along came a spider

This morning, I’ve finally managed to untangle a software glitch in my computer. A few weeks ago, I bought an all-in-one scanner/printer/copier and installed the software, only to have all of my photo editing programs become nonfunctional. I’ve been too busy to try to sort out the problem, but from time to time, I would fiddle around with the computer but couldn’t figure out quite what might be wrong. However, about an hour ago, I got things sorted out (downloaded and installed an updated driver, etc…). And so, I was finally able to crop and resize the above spider photo to fit into this post. The image is getting a little stale now — I shot it back on February 11th, a couple of days after my last post — but I wanted to put it up as a sighting record. It’s of what I take to be a Parson Spider (Herpyllus ecclesiasticus). We find them wandering around in our house from time to time. They’re not particularly large, but are conspicuous enough as they race frantically across the floors. When they feel threatened, they will usually freeze for a few seconds, which is exactly what this spider did. I shot a few photos and then backed off. After a brief interval, the spider raced off in a new direction, disappearing under the sofa.

Other recent non-spider nature sightings have included 3 Trumpeter Swans, seen February 24th at Narrows Locks. As you may recall, we went looking for swans back in early January, but found only a single adult at that location. It was good to see a small group in the open reach of water below the dam in the causeway. The same afternoon, Don pointed out a flock of about a dozen Turkeys foraging on the snowless south face of Foley Mountain above Westport.

We had another very cool sighting on Monday afternoon (Feb. 25th) while driving along a road not far from our farm. Don spotted a Barred Owl (Strix varia), perched in a poplar tree right beside the road. I stopped the van and backed up so that we would have a better view. The Owl looked very odd — as though it had a very long black tail. I thought, “What the heck?” Then the Owl moved around a bit and we could see that it was holding a Crow clutched against the tree branch. The Owl was struggling to hang onto the Crow while also balancing to stay atop the branch. After awhile, it departed carrying its meal, flying low across a yard and into some nearby pine trees. Through all of this, a male Northern Cardinal looked on from no more than 4 meters. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos as I’m not quite as diligent about bringing my camera everywhere with me in winter as I am throughout the rest of the year. Needless to say, I’m kicking myself for that oversight. I must remember not to make this mistake anymore as we’re beginning to see quite a bit of wildlife activity lately. Although we’re still receiving fresh snowfall, and it’s only about -21C (-5F) this morning, the sunlight feels much warmer now. Can spring be far away now?

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No Responses to “along came a spider”

  1. Nina Says:

    I’ve never heard of a barred owl taking anything as large as that! That must’ve been quite a sight!
    I collected the pellets from our barred owl last fall and found only shrews and voles. I was hoping for something more exciting.

  2. bev Says:

    Nina – That was a first for us too. I thought their prey consisted mainly of small mammals. However, I was just looking around online and see that on the Owl Pages, it says that:

    A very opportunistic hunter, a Barred Owl can sometimes be seen hunting before dark. This typically occurs during the nesting season or on dark and cloudy days. A Barred Owl will use a perch, from where it dives upon its prey – meadow voles are its main prey, followed by shrews and deer mice. Other mammals include rats, squirrels, young rabbits, bats, moles, opossums, mink, and weasels. Birds are taken occasionally, including woodpeckers, grouse, quail, jays, blackbirds, and pigeons. They also eats small fish, turtles, frogs, snakes, lizards, crayfish, scorpions, beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers. Birds are taken as they settle into nocturnal roosts, because they cannot catch birds on the wing.

    The odd thing about this sighting was that it was at about 3 in the afternoon, but on a dull, overcast day. We can’t figure out how the owl would have captured a Crow at this time of day, but I suppose it could have captured one that was snoozing on a perch. In any case, we both thought it quite an interesting and unusual sight.

  3. robin andrea Says:

    That really must have been quite a sight, bev. I always imagine crows outsmarting everything, but I guess owls can get the better of them.

    We saw plenty of geese on the move during our drive home. We always wave at them and wish them a good, safe journey. It’s great to see the migrations happening. Yes, must remember to take the camera with us on all of our outings now.

    Nice spider.

  4. Cathy Wilson Says:

    Oh, how I know that feeling when encountering a wonderful event and wishing I’d brought the camera. The trick, as I’m sure you know – is to stop grousing and try to enjoy the wonder. That can be tough :0)

    Do the owls have young this early?

  5. Wayne Says:

    I imagine owls absolutely hate crows, which harrass them, as well as hawks. Good crow coup! Let them eat crow!

    I haven’t posted on this because I wasn’t sure of the propriety of reporting on our neighbors’ crisis, but they let their dogs out around midnight for a final run, and one came in a minute or two later literally ripped to shreds (the others had hi-tailed it for the front door). Not a sound was heard, but they spent the rest of the night at the local emergency vet getting the poor dog cleaned out and stitched up. The photographs I saw revealed at least seven major wound areas with large amounts of skin pulled off.

    Our local wildlife biologist settled on a bobcat, probably, with a coyote as a less likely possibility. I had considered owls. Barred owls are a little small, and that’s what we mostly hear here. However great horned owls have no trouble with skunks and could easily manage something of this dog’s size. One thing I found interesting is that the owl wouldn’t bother to try to lift the prey of that size, it would rend it right there. Needless to say, we have been keeping a closer watch on things in the last few weeks.

    There was a “homework challenge” from Andrea Seabrook on last week’s NPR’s weekend edition (I’m not at all a fan of Andrea Seabrook, frankly) but this challenge was to call in your favorite bird imitations. Apparently the hands-down favorite east of the Mississippi was the Barred Owl. Some were quite good, but none we heard included the insane cackling that I find most fascinating. That exclusion of the most interesting aspect is probably a metaphor for Andrea Seabrook.

  6. Peter Says:

    Great sighting Bev. I don’t think I’ve seen an Owl with prey. I did run into two Snowy Owls on Feb 27th though, about 3-4 minutes apart. Beautiful creatures!

  7. am Says:

    Until I saw your photo of the Parson Spider, I didn’t realize how much I have missed your photos of spiders and insects!

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