A spider outing

February 23, 2017

February 23, 2017


Last week was absurdly warm for February in the Boston area, so obviously, I was outside. With a substantial layer of old snow still coating most of the trails and deep slushy puddles in places, it was a bit of a slog out there, but fortunately, the waterproofing on my hiking shoes held up and I was able to enjoy myself.

I was really excited to see evidence of spiders out enjoying the warmth—I miss my little invertebrates during the winter. For the first time in months, there were threads of spider silk catching the light from all sorts of surfaces. I also encountered this little fellow sitting out in the sun, and he graciously kept still for a few minutes.

This looks like it might be a jumping spider, but I don’t know what kind—its markings and coloration are different from those of the jumping spiders I usually see. I’m currently browsing BugGuide, hoping to come across something similar. As always, ID suggestions are more than welcome.

Edited to add: I’m thinking maybe the Dimorphic Jumper, Maevia inclemens.



A male mallard at Bellevue Pond, Middlesex Fells, MA, February 23, 2017.

I love watching them dabble with their little curly tails and bright orange feet. I also love that dabbling is seriously the term for what they’re doing. And look at those sleek feathers shedding water!

Bellevue Pond was entirely dried up last summer during the drought, when I visited it for the first time—it was just a plain of cracked mud and tall grass. It’s so encouraging to see it full of water now, and to see the waterfowl enjoying it. I also got to witness a very exciting goose fight (pictures to come).

Nature questions I need to look up

What is that one bird that I always hear in the woods? You know, that one, with the really clear two-note descending whistle. I wish I knew how to transliterate it. Whatever it is, its range includes Ohio as well as Massachusetts, and that’s about all I know. (Wait, no, I also know that I enjoy whistling back to it, like my dad taught me.)

Is there any way to tell coyote tracks apart from domestic dog tracks in the same size range? I’m fascinated by coyotes, along with other animals who have adapted to more urban lifestyles, but they’re so secretive! The place I go hiking allows dogs, so I don’t know whose prints are whose.

How DO you tell an alligator from a crocodile from a caiman? This is probably something I once learned from a kids’ nature show and subsequently forgot. I’m going to the Everglades next week, so this one I need to look up soon. (Florida is mostly home to alligators, but one area where I’ll be hiking is known to have some crocodiles, and I’ve also heard there are invasive caimans out there.)

What happens in nature the year(s) after a drought? By which I mean: how will last summer’s drought in Massachusetts affect things for this upcoming summer, like plant growth and insect activity? I really hope there are more bugs around this year.

tap tap is this thing on

Just doing some experimenting with WordPress formatting and options for inserting images from Flickr.

Enjoy some mushrooms that look like UFOs for your troubles. No idea what they are, but I found them growing on a birch log in late January 2017 at Middlesex Fells.

January 26, 2017

January 26, 2017