Monday, October 17, 2016

North Cascades National Park

Steve here today...

More glaciers than Glacier National Park and a lot fewer people - that's what initially attracted our attention to North Cascades National Park. But there's so much more....a quote from the NPS website:

"North Cascades National Park Complex spans the Cascade Crest from the temperate rainforest of the wet west-side to the dry ponderosa pine ecosystem of the east. The park encompasses landscapes with over 9,000 feet of vertical relief. There results a high diversity of plants, over 1,600 species so far identified, and many other organisms adapted to a wide spectrum of habitats.
The relatively new mountains, glaciers and streams of North Cascades lie near a dynamic interface of tectonic plates and provide an opportunity to study geologic processes unfolding through time. Geologists and others seek answers to questions of global climate change, mountain building and erosion, volcanism, glaciation, stream dynamics, and more."
We did a 44 mile loop trail through some of the most spectacular backcountry we've yet experienced, here's the highlights:
Pics below, but first, enjoy a video:)
Clearwater streams:

Splendid fall foliage:

Public land a-plenty:

Free blueberries:

Incredible stealth camping sites:

Invigorating breakfast perch:

Well-built and maintained trails:

Keeping limber:

Epic alpine wonders:

Inspiring color palettes:

Dynamic weather (clouds moving in):

Hiking in the clouds:

Happy fungus:

Rain gear test (failed):

The sun returns!:

Friendly snake:

HUGE slugs:

Happy Campers!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Bolinda the Bolas Spider

On our routine walk down our road, Steve and I both spotted this spider and knew, even without seeing one before, it was a female Bolas Spider. Book flipping does help stick things in our brains sometimes...especially such a distinctive creature. Steve named her Bolinda and it stuck just like her bolas.

She resembles a bird dropping, which must help keep her safe from predators. We think this is the Cornfield Bolas Spider (Mastophora hutchinsoni) and we know it's a female because she is so large.

This Bolas Spider chose a Common Milkweed plant to call home. How perfect! Here is one of her egg cases tied on to the milkweed plant:

A few days later, we saw she made another egg case and you can also see her web. She hunts in a very unusual way for spiders emitting a pheromone to attract moths and throwing a sticky bolas to capture them. You can read more here and see some great photos & videos of the bolas. WOW!

The potential for mowing grew too high on this commonly mowed, roadside edge, so we cut the entire plant and brought her home. She settled right in and so hopefully next year we will have more Bolas Spiders here!

If you want to see another super cool invertebrate home click here to see one we found last spring. This world is incredible!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Monarch Emerging from Chrysalis - Final Monarch Update for 2016

So much is happening here! It's crazy fall abundance time and we also snuck in a backpacking trip to the North Cascades in Washington. We are sorting photos (and a video!) and hope to post about that trip soon. We are also witnessing some incredible nature sightings we want to share too. 

This is our second to last Monarch to emerge:

We have one more outside this morning on 9/27/16 that emerged amidst yesterday's chill, but it looks great and will surely fly today in this brilliant sunshine. We had 35 healthy adults emerge, 9 chrysalis deaths and 2 caterpillar deaths. Not bad and so much fun!

I made a video of one of our Monarchs emerging from its chrysalis. It's 7 minutes long, but shows the whole process. I learned after making the video that the "pedipalps" I mentioned are specific for Chelicerates (arachnids, horseshoe crabs, etc). These pedipalp-like organs on the Brush-footed Butterflies are actually shortened legs that look like brushes. Monarchs and other brush foots, have four long legs and these two shortened legs that seem to function similarly to pedipalps in some ways. Total coolness!