Monte Bello OSP

After the previous night hike at this preserve, I wanted to take another look at the Legionary Ants we found. I joined KG and PB on their scouting trip on 10/21. I hadn’t been up to Black Mountain since we did a group overnight a couple of years ago.

Many tiny fence lizards ran across the trail. The busy harvester ant nest had little or no activity. Perhaps the army ants drove them away.

One of the Calisoga burrows by the sag pond had housecleaning done; silky dirt with debris encircled the hole, the one that was “stuffed” with silk the previous week. We didn’t see any babies in the other hole.

Before 5:00, we crossed paths with a male tarantula. His abdomen was small, but didn’t have a bald patch like a lot of the ones we’d seen in Mt. Diablo on 10/12. We found several holes on the way up, including at least two tarantula burrows. A female tarantula hawk (Pepsis) was checking a trailbank for prey.

Yet another male tarantula crossed the trail, and we watched him go the opposite way from where we found a burrow. As we were taking photos, he turned around and climbed up a steep, almost vertical dirt trailbank. Last year we saw one tarantula, and before that we hadn’t seen one for a few years.

Some odd repeated calls came from the canyon, maybe wild turkey hens.

There was a very large deadman’s foot kind of fungus, shaped like a ball, but with cocoa-like spores.

We got to Black Mountain around 6:30. The wind was cold enough that I wanted a jacket on top of my two layers.
At 7:10, the too-bright light on one of the utility buildings made us wonder how it affected the nocturnal animals and migrating birds. We’ve seen this light from a distance off the preserve.

Campers were at the backpack camp, and we spoke to the ranger who had driven up to check on them.

There was a surprising number of Jerusalem Crickets on the trail. Usually we’re lucky to see one. I didn’t count, but I’m sure we saw more than seven. Two were injured and being scavenged by ants. We checked a hole in the dirt trailbank at one of the tree clumps, and it had a spider at the opening. We found one centipede, several Western Black Widows, and a millipede. Like the widows we’ve seen at Long Ridge, these seem to like spinning their webs over a shallow hole in the lower part of a trail bank hidden by grass or oats.

We looked for the tarantula burrows that we’d found on the way up.  We located one. I noticed that it also had recent housecleaning, with the dirt piled up around the opening. I wanted to see if it felt like the Calisoga’s housecleaning debris, so I felt some between my fingers. Somebody was home, and ran out! The spider startled us, and we watched it until it turned around and went back in, its body just fitting the hole. Although not fat, it looked in good shape. We thought of taking a video, so we got ready and tried touching the debris. Since we were touching the outside of the pile instead of picking some up, it took a little longer for it to come out. It crept closer to the entrance and did come out, and stayed there for three minutes, unmoving, until I got tired of holding the camera. I wanted to catch it going back in, and it didn’t take much since just the movement of an arm caused it to back in. Thank you for letting us see you.

Out of the wind, it was a little warmer. We heard a distant Barn Owl as well as Western screech-owl as we checked all the trailbank holes.

Back at the sag pond, we looked into the Calisoga holes. There weren’t any Solifugids on the trail back to the lot; maybe it was too cool. The astronomers were gathered when we returned a little early.

Photos are here.