining open space areas, but even though it’s less than 20 miles (19.00 according to the GPS), Rose Peak is still the classic (5004 feet of climb).

I haven’t been there for a couple months; time to do it again. The wildflower season is fading fast: quite a bit of green, but already fading to the white of new grass seeds and the golden hills of summer.

This little wildflower is about the size of a smallish pea. Flowers like California poppies grow pretty much everywhere, but this species showed up only in a stretch of maybe 100 meters of trail. Dark enough that you might not even realize they were flowers, if you weren’t keeping an eye out.

Cloudy and chilly. I left my jacket in the car, expecting to warm up as soon as I started uphill (true) and to break out into the sunlight fairly soon (not true). Lots of backpackers on the way down from last night’s camping, probably thirty or more by the time they had all straggled past. I kept thinking each new one or two represented the lanterns rouges, and then I would meet yet another one or two.

Because the day remained cloudy, there was a lot of dew on the vegetation.

I programmed the image processors in my brain to match against mantis. No hits among the millions of images that flowed past, all day, but the filter did pick up one of these pretty little orange spiders.

He figures that, if he can’t see me, I can’t see him.

The filter spotted a wolf spider. I like the 747 upper deck, complete with rear window, as well as the four parking lights just below the headlights.

I noticed a second wolf spider, so small it could have gotten lost on the nail of my little finger. The one above would have sprawled well beyond the nail of my thumb, but if it does well this season, it will be twice as big (8x as massy) by fall.

This little guy was almost invisible on a stalk of milkweed. I am delighted with the fine detail visible in the photo (and this is the low-res version!).

Near the top, a bobcat, something we don’t see very often. No photo, sorry; it didn’t want to stay around and pose for me.

On the way back, I stopped for calories at the little pools where McCorkle trail crosses the W-tree rock scramble. Water striders, and the opportunity for almost abstract photos.

And under water, a larva of some kind, very likely preying on an even smaller larva under its left foreleg, while just under its tail section, another larve would be breathing a sigh of relief, if only it could breathe.

As I drove out, late afternoon, I saw a car stopped off the road ahead, people out in the traffic lanes. I slowed and passed in the left lane, and saw that they were protecting a large gopher snake as it crossed the road. Good for them!