a few notes

As I began to write these notes, this morning’s post by Robin at Dharma Bums immediately came to mind – and these lines in particular:

There are more stories than we can tell, so most of the time we don’t tell any of them at all, not about the goldfinches that gather in throngs under the birdfeeder and fly off in unison at any imagined hint of danger, nor the abundance of raspberries on this year’s canes, or the way the moonlight pours through the skylights and makes night into day.

How true. How to tell about the pairs of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Cardinals, Goldfinches and Purple Finches that spend entire days playing musical chairs at the sunflower seed feeder stuck to the window in the part of the house where I work? How to tell about Monarchs that have been busily laying eggs on the milkweed in the garden, or the Argiope spiders now beginning to spin their great orbs in the oldfield meadows? There’s so much going on that we must just observe and let much of what happens slip by without comment. However, I do try to record a few notes and share them here.

Today, I wanted to return to a couple of stories that have gradually unfolded over the past few weeks. You may remember mention of a Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) that I found hunting in the Black Walnut tree in our garden on July 8th. One of the odd things that I made note of at the time was a conspicuous scar on the spider’s “face” near its eyes. As it turned out, that observation of the strange marking made possible a further observation.

A few days ago, I suddenly thought of that spider and mused to myself over whether it might yet be found in the Black Walnut tree. I decided to take a look, not really expecting to find it there as I wouldn’t really consider a walnut tree to be the best habitat for this species. To my surprise, I found the very same spider within moments of studying the branches of the tree in the vicinity of my previous sighting (click on above image for larger view). This time, I found the spider guarding an egg case sealed inside of a walnut leaf. What an interesting surprise! I’ve been continuing to visit the spider and she’s sticking with her egg case, although sometimes wandering a couple of leaves away. I suppose that even spiders might get cabin fever and feel the need to stretch their legs. I’ll try to follow up on this story to see how long this spider remains on guard.

The other closely related story which has now come to an end of sorts, is that of other Misumena vatia spider that I’ve been watching since June 29th. She’s gone! Sometime after July 24th, she disappeared from her carefully sealed egg case (see above). I’ll have another look for her today, but my guess is that she either died, was captured by some predator insect, or has moved on. So, that makes about 26 days of vigil, not counting any days preceding my first sighting of the spider on June 29th. I’ll be posting my observations on both of these spiders at Spider WebWatch later today.

Here’s one of those “other” stories that almost didn’t make the cut, but that is a continuation of the post I wrote on on Saturday. In part, I wrote about things not seen until I load my photos into the computer. The photo below illustrates this phenomenon. Last week, while wandering about looking for Monarch caterpillars on milkweed, I happened to spy what I thought was a brightly coloured beetle — a very tiny one that looked like a miniature firefly, but with bright orange markings on its abdomen. I snapped a few quick photos, then continued with my search for caterpillars. After downloading my photos and getting the images up on my screen, I got to the shots of the tiny beetle only to find that the “orange markings” were not markings at all, but an assortment of parasitic red mite larvae! Clearly, I need to wear my reading glasses while wandering about, but they’re just a nuisance as I don’t need them for regular vision or photography. And would I have seen the mites even if I’d been wearing glasses? My guess is “no”. Some small creatures are not meant to be easily seen by the giants that lumber about through fields and forests.

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7 Responses to “a few notes”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    I’m glad you picked these stories to tell. As always, they are interesting and intriguing. I hope the Misumena vatia that we’ve been watching through your pics has simply moved on. She had such a long vigil with her eggs.

    That’s a great shot of those red mites. Amazing what goes on in the littlest details of the world.

  2. jalen Says:

    Found this spider in my house – suspended from the ceiling. I have it in a petry dish and will observe it over the next few days. Jalen

  3. bev Says:

    robin – It was nice to be able to watch this spider for so long, and also to re-find this other spider. I’ll try to continue to watch the eggs of the first spider to see how they fare.

    jalen – Do you know what kind of spider it is that you’ve found? Do you think it’s a cobweb weaver type of spider? Will you try feeding it flies or other insects? If I remember correctly, you kept some harvestman (opiliones) last year, didn’t you?

  4. Cathy Says:

    The variety of natural creatures that you and Robin Andrea experience at your doorsteps – fills me with longing. Bev, you needn’t wear glasses. You possess some preternatural ability to find and commune with the inhabitants of your yard and fields. I’m so grateful you take the time to share the things that you do.

    I tried not to feel sadness about the little Misumena Vatia who no longer watches her egg case. It’s so human to anthropomorphize. Did she worry about her young as she fell victim to a predator? A line of one of Robert Frost’s poems came to mind.

    ” . . . One had to be versed in country things
    Not to believe the phoebes wept.”

    (Yes, it would be nice to know if the little spiderlings get to set sail across the green foliage sea)

  5. Wayne Says:

    I’ve concluded that it’s inevitable that no matter how firmly I decided that the blog would be a documentation of observations, there are A]too many observations, and B]more of a motivation to write to entertain than I would have thought. And so I end up suppressing observations. Unfortunately I don’t keep paper notes to compensate, something that must change.

    That’s very cool about the walnut – now I’m going to have to look at our walnuts! I’ve seldom done so, because like you I sort of dismissed them as unlikely candidates for arthropod reservoirs, but that’s silly. Of course they are! And probably very interesting ones too. And since our weather has suppressed a lot of flowering this year, I should be looking at these things more.

    There’s no doubt about it – if I want to look closeup I must have reading glasses. I would have totally missed those colorful mites, and probably the beetle too! Somewhere on the floodplain there are two pairs of reading glasses that slipped out of my pocket. Someday I’ll find them.

  6. romunov Says:

    I observed some butterflies with similar red mites. More here.

  7. bev Says:

    romunov – That’s quite an example of mites on a butterfly. Thanks for providing a link!