Wednesday, November 15, 2017

10-Nov-2017 Bremerton & Southworth, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
When I tapped cones in Bremerton a few weeks ago in my ongoing search for the introduced thomisid Ozyptila praticola, I didn't manage to take any samples in the heart of the city south of the Port Washington Narrows. I returned this day to remedy that, as well as to take samples in Gorst, Port Orchard, and Southworth. Given that it had rained the day before, I knew the fallen cone microhabitat would be soggy. But it was now or never, since the long-range forecast indicated that this would be the only day in the foreseeable future with a low chance of rain.

Near Manette Bridge, Bremerton
Not entirely soaked
I had prepared a long list of potential collecting spots using Google street view, and was delighted to find numerous, accessible western white pine (Pinus monticola) cones at the site closest to the ferry dock: a hillside along Washington Street at the west end of the Manette Bridge. As anticipated, everything was wet from rain the day before. Cones under the trees' drip lines, however, were at least dry on their undersides. I tapped 50 cones and collected only 7 spiders, but 2 or 3 species: Grammonota kincaidi and one or two species of Erigone.

Hmm, maybe not.
Usually when potential collecting spots don't pan out it is because the tree is on private property posted with "no trespassing" signs, or the cone scales are not open. The latter frequently occurs with cones of the introduced black pine (Pinus nigra), but also cones of the native Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), which close their scales when wet. That means that during rainy weather, the most reliable tree to find open cones beneath is white pine. But accessing the cones of white pine trees, even those growing on public property, can still be a challenge. The magnificent white pine tree growing immediately south of Manette Bridge (left), for example, turned out to be inaccessible without a kayak or a rappelling rig. Well, at least it was a more scenic no-go tree than those growing along Route 3.

Across from Evergreen
Rotary Park, Bremerton
Soggy but fruitful
My second site consisted of a lone white pine in a grassy field across the street from Evergreen Rotary Park. I only found 32 cones to tap, but they produced a surprising 51 spiders and two more identifiable species: the introduced theridiid Cryptachaea blattea, and the native Phrurotimpus borealis (Phrurolithidae). The high overall number of spiders in this sample resulted in large part from the presence of 16 juvenile Enoplognatha probably-ovata, an introduced theridiid I often find in urban cones.

Park & Ride pines
Male (top) and female (bottom)
Phanias albeolus
I had absolutely no luck finding open, accessible cones in either Gorst or Port Orchard, so proceeded on to the last collecting site on my list, a Park & Ride lot in Southworth. Happily, dozens of at least partially open cones had accumulated under three white pines growing near the road. I tapped 65 cones and collected 34 spiders and 3 species, including a pair of mature Phanias albeolus (Salticidae). The P. albeolus were an unexpected find, since we usually find that species in conifer foliage and forest understory. I've never tapped if from fallen cones before.

As with my Bremerton-area samples from a few weeks ago, I found no Ozyptila praticola or even any juvenile Ozyptila in any sample this day. If it is present in the area, it is hyper-localized.

Perhaps this Pacific tree frog (Pseudacris regilla) was also searching for spiders

Saturday, November 4, 2017

28-Oct-2017 Bremerton & Silverdale, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
After recently finding the introduced crab spider Ozyptila praticola (Thomisidae) near the ferry terminal on Bainbridge Island, Bremerton became the next logical place to look for it. Accordingly, I hopped on a morning ferry from Seattle and tapped spiders from 8 sets of fallen conifer cones in the greater Bremerton area.

A typical black pine grouping,
this one in Silverdale.
The native western white pine (Pinus monticola) is a minor but common part of the forest in this part of Kitsap County, but I was unable to find any that were accessible; they tended to grow on the highway margins or in private back yards. However, there were lots of black pines (Pinus nigra) within reach. This is an introduced species commonly planted on commercial property in this region.

Kitsap Peninsula. Blue & red
pins show where I have and haven't
found O. praticola, respetively.
The long and the short of it is, I tapped a total of 357 fallen conifer cones and collected 33 spiders from 6 families. Five or six species were identifiable, including the native linyphiids Erigone dentosa, Grammonota kincaidi and Tachygyna vancouverana and the introduced theridiids Cryptachaea blattea and Theridion tinctum. All in all, it was a fairly typical set of cone spiders from central Pugetopolis, except that it didn't contain any Ozyptila praticola or even any juvenile Ozyptila of questionable identity. I have yet to find any O. praticola on the Kitsap Peninsula, despite having found it on neighboring Bainbridge Island and Vashon Island.

View from the ferry: Manette Bridge spans the Washington Narrows, linking
the two halves of Bremerton. The Olympic Range provides a scenic backdrop.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ozyptila praticola Catch-Up Post

Map 1. Sites sampled for Ozyptila praticola mid-August to 
mid-October, 2017.
The past two months have been a whirlwind. In addition to the usual collecting trips with Rod Crawford, I intensified my ongoing search for the introduced European crab spider Ozyptila praticola (Thomisidae). For the latter, I've tapped over 3,000 fallen conifer cones at 48 sampling sites (Map 1) since mid-August. I focused my search in areas that I suspected were on the periphery of or just beyond O. praticola's local range. I also re-sampled a few sites within its known range to confirm its presence with mature specimens where previously I'd collected only juveniles. Instead of blogging separately about each sampling day and site as I usually do, I'll summarize them together here.

Map 2. Ozyptila praticola confirmed during the mid-August
to mid-October, 2017, sampling period (blue pins)
I confirmed the presence of O. praticola at only three locations during this sampling period: Woodinville, Bainbridge Island and Mercer Island (Map 2). Only the Bainbridge Island sample represented an extension of the known range of the species.

Based on the data I've gathered to date (Map 3), the core range of O. praticola in Washington appears to be the urbanized western lowlands of King County and Snohomish County. In addition, there appears to be a small disjunct population in Bellingham (Whatcom County). The presence of O. praticola on Bainbridge Island signals the need for more sampling in Kitsap County, especially the Bremerton area. The search continues.

Map 3. Ozyptila praticola in Washington state.
Blue: O. praticola confirmed via adult specimen.
Yellow: Juvenile O. ?praticola found.
Red: No O. praticola adults or ?praticola juveniles found.
Purple: O. praticola confirmed in British Columbia, Canada by Bennett et al. (2017)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

9-Oct-2017 South Fork Beaver Creek, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
Last year about this time, Rod Crawford and I sampled spiders in the gridspace covering the town of Plain and part of Little Chumstick Creek valley, both located in Chelan County. This day, since Stevens Pass was still free of snow, we decided to make what would likely be our last trip of the year over the pass, and sample an adjacent gridspace.

View down the "road".
As so often happens in field work, conditions on the ground were different than expected. Namely, the forest road paralleling South Fork Beaver Creek, which we had planned to take to our preferred sampling location, no longer existed! In fact, it hadn't existed for decades, judging from the volume of vegetation growing on its former bed. Luckily the main forest road was also in the gridspace, so Rod quickly returned to it to begin his sampling there.

One of several generations of markers
on the witness tree.
I didn't start sampling quite yet, since I was curious to follow a very narrow, almost hidden path along the former road that someone had pruned vegetation here and there to mark. And so I slogged on through the wet and slippery tangle, expecting to find a hunting blind. What I found was flagging hanging over the trail, which led me to notice a witness tree on the hillside directly above.

Male Spirembolus mundus
Female Pityohyphantes sp. #5
Curiosity satisfied, I beat conifer foliage as I worked my way slowly back to the main forest road. Interestingly, although the deciduous understory was quite wet, most of the conifer foliage was dry. Thanks to quite cool temperatures along the creek, many spiders were moving slowly enough to photograph, even in the dim light of the understory.

My main cone source
By the time I returned to the forest road, Rod had scouted the area and located a small grove of ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa) for me. Yay, cones to tap! Unfortunately the grove was fairly young and so I was only able to find 17 cones. However, after searching farther down the road, I found a pair of mature trees that had dropped hundreds of cones. It took a scramble up the steep roadside embankment to access them (going up is never the problem. It's getting down again...), but I was happy to get a good sample.

Lots of cones up the embankment!
From 100 cones I tapped 12 spiders from six families. Four species were identifiable, including typical denizens of eastside cones like Meioneta fillmorana (Linyphiidae) and Cryphoeca exlineae (Hahniidae). The surprise of the sample was an atypical female Pityohyphantes tacoma. Rod also found them in conifer foliage. They were atypical in the shape of their genitalia, but also in the sense that this was the first Pityohyphantes I'd tapped from a fallen cone.

You can read Rod's trip report here.

Fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) and ocean-spray (Holodiscus discolor)


Monday, October 16, 2017

3-Oct-2017 La Center, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
Fall sampling has arrived! After barely making our species quotas in the dry heat of late summer, it's always exciting to collect in October. By then, days are cooler and autumn rains have begun, but there are enough consecutive dry days that collecting is still possible. And most importantly, we are usually able to collect many more species than our minimum daily target of twenty-one.

This day Rod Crawford and I headed south to La Center in Clark County, where a student's recent pitfall study in broccoli fields had provided Rod with interesting but incomplete samples from two adjacent gridspaces. Our goal was to raise the species total in each gridspace to at least twenty-one. Luckily, since we had a long drive to get there, accessible habitats in each gridspace were accessible within a few miles of the freeway.

Female Phidippus audax from shed
Our first stop was at a county reserve located at a convergence of agricultural land, forest and the East Fork Lewis River. I had little luck finding fallen open conifer cones to tap, but had some success sweeping riverside grass and collecting from the walls of a shed.

A formidable mantis...
The area was also good for some insect photo ops, including this European mantis (Mantis religiosa) that landed on me as I was walking down the road to the river. By its coloration, I'm guessing it had been spending most of its time on drying grass. Gardeners and farmers buy mantis egg cases and introduce these animals into their fields as pest predators. However, I am skeptical that they are effective since 1) they're generalist predators and so eat beneficial animals like bees and spiders as well as troublesome ones, and 2) like ladybirds, they have wings and don't stay put.
...and a decidedly unformidable woollybear

I also spotted my first woollybear (Pyrrharctia isabella) of the season, which was dashing headlong through the riparian grass.

Our second stop was at the Lake Rosannah Natural Area ("Mud Lake" on older maps) located at the lower end of the Allen Creek drainage. After collecting from gates and fences near the parking area, I walked the trail towards the lake and was happy to find open Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) cones next to the trail.

Female Comaroma mendocino
Cone tapping site by Lake Rosannah
Tapping 50 fallen cones produced only two spiders, a juvenile Phrurotimpus and a tiny, shiny dark-colored spider shaped like a theridiid. As it turns out, that tiny spider was a female Comaroma mendocino, a cobweb weaver currently placed in the family Anapidae. The species has only been reported twice before on the west coast of North America, in California and in British Columbia! If I had sampled more cones, perhaps I would have collected a male as well. But I was dissuaded by the poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) growing through the forest litter, and didn't yet know I had found such a rarity.

Read Rod's account of the day here.

The lustrous leaves of poison oak.

Last blossoms of summer: Spiraea douglasii

Friday, August 18, 2017

16-Aug-2017 Mount Vernon and Bellingham, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
Ever since finding juvenile Ozyptila that were patterned like praticola at two sites in Bellingham last November, I've been wanting to return to search for adult specimens. I wanted to know conclusively whether this introduced thomisid was present in Whatcom County's biggest city. It seemed likely, given Bellingham's situation along Interstate 5 and its proximity to British Columbia's southern reaches, where O. praticola has also been found. This would be the day to find out! But first, on my way north from Seattle to Bellingham, I stopped in Mount Vernon and Bow to take a few more samples in Skagit County; I have yet to find O. praticola (or any Ozyptila) in fallen conifer cones in Skagit County.

Mount Vernon & Bow

Anderson Rd site
Lots of cones & litter under the shrubs
On past trips north I'd noticed a row of pines growing just east of the freeway near the Anderson Road exit. Upon closer inspection this day, I found that groundskeepers had removed all of the cones and needle litter from beneath them. But it didn't take long to find "greener pastures" on the other side of the freeway: black pines (Pinus nigra) planted along a parking lot perimeter. Groundskeepers had been busy there too, but hadn't gone so far as to remove cones and litter from beneath the shrubs.

Zodarion collection sites.  Blue = Zodarion rubidum adult;
Yellow = juvenile Zodarion 
I tapped 50 cones and collected 37 spiders from four families. Most were juvenile Steatoda (Theridiidae) and Philodromus (Philodromidae). The only identifiable species was Tenuiphantes tenuis (Linyphiidae). By far the most interesting spider in the sample was a juvenile Zodarion (Zodariidae), presumably Z. rubidum. This is the farthest north I've found this rapidly spreading introduced species. I also sifted pine needle litter, but didn't find anything new. I found no O. praticola in either microhabitat.

Bow Hill Rest Area
Bow Hill Rest Area along Interstate 5 provided another convenient spot to tap cones in Skagit County. The facility is situated in a fairly natural forest fragment dominated by western red-cedar (Thuja plicata) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). Nevertheless, the 50 Douglas-fir cones I tapped produced only two harvestmen and two juvenile linyphiids.

Bellingham

Lincoln St. site
Since I already knew that Ozyptila could be found at the two Bellingham sites I had sampled previously, I decided to intensively re-sample those sites before looking for new ones. My first stop was the western white pine (Pinus monticola) growing on Lincoln St. near the Interstate 5 underpass. Except for the need to wade through thorny Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus), I had no trouble finding 50 fully opened cones to tap.

Female Steatoda bipunctata
Those 50 cones produced an astounding 100 spiders, 64 of which were the introduced Steatoda bipunctata (Theridiidae). I also collected two female Eratigena agrestis (Agelenidae), commonly known as hobo spiders. Juvenile agelenids aren't uncommon in the fallen cone microhabitat, but this is the first time I've collected mature E. agrestis. I suspect the reason is that most cones that I tap don't provide large enough hiding places for Eratigena adults, which have body lengths of 11-15 mm (legs not included). As for O. praticola, I again found but one juvenile spider at the Lincoln St. site. My plan had been to sift litter if I didn't find an adult specimen in the cones, but I decided against it unless my second Bellingham site proved equally unhelpful. The reason was the poor dog on the other side of the fence that had been barking for the past hour and a half. I was sure that I, it and its neighbors would enjoy a reprieve.

This unassuming site on James St. ...
...harbored this male Ozyptila praticola
Moving on, I was pleased to find that the western white pine at the intersection of Whatcom Creek and James street also had numerous fully opened cones beneath it. I tapped 50 cones and collected 24 spiders from 5 families. Only two species were identifiable: T. tenuis and, O. praticola! So now we know with certainty; Ozyptila praticola is indeed present in Bellingham.
Status of Ozyptila praticola in western Washington. Blue, yellow, or red
indicate adult O. praticola, juvenile Ozyptila sp. or no Ozyptila found, respectively

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

8-Aug-2017 Bainbridge Island, Washington

Site location map. Yellow pin marks Harborview Drive site.
Click to enlarge.
Smoke from wildfires in British Columbia precluded a trip to the gridspace of interest to Rod, so I took a solo trip to Bainbridge Island (Kitsap County) to continue my search for the introduced European thomisid Ozyptila praticola. So far I haven't found any O. praticola on the nearby Kitsap Peninsula, but it is present on Vashon Island five miles to the south of Bainbridge Island. Both islands are connected by frequent ferry traffic to Seattle, where O. praticola is now common.

Sampling site on Harborview Dr.
The fallen cone microhabitat
Almost immediately after disembarking from the ferry, I found a nice cache of fallen cones to tap on Harborview Drive. The cones were a jumble of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and black pine (Pinus nigra) cones intermingled with Douglas-fir and madrone (Arbutus menziesii) litter.

Juvenile Ozyptila (?praticola?)
O. praticola in western WA. Blue,
yellow & red pins indicate adult, juvenile
or no O. praticola found, respectively.
I tapped 100 cones and collected 26 spiders. Most were Cryptachaea blattea (Theridiidae), but two were juvenile Ozyptila. They look like O. praticola to me, but unfortunately I can't definitively identify the species from juvenile specimens, so a return trip with litter sifting equipment in tow will be required.

The other four Bainbridge Island sites I sampled produced more C. blattea as well as juvenile specimens of Tegenaria, Tenuiphantes, Philodromus, and Phrurotimpus. In all, very typical for fallen cones in urban western Washington.

Seattle skyline seen through the milky haze of wildfire smoke from the
deck of the M/V Tacoma.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

30-July-2017 Ferbrache Unit, Washington

Site location map. Click to enlarge.
With choices of productive sampling sites dwindling rapidly due to summer heat and dryness, Rod Crawford and I returned to a favorite late-season region, Grays Harbor County. Our main collecting site had the interesting name Ferbrache Unit, which I kept confusing in my mind with Fibonacci, as in the mathematical sequence. The area consists of Chehalis River sloughs, forest remnants and agricultural fields managed for waterfowl. My source of fallen cones was the one and only Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) growing on the forested edge of one such grassy field.

Rod dwarfed by the Sitka spruce and
its encircling jungle.
Looking across grassy field
at the giant Sitka spruce.
The tree was a giant and sported a massive skirt of Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) and coastal manroot (Marah oregana or M. oreganus). The latter resembles the edible cucumber and belongs to the same family (Cucurbitaceae), but is apparently not edible.

First set of tapped cones returned
to the grassy field
Numerous cones had fallen on the grassy field, so I tapped 57 of them while Rod beat the few reachable spruce branches and the tree's skirt of foliage. My efforts resulted in only one juvenile spider.

Fallen cones near tree base made up
the second set
By the time I was done with that first set of cones, Rod had made a big enough hole in the wall of green (a machete would have been useful!) for me to worm my way through to the trunk of the tree.

Inside the manroot tangle
I was pleased to find vast quantities of cones under the pleasantly green and less-dry tree canopy and manroot tangle. I tapped 100 cones from that cache and collected 11 spiders and a few neobisiid pseudoscorpions. Compared to the lone juvenile spider I'd tapped from the "field" cones just a few yards away, this was a bountiful result.

All eleven spiders were juvenile except for a male and female Ceratinella (Linyphiidae) which didn't immediately match any species Rod was familiar with. Two of the juveniles were Metallina (Tetragnathidae), a genus I'd never found in fallen cones before. In fact, I rarely find anything from the family Tetragnathidae in fallen cones. Rod also collected many juvenile Metallina in his Ferbrache Unit sweep samples.

Read Rod's account here.

A field of peas across the road from the Ferbrache Unit.