Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Spiders! (and a butterfly too)

When in doubt, ask for help.

Zeke as a tiny puppy in the plot that now holds kale flowers.
Normally, I am pretty careful to identify the subjects of my photos before I post them.  Today, however, I'm having some trouble with IDs, and so I decided to get some help from readers. 

Because bird activity has been slow in my yard the last couple of weeks, I have turned my attention to the small denizens.  Warmer weather in August, plus the decay of the cherry tree crop, and the still blooming flowers brought out the insects.  And the insects brought out the spiders.  At any given time my front yard seems to be host to a dozen or more spider webs -- some of them quite large. 

Before I get to the arachnids, though, let me present one visitor who I can (I'm almost certain) identify.

This lady is an example of what is commonly called the "Cabbage White" butterfly (Pieris rapae).  I happen to have in my yard a Kale plant which has gone to flower (it belongs to my dog Zeke now, who thinks kale is great to eat and even better to pee on), as well as some flowering wild green bean plants.  These butterflies (which are supposed to be fond of cruciferous vegetable flowers) seem to really like both plants.  The guide that I consulted says that you can tell the sex of the individual by the number of spots on the wing -- one for male, two for female.  Making this one a "she". 

Now back to the spiders (and other arachnids). 

The most exciting find, to me, was this one.  Of the type commonly called "granddaddy long-legs" and more formally known as harvestmen.  Technically (and I didn't know this until I started looking him up) harvestmen are not spiders at all.  They are closely related arachnids.  I was really fascinated with this guy (odds are, any spider-like individual you see is female, I think -- but how would I know for sure?) because I had just finished reading an article about newly discovered fossils that show harvestmen ancestors from around 300 million years ago who are virtually unchanged from the ones we know today.  That would make them among the earliest known land animals to assume their modern form.  Pretty exciting to think that after all those millions of years they are still stalking around my front yard.


These other spiders, I am embarrassed to say, I have not identified.  

Look at these guys closely  and see if you know what they are.  I'm a little obsessive about identifying things and then reading about them, so any information you can provide to point me in the right direction would be great.  I'll give credit in a future post to whoever comes up with the right ID.

If you like Birdland West, you might also want to check out our sister blog Books and Beasts, which focuses on reviews of books about animals and related topics.

(Many of the original photographs featured on Birdland West are available for sale as art quality prints.  You can check out all of our offerings at http://AlexWashoe.imagekind.com.  If you see an image here that does not show up on our Imagekind site please contact me directly and I'll let you know about availability.)

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