Sun Spiders, Goatsuckers, Snake Lunges, Oh My!

Went for another night hike in Briones this past Sunday, and it might have been the best one yet. The Briones Valley Rd. trailhead off Alhambra isn't the best for sunsets, but it's got a nice stretch of oak / chaparral before you get out into the grasslands more typical of the park as a whole, where I've seen interesting flowers and the like during wetter months. Not much happening as I headed out, but as darkness really settled I started seeing lots of interesting things. Some YOY gopher snakes, gigantic wolf spiders, even a Common Poorwill! I saw some more dead gopher snakes on the drive back, they're all exactly the same size, about 30-40 cm long. Was talking with a friend about it today and we both agreed we'd never seen gopher snakes that were any smaller. Wonder how big they are when they hatch...

Highlight of the evening were sun spiders in the scrubby bit on the way back (very closely followed by the poorwill, mind you). Haven't seen solifugids in ages, and never outside a trap! Was quite delighted, esp. at their tendency to scoot backward trailing their pedipalps when alarmed. Sarah later taught me that the weird dangling structures on the last pair of legs are called "racket organs," but that no one knows what they do. Mysterious!

Overall a pretty awesome night.

Posted by kueda kueda, September 30, 2009 06:12 AM

Observations

Photos / Sounds

Observer

kueda

Date

September 27, 2009 08:49 PM PDT

Description

The abbreviated wings make me think nymph, but I don't know. Also should have taken a few shots with a smaller aperture. Still learning my flash-fu.

~8mm long, observed in mixed oak / chaparral setting in Briones Regional Park, Contra Costa County, California, USA.

Photos / Sounds

What

Pacific Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer ssp. catenifer)

Observer

kueda

Date

September 27, 2009 07:05 PM PDT

Description

One of several young (YOY?) gopher snakes I saw last night. This one was feisty! Flattened heat, hissing, biting, rearing, all the good stuff. At one point it lunged at me, leaping at least a full body length to attack my hand (just missed). It's so much cuter when they're not 3 ft long.

Photos / Sounds

What

Western Parson Spider (Herpyllus propinquus)

Observer

kueda

Date

September 27, 2009 09:11 PM PDT

Description

Well, I guess it's a Gnaphosid given those massive spinnerets. There were two on this oak. I was impressed by the pink pattern on the abdomen. As I was taking this picture, I realized I was sitting on a leafless poison oak stem. Yay.

Photos / Sounds

What

Rocky Canyon Spiders (Genus Titiotus)

Observer

kueda

Date

September 27, 2009 08:52 PM PDT

Photos / Sounds

Observer

kueda

Date

September 27, 2009 08:25 PM PDT

Photos / Sounds

No photos or sounds

What

Common Poorwill (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii)

Observer

kueda

Date

September 27, 2009 08:20 PM PDT

Description

As I was retracing my steps through the grassy hills, I saw a shine on the side of the trail that I figured for a metallic bag or some other piece of reflective trash, but as I got closer it turned out to be a nightjar! Apparently the Common Poorwill is the most likely candidate. When I was growing up, Common Nighthawks would join the early evening flocks of swallows in my neighborhood as they made a feast of summertime bugs, but I'd never seen a nightjar in CA before. This guy was sitting on the trail, sort of a small, pigeon-sized black blob with reflective eyes and a small, sharp beak. Despite having the wrong lens on, I raised my camera, but when my eye met the viewfinder, there was nothing there. It had taken off soundlessly, ghostlike, and for a moment I questioned my sanity.

Tags

Photos / Sounds

What

Sierran Tree Frog (Pseudacris sierra)

Observer

kueda

Date

September 27, 2009 08:05 PM PDT

Description

Gettin' the stink eye from a frog.

Photos / Sounds

What

Wolf Spiders (Family Lycosidae)

Observer

kueda

Date

September 27, 2009 07:58 PM PDT

Description

One of two gargantuan wolf spiders mammas I encountered. She was pretty nimble considering she was carrying about a bazillion kids.

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