A morning at Cane Creek Reservoir

The Orange County water authority maintains two recreational areas where it manages water supplies for our area’s drinking and sewage water. One is the Cane Creek Reservoir, where people can boat, fish, bird and relax. When my morning began yesterday with a distressing family situation, for which I would need to wait for news, I decided to visit the reservoir since getting out into nature always helps me handle stress. My foray was rewarding, both in terms of handling the emotional tension and appreciating the marvelous diversity that nature offers for our appreciation.

marbled orbweaver DK7A5291© Maria de Bruyn resMy walk began with a need to wipe spider webs from my face as our arachnid brethren were busy spinning their webs across walking paths. The marbled orbweaver (Araneus marmoreus) was in the process of building a web, climbing up and down and leaving new silken strands behind as they emerged from the spinneret.

marbled orbweaver DK7A5288© Maria de Bruyn

The walking path also held evidence of the passing of a young white-tailed fawn (Odocoileus virginianus). A Carolina satyr butterfly (Hermeuptychia sosybius) was moving from grass blade to grass stem as I proceeded up a hill.

white-tailed deer DK7A5276© Maria de Bruyn resCarolina Satyr DK7A5279 © Maria de Bruyn res

Eastern bluebird DK7A5392© Maria de BruynFirst birds of the day as I left the woods — a pair of Eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) that were roosting on a wire. When a pine warbler (Setophaga pinus) wanted to join them, he was given to understand that his proximity was not appreciated.

 

pine warbler DK7A5383© Maria de Bruyn res

Next, I caught sight of a Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos polyglottos), very busy grooming near the top of a small tree.

Northern mockingbird DK7A5449© Maria de Bruyn res Northern mockingbird DK7A5443© Maria de Bruyn

Southern magnolia DK7A5439© Maria de Bruyn resA nearby Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) was mostly laden with rose-colored fruit but one large bloom was still vibrant and visited by smaller and larger bees.

A number of birds were singing but I didn’t recognize their calls and I saw some birds flit from one tree to another but then I caught sight of one that was dipping into the grass to pick up insects and then sitting still on a branch for a while. It was a lovely Eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe), a type of flycatcher with a yellow hue.

Eastern phoebe DK7A5586© Maria de BruynEastern phoebe DK7A5722© Maria de Bruyn

This bird flew around a bit, perching in trees, on ropes and barbed wire, providing some nice views of its lovely self.

Eastern phoebe DK7A5670© Maria de Bruyn resEastern phoebe DK7A5825© Maria de Bruyn res

A blue-gray gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea), busy as these small birds always seem to be, was gleaning insects from twigs and branches.

blue-gray gnatcatcher DK7A5924© Maria de Bruyn Blue-gray gnatcatcher DK7A5920© Maria de Bruyn blue-gray gnatcatcher 1-de Bruyn, Maria DK7A5944 Supported on the balance beam

Coming up on the shoreline of the reservoir, I first spotted some least sandpipers (Calidris minutilla) foraging at the water’s edge. This is the smallest species of sandpiper and they are also the smallest shorebirds in North America. They looked very pretty in flight.

least sandpiper DK7A6073© Maria de Bruynleast sandpiper DK7A6081© Maria de Bruyn

The sandpipers landed near some killdeer (Charadrius vociferous), who looked very large next to them.

killdeer DK7A6103© Maria de Bruyn res

red-spotted purple DK7A6143© Maria de Bruyn resA red-spotted purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) was mud-puddling on the shore, as was a Sachem skipper butterfly (Atalopedes campestris). A trio of American goldfinches (Spinus tristis) also dropped onto the wet mud for a brief time.

 

sachem skipper DK7A6355© Maria de Bruynsachem skipper DK7A6368© Maria de Bruyn

american goldfinch DK7A6323© Maria de Bruyn res

Several flocks of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) came in to the little lake. One group surprised me by suddenly veering in my direction and flying right in front of me, so close that they more than filled the screen of my zoom lens.

Canada goose DK7A6472© Maria de Bruyn res Canada goose DK7A6195© Maria de Bruyn res

Canada goose DK7A6205© Maria de Bruyn resCanada goose DK7A6207© Maria de Bruyn res

Near the end of my visit, a fellow birder kindly pointed out two green herons (Butorides virescens) to me. (Having binoculars is a definite advantage for this pursuit!). One was rather far away but another within walking distance so I snuck up on it in stages.

green heron DK7A6717© Maria de Bruyngreen heron DK7A6575© Maria de Bruyn

In the left-hand photo, you can imagine the dinosaur ancestor of this stalker.

At one point, the bird stretched and stared at the sky, moving its head from side to side obviously watching something – it turned out to be a juvenile red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis).

red-tailed hawk DK7A6633© Maria de Bruyn red-tailed hawk DK7A6631© Maria de Bruyn

My sneaking ever closer to the heron was rewarded when I saw the short bird catch and eat a rather large frog for its brunch. It was sad for the frog, but that is the cycle of life.

green heron DK7A6826© Maria de Bruyn resgreen heron DK7A6850© Maria de Bruyn res

And when I returned home a short while later, I learned that the family emergency had been handled for the time being. Like the fauna, our own cycles of life are also unpredictable.

Oh, the webs we weave!

spider webs IMG_0292©Maria de Bruyn res

Well, not we human beings but the spiders. Autumn is a great season to spider web IMG_9990©Maria de Bruyn resadmire the handiwork of spiders as they build temporary or semi-permanent abodes and hunting traps. During my walks in different areas this fall, I’ve seen various forms of webs, but none as large the 4-acre web found in a building in Baltimore, Maryland.

Many of the webs are really lovely as they shimmer in the sun, especially when covered with dewdrops.

spider web IMG_0082©Maria de Bruyn resspider web IMG_0075©Maria de Bruyn res

Not infrequently, you will see the web’s weaver hanging out, like this banded argiope (Argiope trifasciata).

banded argiope IMG_0034©Maria de Bruyn res

trashline orbweaver spider web IMG_7471©Maria de BruynresThe trashline orbweaver (Cyclosa turbinata) arranges bits of old prey in a line in its web, apparently helping to camouflage itself as it looks like another piece of trash in the web.

 

 

lined orbweaver IMG_2845©Maria de Bruyn

The lined orbweaver spider (Mangora gibberosa) has a conspicuous web in that the center part comprises a dense circular decoration (called the stabilimentum) that shows up well against green vegetation. The rest of the web is barely visible, however.

Some spiders, such as sheetweb spiders, make webs that look like shallow bowls in the grass (the photo below right was taken looking down on it). The tiny sheetweb dwarf spider (Florinda coccinea) has a red body with black palps, eye region and caudal tubercle. There is only one species in this region of the United States,

sheetweb dwarf spider IMG_0959©Maria de Bruynsignedsheetweb dwarf spider IMG_0924©Maria de Bruynsignedres

Arrowhead spider IMG_2662© Maria de BruynArrowhead spiders (Verrucosa arenata) suspend a few or more strands of silk along or across trails at about head height. Have you wondered how they manage to suspend a web across a trail that is quite wide? They first produce a fine adhesive thread that can drift over the gap with a breeze. When the thread sticks to something at the other side of the gap, the spider feels a change in the vibrations of the thread and then reels it in and tightens it. The spider then crosses the gap on this thread and strengthens it by placing a second thread and so the web begins.

If you are walking along looking up in the trees or down at the ground, it can mean you end up with sticky web in your face. The tensile strength of spider silk is greater than steel of an equivalent weight but much more elastic, so wiping that silk off your skin can take some doing!

marbled orbweaver IMG_9822©Maria de Bruyn resOrbweavers tend to make large vertical webs, like the ones being spun by the marbled orbweavers (Araneus marmoreus) in the next photos.

 

 

 

marbled orbweaver IMG_1582©Maria de Bruyn res

The silk for a web comes from a spider’s spinneret gland, which is located at the tip of its abdomen. Some spiders have four pairs of spinnerets, some have one pair and most have three pairs of spinnerets.

 

black and yellow garden spider IMG_6324© Maria de Bruyn res

 

 

Each gland produces a different kind of thread, for example, for a safety line, for trapping prey or for wrapping up caught prey as shown by this writing spider (Argiope aurantia).

 

 

Here you can see how the spider is using one leg to help position the line of web being spun.

marbled orbweaver IMG_1570©Maria de Bruyn (2)marbled orbweaver IMG_9703©Maria de Bruyn res

Spiders expend a lotmarbled orbweaver IMG_9865©Maria de Bruyn of energy building webs and it is not uncommon for them to eat their own web in order to re-gain some energy used in spinning.

 

The spider is thus a great re-cycler in addition to helping keep the other insect populations in check! Nature is so cool.