On Saturday 10/17, we met at Skyline. The ranger on duty met us and waited as we took a quick trip to check out conditions.
With 12 of 16 on the list (original total 21) participants including two kids 12-13 years old, we set off to caravan to alternate parking at Long Ridge. No one admitted to being new or not having been on night hikes, and everyone followed parking instructions well.
Leaving the trailhead around 5:25, the first sightings were deer and a couple of small fresh holes in the soil. The holes were about .5″ in diameter and had small bits of dirt unevenly surrounding the hole. They could have been ant holes, but we saw no ants there.
Turning right on Peter’s Creek, we found a piece of bark with King Alfred’s Cakes (carbon balls), which also had a cricket, a jumping bristletail, and another, smaller cricket. There were quite a few fallen branches, and a larger trunk across part of the trail.
JH and KG found termites at a log. After the recent heavy rain, the termites had emerged and the winged reproductives were ready to mate and start new colonies.
We arrived at the bench in about an hour, in time for sunset. Crickets called behind us, but not in the area in front of the bench.
A few bats flew about as dusk descended. A stuffed tarantula provided a mostly anatomically-correct model. The weather was mild, around 65, and overcast. When it was dark enough, we proceeded down the road, searching for scorpions. Again, we found at least ten, including a tiny juvenile.
One of the larger scorpions was accommodating in moving into the plastic tube for observation. Its pectine organ (v-shaped sensory organ on the ventral side) was small, unlike one that we’d seen before.
There were two large ants in different spots.
Turning into the woods, we looked for turrets. There were many, of various sizes, and most of them had spiders perched at their entrances. Three holes held larger mygalomorph spiders; the two I saw were grayish, but all I could see were legs. We didn’t see the Black Widows that we’d seen on the scouting trip, but there was one spider hanging head down on the trailbank. A small black beetle crawled around also.
After catching it in the bug box, we released it. It tried to run away before I caught it, and upon release, it quickly ran into a hole.
We found more scorpions on the trailbank, including one on the move. It found a hole and was quick to hide. In one of the open grassy areas were two Harvestmen (an arachnid, but not a spider). The group got a closeup look at one.
We quietly approached the pond. I checked for activity, and didn’t attract any bats or see any frogs, though there were a couple of quiet water sounds. A fallen branch was along the bank. We also didn’t hear any owls this time–perhaps the ambient light bouncing off the cloud cover kept them quiet.
It was around 9:00, so we had plenty of time. We decided to do the quiet walk to the “newt pond”. There was water running in the creek and pond. A participant found a newt in the creek. We had no triboluminescence demonstration this time, but had a similar activity with glow-in-the-dark plastic creepies.
At the turnoff to the trailhead around 9:30, four participants elected to call it a night and KG escorted them out. The rest of us had decided to walk back past where we had turned up the hill at the start of the hike. We didn’t find any more creepy crawlers except for another small beetle, and had no luck with owls. We turned back, meeting KG along the way.
Once back in the clearing on the way out, some stars were visible. Everyone seemed to enjoy the night, and the fluorescing scorpions were a hit.