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Friday, February 02, 2007

A Groundhog Story, sort of

Early morning Groundhog Day 2007. It's dark and chilly, I get out of bed, and having not seen my shadow since my eyesight is pretty bad, I continue on my way to the coffeemaker. Like usual I grab the decanter and rinse it out under the running faucet. Not until I set it down on the counter do I notice a rather large jumping spider, Phidippus audax close as I can reckon.

The spider hung out on the lid in while I jump to grab the camera, then wanders around slowly while I stick the lens in its face. I use the flash, creating dramatic though short-lived shadows which don't seem to disturb the spider. Eventually, it moves off the decanter and onto the countertop; then up and onto the powdered sugar shaker. The Bold Jumping Spider endures my interest and blinding flashes with almost dogged patience (or numbness) for 10 minutes or so, then walks down the counter and onto the floor. I pick it up, put it outside on the porch where it lolls around for awhile longer, even though there were clearly shadows out there. In what seemed like a stubborn effort not to appear to run and hide, the spider eventually ambles off into the shrubbery.

Jumping spiders are highly active hunters with keen eyesight . . . usually. In the field, a jumping spider subject will react to a photographer's movements, even the movement of the shutter release, and often raise up in a threatening posture if I get too close. The head and eyes are almost constantly following movement, and the spiders will jump away with amazing speed if threatened.

My morning visitor was therefore uncharacteristically slow and non-reactive. You can see droplets of water on the body, evidence that the spider was there on the lid while the decanter was being rinsed out. Most likely it was sluggish from the cold, or maybe nearing the end of its life (**7/14/07 Note: I just read that although markings in p. audax are variable, the younger spiders are likely to have red markings with the typical mature adult having three white dots on the dorsal adbominal surface, so old age is not the likely cause of slowness in this case) It probably had hitchhiked inside from the garden on my clothes the day before and was a little disoriented. But maybe, just maybe, this jumping spider was trying to upstage that show-off Punxsutawney Phil and his annual weather predicting circus. If so, its prediction of impending spring confirms what I already knew after doing some garden work the day before . . . everything is just aching to grow.

Sorry about the scary focus . . . like I said, it was a bit early on Groundhog Day 2007.


High Power Rocketry said...

: )

min said...

thank you for your blog - have it on my "look at every day" list. in winter you have more bugs in s. ca. - i tried to find one last week for my grandson and all i could come up with were a few earwigs on a rotting pumpkin.