Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What Happens When You Forget the Milk

Yesterday evening, having returned from my weekly pilgrimage to The City for groceries and errands (approx. 120 miles round trip), and having spent the intervening time ripping out tomato plants, digging spuds, and picking beans (not to mention photographing stuff around the yard), I realized I'd forgotten to get any milk. My choices were a) go a week without milk, or b) make a run to North Creek. It was about 7:00 and I knew I'd be wanting cereal for breakfast in the morning. Toby hadn't had his walk yet, and he was getting antsy. So, I bundled him into the car and off we went to North Creek (about a half hour drive).

I bopped into the grocery store, grabbed a couple half gallons, stuck them in a cooler, and we headed for the Carol A. Thomas Memorial Walking Trail.

This trail was put together by a group of local citizens in honor of another local citizen. It's a pleasant little walk along the stream that feeds into the Hudson River, past where the tannery used to sit. It's a delightful walk through a jungle of greenery, with the stream gurgling away to the side. With all the rain this summer, the stream was in full voice.

One of the things that makes this trail really neat is that is passes along a boardwalk underneath a bridge (State Route 28N). The boardwalk is almost like a shelf clinging to the side of the bridge abutments, with the stream running along below. And all along the supporting structures, from the wooden posts to the ceiling above (the belly of the bridge), were spiders.

I only noticed a couple on our way out, but one was enormous : her abdomen alone was almost as big as the end of my thumb! When we came back through on our return to the car, it was close to 8:00 and the light was fading, but the contrast between the light before the tunnel and the dark inside set off the gigantic web(s) beautifully. And the spider(s).

I decided to watch the spider closest to the entrance for she was now active. At first I thought she was consuming her web (as many orb weavers do in the evening before building a new one), but as I watched, it turned out she was either repairing the old one or was already well on her way to make the new one. It was fascinating to watch (and of course I'd left the camera home).

She was at the lower edge, below the center of the web. She would scramble up one of the spokes, traverse the connector to the next spoke and then scoot backwards down it, trailing a line of silk behind her. Using a front leg, she felt behind her for the last row of webbing laid down (which in this case was the outermost spiral). When she made contact with it, she knew how far away it was and therefore knew exactly where to lay down the next row. Meanwhile, with one of her hind legs, she had grabbed the silk she was spinning and stretched it out. It reminded me of a fly fisherman pulling out line before casting. Then, with a lightening fast, yet amazingly delicate move, she dabbed her abdomen (the spinnerets) against the spoke, instantly sticking the silk in place. She let go of the line she was holding with her hind foot and it snapped right in place, no slack at all. Up she went, across and down, repeating the entire sequence until she reached the end of her row, at which point she turned and headed back across, laying down a third row of silk.

It was fascinating to watch!

Toby decided that five minutes were enough to spend watching, so we went through the tunnel and finished the trail. This time, however, I was was looking for spiders, and there must've been easily a dozen, if not two, many of which were equally as large as the one I'd been watching.

I think I may have to return, if only to get the species recorded "on film."


  1. Isn't nice that life gives us little presents from time to time? I love watching spiders spin their webs.

  2. I love spiders especially this time of year when they are full grown. They are everywhere!