Yesterday was an absolutely delightful early spring day. Almost summery, really, with temperatures hitting 75 degrees in the southernmost reaches of Ohio. And that's where I went, hopping in the car at Oh-dark-30 and making the two hour drive to Adams and Scioto counties. These two counties harbor some of the greatest botanical diversity to be found north of the Ohio River, and with the unnaturally balmy weather of late, plants have been in eruption mode.
I spent about nine hours in the field, and located scores of wildflowers, including some of our rarest species. My camera's clicker was busy recording nearly 1,000 images, some of which were keepers. I'll share some of those later.
It seems that most of my field work anymore is in the company of others, which I greatly enjoy. I learn a lot from being with people who know more than I do, and getting another's perspective is always enriching. But I still love solo days, such as yesterday. Without any sort of distraction, I find my senses are heightened and I tend to notice lots of things that I might otherwise miss. When I'm by myself, I tend to move very quietly and the easing through the forest without making sound tends to allow one to better sneak up on the wildlife.
Spot the mammal. It's right there, dead center, staring bullets at the camera. As always, you can click the photo to enlarge it and better see detail.
Mammals such as chipmunks and squirrels habituate well to suburbia, and become backyard extroverts. They adapt to the presence of people, and most of their natural predators are absent from the yardscape. In much wilder landscapes, such animals are often not nearly so confiding.
It wasn't. Carefully lifting the leaf that I though the animal vanished under revealed a telltale burrow about as big around as your thumb. It's right there, blending well with last year's litter of leaves, square in the center of the photo. Its occupant is right at the entrance, too.
So, I did what any decent spider enthusiast would do - I prostrated myself on the forest floor, camera at the ready, and hoped she might come out. Still and patient as I was - I lay in the leaves for a good twenty minutes - she would only come as far as the burrow's entrance, as seen in the photo. Any slight camera-adjusting move by me sent her instantly down the tube. I really wanted a good look, and decent photos, in order to learn her identity.
Senora Wolf Spider would not be intimidated by smaller potential victims passing by her burrow. It's probably good that insects don't thought-process in the way we do. One can only imagine the horror that would register, albeit briefly, in the unfortunate bug's mind that bumbled into the vicinity of the spider's lair. In an incomprehensible blast of speed, the spider would rocket from the burrow, seize its victim, and bite it. Venom injected via a pair of impressive fangs would quickly incapacitate the prey, which would then be tugged underground where its soft innards would be sucked dry.