It's Spider Season (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source, Science, and Nature.

Tue, 18 Sep 2007

It's Spider Season

It's nearly autumn, and that's the time of year when a girl's heart turns to ...

   BIG FAT HAIRY SPIDERS!

That's right, the tarantulas are on the move.

[tarantula] Mostly, tarantulas are hard to see. They stay in their underground burrows for most of their lives; if they do come out of the burrow, it's likely to be at night.

But for a few weeks each fall, male tarantulas become more adventurous, when they emerge from their burrows and wander in search of females. The females stay snug underground, but the males can often be spotted on roads and trails, if you know where and when to look.

Ah, but where and when? I've seen tarantulas numerous times at Alum Rock Park (in San Jose) and at Arastradero (in Palo Alto) ... but not in the last four years. In recent years, Dave and I have gone out every October looking for spiders, and have struck out locally. (Fortunately we've had better luck on trips, so not all of these years were completely tarantuless -- we've found them in places like Arizona's Valley of the Gods and Utah's Kolob Canyon.)

This year, we got started early, in September. We had no luck at Alum Rock last weekend, so this evening we took a late-afternoon hike a little higher up in the east bay hills, at Grant Ranch.

On the trail by Grant Lake, we got rattled at by a fairly large western rattlesnake, saw an underground beehive as well as lots of small wasps, watched a flock of wild turkeys down by the parking lot, and found a lovely feather from the blue heron at the lake.

But ... no spiders. So we got back in the car and continued up Mt Hamilton Rd toward the upper parking lot (Twin Gates). About two-thirds of the way there, Dave spotted our quarry: a tarantula crossing the road. We found a pullout and ran back with cameras.

After the photo session, we continued up the road to Twin Gates for another mini-hike. Again, we saw no tarantulas on the trail -- just hawks and kites, an oak tree covered with acorn woodpecker holes (with the woodpeckers themselves darting among the branches), and another oak tree being killed by mistletoe.

We returned to the car and headed back down the road -- and bagged the day's second spider, scurrying across one of the roadside pullouts. A nice end to the day's spider hunt!

Photos of the two tarantulas are here.

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[ 22:16 Sep 18, 2007    More nature | permalink to this entry ]