by Eric Neubauer and Sue Ann Kendall
Investigating the Granger Lake area is something I’ve been meaning to do for more than two years. There are over a dozen access points, so this was no small task, and I still had several to go when I stopped for the day. Although it was warm, few animals were stirring and it wasn’t until the fourth stop that I found anything noteworthy. That was the area called eOSR 3, which I suspect refers to further information on-line.
As I approached the parking area on CR 349, the road crossed a mostly dry deep ditch with a pebbly bottom. I immediately thought I might find some Stone Spiders (Pardosa lapidicina) there. I had recently encountered all four Pardosa species in the milvina group over in Burleson County and that left just four more Pardosa species to find in this area. It was my lucky day, because nature was unusually predictable. Nature even gave me a bonus as a Burrowing Owl flew up and sat on a fence post as I picked my way down into the ditch.
End of the story with the Stone Spiders? Not quite. After I got home I looked up photos of Pardosa lapidicina on iNat and BugGuide, and mine didn’t look sufficiently identical. There are three Pardosa spiders in the lapidicina group in the area, so I figured it must be one of the other two. After consulting a few scientific papers, I’ve tentatively identified mine as P. vadosa, first described in 1959, for which there are no living spider photos on-line. I’ve asked for expert help and await a reply. Reading between the lines a little, the western edge of vadosa range may coincide with the western edge of the Blackland Prairie. Father west, mercurialis takes over.
In more spider news, I’ve been finding these Trochosa sepulchralis in a small part of ditch on CR 418 adjacent to woodland. These are my most recent of eight observations and include a male and a female. Identification is difficult, but at least there are fairly recent papers on them. Camptocosa, Trochosa, and Varacosa each include similar species. The differences are subtle, so I’m not sure if I got it right. Not sure if these are adults yet, but they appear to be close. Incidentally, this species was first described from Philadelphia PA where I was born.
Sue Ann’s Report
My report is nowhere near as fascinating as Eric’s, mainly because I only saw two insects other than fire ants, and they were too fast for me. I did get some nice photos of tiny flowers, and spent a lot of time puzzling over grasses, including once when I accidentally said a bunch grass was Bermuda grass. I’m sure that made Linda Jo laugh.
But it was a beautiful day, so I enjoyed seeing what there was lots of and what’s just poking out of the ground. There is lots of henbit deadnettle, that’s for sure. I’m enjoying seeing it cover whole fields, even if that bothers farmers.
I went a little overboard and made 72 observations, but was pleased to see that put me over 2,000 iNaturalist observations. And I sure know what’s growing around my property in early February now! I had a blast!
I do want to point out that other members of our Chapter have made fun observations, too. Marian, Linda Jo, and Carolyn also got out and checked out their surroundings. Please go to the project page to keep track of our activities, and let Linda Jo know if you would like to participate! Just because it’s a bit chillier doesn’t mean it won’t be fun to get outside. My phoebes are certainly goading me!