Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and was eager to explore the place.
So, after spending Saturday night near the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it was in the car and up the mountain on Sunday morning. This shot was taken along the beautiful Skyline Parkway, which traverses the length of this 105 mile long, 200,000 acre park. Spring is slower to arrive at the mountain's summits, but there were still interesting flora and fauna, and breathtaking scenery at every turn.
BRACE YOURSELVES, arachnophobes!
My Nikon had its 105mm macro lens bolted in place, and I began snapping away. There are a half-dozen or so fishing spiders in the genus Dolomedes in the eastern U.S., and I knew it was one of them. At first, I thought it was the six-spotted fishing spider, Dolomedes triton, as it too has that prominent white border around the upper body. But the animal lacked the spotting of that species, and after a bit of investigation I believe this spider is Dolomedes scriptus, which is one that I was not familiar with. As I can't find a common name for the beast, I suggest dubbing it the giant fishing spider.
From leg tip to opposing leg tip, this spider was probably in excess of three inches. Despite the menacing appearance, she was rather tame and confiding, and like virtually all spiders is utterly harmless to people. By gently prodding her with a small twig, I was able to pose her in different ways for this photo shoot, and she offered no substantial objections.
Fishing spiders are aptly named, as they are nearly always found around water bodies. The dense layer of hair which cloaks their body is hydrophobic, or water-shedding. These animals can deftly run across th water's surface without breaking the surface tension, like gargantuan murderous water striders. Fishing spiders can even dive under the surface, becoming encased in a silvery bubble of air when below.
Apparently a common hunting ploy has the spider anchoring itself to the bank with its rear legs, and gently floating its palps on the water's surface. The hypersensitive palps can detect motion on the water, and when a bug falls in the drink or perhaps swims by, the spider detects the movement and rushes out to grab the victim. Larger individuals, such as the one in these photos, can even take small fish and tadpoles.
I felt rather lucky, as it isn't every day one happens across such an extraordinary animal as this spider.