If you wish to receive notifications when new posts appear, enter your email address here:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tarantulas are Out and About

A nice, mellow-tempered tarantula revealed itself yesterday, in an unusual way. As Gary opened the door to the solar shed, if fell down from a high perch onto his shoulder, and proceeded to slither down to the floor. Then it hid itself among some tools in a dark corner. I went out with a bowl and gently encouraged it to climb in, then relocated it to a good spot for a photo shoot.

This spider should belong to the genus Aphonopelma, as the majority of North American tarantulas north of Mexico do, but at the moment I have not identified it to species.

A dark, almost black tarantula.

A close-up, showing the fangs (smaller, medial) and palps (to the sides of the fangs and leg-like), as well as the tiny eyes.

With photographer's finger for scale!
A few tarantula hawk wasps (genus Pepsis) have been seen around the property in the past weeks, and the large females will seek out tarantulas to sting, and then story in an underground burrow as a food source for the wasp's larva. On a couple occasions, I've stumbled upon a wasp-spider showdown and the wasp must be very nimble to manage to deliver its massive sting while avoiding being bitten by the fairly massive fangs of the tarantula! This photo was one I took in the mid-1990s at the former NAS Miramar of a female Pepsis with its paralyzed tarantula prey, just at the split second before the spider was released into the wasp's burrow. By the way, our local tarantulas do not have venom as potent as, say a Black Widow spider, or even close. If a local tarantula bit you, it would be somewhat painful, but not much worse than a bee-sting (for a non-allergic person!).

Probably Pepsis mildei with tarantula prey. NAS Miramar, San Diego County, California. Mid 1990s.
Although all the tarantulas that I have observed in southern California over the years look somewhat like the one in the top three photos, there are other more colorful and larger species in neighboring Arizona and beyond. Below is a Desert Blonde Tarantula (Aphonopelma chalcodes) that I photographed south of Tucson, Arizona last summer. A spectacular spider, to day the least!

Desert Blonde Tarantula, rest area along the I-19 corridor, south of Tucson, Arizona. Summer 2011.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Last Day of June

The highlight of the day yesterday was another visit from the resident bobcat, which ventured onto our property from the north a short time before sunset. It was accompanied by a frenzied, raucous bunch of crows, which had been frantically cawing for at least 10 minutes on the neighboring property. Then when the crows moved their noisiness closer to our property, Gary and I looked in that direction, and sure enough, there was the bobcat on the fence-line. I was able to get a couple distant photos as it moved across our slope. Even the Black-headed Grosbeaks were agitated as it passed below them, giving regular "check" warning calls.

A heavily-cropped shot of the bobcat, which kept a close watch on us, as we did the same back. It's tail was almost continuously "lashing" (as much as a stump can lash).

Earlier in the day, Gary and I took a little walk down into the meadow, and slightly beyond, and encountered some female turkeys with young. This seems to be a better year for turkey reproduction than the past couple summers, as there have been several families roaming around the area for the past several weeks. We also saw all four White-tailed Kite fledglings, so they have all made it so far.

Two females with young. Is one of the females an "aunty?" Or two broods merged together?

Turkeys in the dry grass.
The milkweed that I planted from saved seeds a few years ago is finally attracting quite a few native insects now, including this carpenter bee. Up to three Monarch Butterfly caterpillars have been seen at once on this plant, but yesterday we could not find any.

Looks like the Valley Carpenter Bee, a common local species.

At the end of the day, we were amazed to see CLOUDS forming to the south, a sight we have not seen in far too long a time. Maybe the very beginnings of monsoonal moisture? Let's hope for some nice, wet thunderstorms soon (without too much fire-inducing lightning)!

No chance of rain from these, but they did make for a nice sunset.