Arachnophilia, in flagrante delicto

On our fourth annual Arachnophilia! hike on 10/13, temps were ~63 to ~55. JO, SW and I had 12 participants show up.

On the way up Page Mill, a young coyote trotted down the road. An amusing Common Raven incident happened as we waited for people to arrive. There was another raven nearby. I assume the culprit is the same raven that I’ve seen loitering in the lot. One time it walked from one side of the lot to the other, under the arching oak and down the trail by the entrance. Another time, it sat atop the Monte Bello sign as I drove past. The last car in a row of many fell victim to raven’s mischievousness, having its side mirror pecked and wiper blades pulled. Here is a video that JO took:


We started on the trail at 5:30, after a little arachnid show and tell. A couple of deer browsed on the hill. The vinegar weed continued in bloom. A couple of very small brown wolf spiders crossed the trail, and a fence lizard ran to hide.

At the sag pond, a Virginia Rail called. A young Southern Alligator Lizard skittered near and stopped, pretending to be invisible. A gray squirrel climbed through a willow. We briefly checked holes on the hill, and stopped for the birds’ nest fungi. There were only a few very small orbs along the way.

The big intersection came at 7:40.  I wanted to get to our dinner spot by dusk, so except for stopping for the labyrinth spider (Metepeira), we continued on. A  bat flew by. It took a while for it to get dark enough for the poorwill to show up.  We watched it for quite a while, and it was still there when it was time to leave. We made our way slowly down the trail on the opposite side, and finally it took off.

The harvester ant nest still has alates. Oddly, they’ve been there at least since 8/24. A tree cricket sat in the trail, and a small brown crab spider uncharacteristically walked around on the ground.

Soon after entering the woods, our first Calisoga for the season showed up. Then someone spotted another.  We examined them, and a centipede and millipede also showed up. We would see several more of these slender round millipedes as the night went on. A few small cockroaches also appeared along the way, with various small black beetles including Scaphinotus and many many harvestmen. One pair was either fighting or copulating, and another was eating an ant or ant remains.

It was a bit after 8:00 by the time we returned to the intersection, so we decided just to go in as far as the turrets. A small 15-20mm Calisoga sat in the middle of the trail. It did a good job at playing dead when I touched it, and even fell over on its side. We decided to move it to the side since we’d be returning that way. We found several turrets, plus forest scorpions and other small spiders. At 8:45, we headed back uphill.

The hard turrets had spiders perched in them. Lots of camel crickets sat in the trail, and some of them curiously fluoresced. We  pondered whether they were afflicted with a fungus, were about to molt, or simply were a different species.

Glowworm (Phengodidae), female or larva

Over the course of the night, at least some of the participants saw about 15 scorpions and 2 Jerusalem Crickets. As we looked in holes, a Barn Owl shrieked a few times. Another Edwards’ Glassy-wing visited us, and while we were looking at that, someone noticed something moving at my feet. It was a glowworm (Phengodidae) larva or female! Its eyes were too small to see well enough to tell whether they were compound or simple, and we didn’t detect any visible bioluminescence. This was only the second of this family that we’ve seen up here. Another interesting moth landed on MW, a very hairy but beautiful moth, perhaps genus Tolype. We also saw more Calisogas looking for mates.

At 9:45, I decided to go up Bella Vista to the first clear dirt bank. We found a Black Widow in her web, showing her red hourglass.

Along the sag pond trail, a newt crossed. It stopped in the middle of the trail, and was cooperative. We checked the sag pond spider hole, which was still closed. A bit further along, a pile of silver hair by the side of the trail–a pair of mating Calisogas, next to a burrow! Including the one by my car in the lot that managed not to get stepped on, we saw a total of 12, a record. The male Calisoga held the female back with his spurs, using six of his legs to hold her while he used his palps.

Mating Calisogas, male on the left

Another small brown crab spider walked by the couple, and a harvestman.

We finally tore ourselves away after everyone had gotten good looks with close-focus binoculars, and turned towards the walnut grove around 10:15. We only had time to take a quick look into the tarantula hole to see legs in order to get back by 10:30.


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