Getting Caught in Glacier’s Web

We’re finishing up our sampling here in Glacier National Park and it has been a great week! We are now in the Rocky Mountains and while the mountain scenery looks very different than the previous mountains it is just as spectacular.

A spider in a large web at one of our forest sites
A spider in a large web at one of our forest sites

While hiking, exploring and collecting in the park one thing that has struck us all is the number of spiders in the park. While setting up our two forest sites we were constantly fighting our way through large webs strung up between trees and shrubs with big spiders sitting in the middle. And just two days later when we came back to service our traps, new webs had been built in new places so we were getting tangled in webs all over again. The spiders had been busy! Our third site is in shrubby grassland so while we did not run into as many webs while walking around, we caught plenty of spiders while sweeping. This time they were mostly tiny little spiders with lots of different shapes and colours. While here in the park we have collected orb weavers, jumping spiders, crab spiders, wolf spiders and others I didn’t recognize. While we were running into a lot of webs, not all of these spiders build webs. Some spiders, such as wolf spiders, are ambush predators and wait in hiding for prey to run by. It has been incredible seeing an amazing diversity of spiders! And it’s nice knowing the spiders are eating mosquitoes and other pest insects.

A spider weaving a web at our old growth cedar-hemlock forest site
A spider weaving a web at our old growth cedar-hemlock forest site

We have also been busy with aquatic collecting here in Glacier and in Mount Revelstoke National Park. We did some sampling in a skunk cabbage wetland that was teeming with large water striders, whirligig beetles and water scavenger beetles. We also came across all stages of dragonflies, large aquatic larvae, exuvia (leftover nymph exoskeletons after the adult emerges) and adults zipping around above the pond. We also sampled in two cold, mountain rivers which had plenty of mayfly, stonefly and dragonfly/damselfly larvae clinging to the underside of rocks. We also hiked to a waterfall where I was hoping to do some collecting as well since there are some insect species that are only found clinging to waterfalls, such as water penny beetles. However when we made it to the waterfall, it was not very accessible and the flow was very heavy. While we couldn’t collect there, the waterfall was lovely to see.

Stellar’s Jay near Bear Falls in Glacier National Park
Stellar’s Jay near Bear Falls in Glacier National Park

Finally, Crystal and I were very excited to see a new bird this week. While hiking we heard some loud, harsh and rather unmusical bird calls and we were wondering what they were. We were happy to discover the culprit, Stellar’s jays (Cyanocitta stelleri)! They are beautiful birds similar in size and shape to a blue jay however they are only found in the West and they have black and blue coloring. It was a first for everyone on the bus so we were all very excited!

On to the next park tomorrow! Kootenay, here we come!

–          Beverly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.