Saturday, March 12, 2016

Sweating some big stuff for a change

Winter is sort of a down time for invertebrates, a dreary boring endless period I endure grumpily.

This winter was quite different.

In December we went out to the west coast for a big family get together. My sister, who lives in San Jose, and my niece, who lives in Berkeley, got together and rented a house right on the water in Pacific Grove which was quite lovely. We could see whales spouting right outside the bedroom window of our room, we could walk the beachfront path which went, if we had wanted, all the way around Monterey Bay. The wonderful Monterey Aquarium was a short walk up the road. Sea otters were abundant, almost every one a female with a young one.

We came back to Arkansas January first, and I was looking up some spiders in BugGuide when I realized for the first time that when I had a species up I could click on "data" and a map of the US came up and each state that had reported that particular species was filled in and the other states remained empty. The map gave a general and very useful idea of the distribution.

But as I checked through the different species, I noticed that, as in this map here, the Arkansas map was virtually never filled in, even though, as here, it is obvious from the filled in maps around it that the spider must occur in Arkansas. Of course what it meant was there was no one in the state specializing in Arkansas spiders, or at least no one (including me) who was reporting records to BugGuide. I was embarrassed for my poor state, which looked as barren of spiders as the South Pole. I checked, and I had photographs of about a hundred species that were blanks on the data map. I decided to literally put Arkansas on the map!

I spent the entire month of January sending them in one by one, and it was a real education for me (especially the ones disapproved as being either mistaken, or else as being part of a cluster of species that could not be told apart without dissection). So there was another month or more of winter gone by. Then we got ready and went down to Florida to visit old friends in St. Petersburg, and of course we visited the nice wetland reserves around the city. I had just upgraded my camera and lenses, and I thought I could get some practice using the new equipment by taking pictures of the long-legged wading birds that Florida has in such profusion.

Here, for anyone who might be interested, is an album of pictures I took down there.

Anyway, what I am leading up to saying is, we got back home, rested up a couple of days, and suddenly it is almost the middle of March, flowers are out, leaves are sprouting, birds are pairing up, I saw a couple of fresh orb webs showing up in this morning's dew. What in the world happened to winter?