JO, JH and I led a spider and insect hike at Skyline Ridge, starting from the Russian Ridge lot, on 5/23/10. We started at 1:30, went over a little arachnid anatomy, photos, and a Mexican tarantula exuvium show-and-tell until 1:50. Around 13 participants joined us, including a 5-year old boy. There were a few newbies. The sky was clear, but the breeze was chilly. As on our scouting trip, one car left the lot as we pulled in to find the lot full. The road was not as packed with cars as on our scouting trip, but there was a footrace event that had started at 8:30.
At the pond picnic tables, large drone flies were visiting the non-native daisies as they were on our scouting trip. We were there for a while, and continued on the lower trail past the nature center towards the restroom. At the sign post were three ticks, one on the sign, and two on the grass at the base of the sign. There were four ticks there on our scouting trip. Pacific Forktails darted around the water on the side away from the pond. A few small black wolf spiders were in the leaf litter.
Continuing uphill past the restroom, a trashline weaver (Cyclosa) perched in its orb over some poison oak. A small green spider was in a web above that. Slightly uphill, a lek of male Adela moths fluttered above more poison oak as this year’s docent class hiked downhill towards us.
We turned right on the Ridge Trail. We found the turret on the trail bank that we’d seen on the scouting trip, but didn’t find the small spider and egg case nearby. On our scouting trip, there was also some growth? on the trailbank that looked like a toy tire. We aren’t sure what that was, a fungus or something else. Coming out of the woods, there were some red leaf galls on the oaks on the left.
A small black jumping spider was found in the grass. At an ant nest, there were not as many as on the scouting trip. A couple were carrying filaree seeds. There were bumble bees and more small bees in the poppies and composites, and close to the top was a stem sawfly in a composite. In a nearby poppy was a click beetle which I got in my hand, and it clicked to right itself. One Variable Checkerspot caterpillar was found. A big surprise was a Mountain King Snake seen by a few! It was on the move crossing the trail and disappeared into the brush quickly.
Turning up the hairpin turn near the overlook around 4:00, it got more windy. We proceeded down to the water tank and curved right. More dome spiders were found at the first intersection, and a female trashline weaver in orb with two males on nearby twigs. Past the ranger station area heading downhill we stopped at the woodpile on the left. One of the two orbs in a log on the left was still occupied, and the spider reacted to my tuning fork twice. We talked about webs and different methods of catching prey. The old building had a cellar spider and an old mud wasp nest.
We headed straight to the other side of the pond and up the trail to Alpine Road. We arrived back at the lot around 5:15. Everyone enjoyed what we had seen, and the boy showed interest in everything we saw.