Monte Bello Request Hike

I helped JO and KG with a charitable auction night hike. We scouted the route on 9/25/13, starting at 5:30 and returning at 10:10. This was a different route from last year, decided on for the time frame (5:00-10:30). We’ve taken these trails before, but have not gone this direction at night.

Wednesday was rather cold. The nearest weather station reported 45F at 9:00, and critters hunkered down. We did see three deer, with which we had a visual exchange. An interesting flower-like bracket fungus sprouted from a log. Keeping our upcoming arachnid hike in mind, there weren’t many webs, just a bowl and doily and a dome. There were several spider holes in the ground, however. The most exciting thing for the night was finding more trapdoor spider burrows. I found one relatively large one along with a small one, and KG found another. At least two of them were not easily opened (so we didn’t, as they are somewhat fragile). At least one was being held shut by the spider behind it, as a short time later I noticed the door was ajar, slightly pulled into the burrow. (If the spider detects what might be a predator such as a spider wasp, it will hold the door shut to avoid being stung, paralyzed, and dragged away to become live food for the wasp’s larvae.)

Thankfully, on 9/28, it was 64F. There was much more action this time. The sky was clear, but some high clouds came in around 9:15. Despite the lack of moon, the ambient light reflecting off the clouds made it possible to see each other in the darkness. One casebearer moth structure remained on a coyote brush. We stopped for badger holes, ants, fungi and lichen along the way to our dinner spot, which we reached at 6:30. As we hiked, I heard Common Raven, Acorn Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Hawk and sharp calls of a woodpecker (Downy or Hairy).

A couple of newts (which were absent on Wednesday) showed themselves in the creek. It was still dusk when we finished dinner. We stopped to point out the trapdoors. One was not behind its door. KG noticed another cryptic door near the original one. We moved to the new ones we’d found further along. KG could see the spider’s feet just behind the door, which was slightly ajar, so I decided to try coaxing it out even though I had to use my left hand because of where I crouched. Maybe the shakiness of my hand holding the flat piece of dried grass was enough to mimic prey, because the spider jumped out and grabbed hold of the grass! It stayed, emerging even more, with about 3/4 of its length showing. The eight hike participants got a great look at it in action, as it stayed out for a while. I had to let go of the grass because my hand was getting tired, and my end of the blade snapped back vertically and the spider disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. It’s not often that we get to see these spiders, and this was a real treat–we wished we’d recorded it. We try not to bother an individual animal of any kind too much; doing this causes it to expend energy without actually getting food, and some may be caring for eggs or young.

Some sounds caught our attention as we stood in the trail. Western Screech-owls trilled and barked. Later, we also heard Barn Owl. After listening for a few minutes, we moved on to look at turret spiders and tiger beetle larvae.

At  a tall trail bank, a forest scorpion perched out in the open on the dirt. It was dark in comparison to the color of the bank, and stood out without the aid of UV light. As the group looked at it, a moth fluttered around, finally landing on the ground. This was the first Edwards’ Glassy-wing of the season. We admired the orange-red and black abdomen and translucent wings. The moth vibrated its flight muscles to warm up for its next take off.

We neared our dessert spot, and while JO showed some lichen fluorescence, I looked down and found a small Calisoga. This would be the first of four found outside of their burrows. As the group enjoyed dessert, part of their auction winnings, I went over to sample some Golden Monkey tea that someone had brought. As I attempted to open the thermos, I noticed another Edwards’ Glassy-wing crawling on my sleeve. It was a female, with hairlike antennae.

On our return, we passed a possible Titiotus spider, pale with a long darker mark on the abdomen. We also crossed paths with a Jerusalem cricket. We haven’t seen many (or any?) this year. Near the sag pond, one of the larger Calisogas was face down in a burrow, and a lone treefrog quacked. JO and I went ahead, while the rest of the group prepared for a silent walk. We didn’t find the large spider we’d found on 9/18, but JO spotted a tiny solifuge. A reddish wasp scouted on the ground, antennae busily detecting clues.

Once regrouped, we returned to the lot at 10:30.

Some photos are here.