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Posts Tagged ‘giant spider’

Map detail of the Falls of the Ohio State Park

Most of the work that I have created at the Falls of the Ohio State Park was made between the two “P’s” on the above map detail.  I lifted this image from a recent brochure about the Ohio River Greenway.  I’m just noticing that the word “park” has an “e” at the end…what’s with that?  Is this a variation of Ye Old Park(e) or a simple misspelling?  Anyway, the green line that separates the dark blue river from the blonde fossil beds is the area I walk.  Most of my river finds and the pieces I make from them occur in this area.  The thicker black line is the old iron railroad bridge that I have  featured so often throughout this blog.  It’s been a while since I posted anything new here.  In fact, since I started the old riverblog, this is the longest I have gone without posting something.  I have had a series of misfortunes that have dented my mojo with the biggest being losing my day job.  I’m not one that easily compartmentalizes my life and occasionally things spill over and affect other areas.  Among the other changes included having to purchase a new computer.  It’s taken a while to get used to doing things in a different way.  I’m still in the process of transferring images and data from the old machine to the new one.  I have too many images that need parking in a “cloud” somewhere.  I debate with myself whether or not I absolutely need all of these pictures?  I do harbor the ambition to produce a book or two about my stories and collections, but I’m sure I have enough material already.  This blog after all, has over 3,ooo images that I have already published.  What it doesn’t have are the first five years or so of this project that are recorded on 4″ x 6″ color prints that were developed at the local drugstore.

At the water's edge, Falls of the Ohio, 2014

Although I haven’t posted much recently, I am still going to the river.  It’s been an unusual year out here and for much of this spring the river has been high.  Summer is now upon us and with that comes the high heat and humidity.  This adventure happened in early June after the willow trees had fully leafed out.  I believe this is also my first post using just images recorded with my cell phone.  I now have a new Nikon my brother gave me as a birthday present.  He is an avid nature photographer living in Florida and had a spare digital SLR he could part with.  I can’t wait to try out the new camera at the river and I hope to do this soon.

Old willow tree at the Falls of the Ohio, 2014

willow tree detail, 2014

I have really fallen in love with this old willow tree.  Last year, I photographed my “La Belle Riviere” piece using this tree as my model.  This tree is a survivor.  It’s managed to go through many floods and while it is severely bent over and its roots are exposed…it keeps on living and adding character to this landscape.  I have noticed that the center of its trunk is starting to hollow out a bit.  I wonder how long this willow has held this ground?  I was musing about these things when I noticed movement in a nearby stand of mixed maple and willow trees.  I picked up my collecting bag and walking stick and quietly moved over to investigate.  I was quite unprepared for what I was about to discover!  Here are a few of the first images I made of my new find.

Great Wolf Spider, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

Great Wolf Spider, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

It was another giant spider!  I recalled that it was about this time last year that I encountered the Giant Driftwood Spider which is a completely different animal from the spider I was looking at now.  It’s body was a bit over two feet long and a mottled white in color.  This seems to be another example of what I have come to coin as the “Falls of the Ohio Godzilla Effect”.  Over the years, this particular park has regularly produced freaks of nature.  The most striking of which are the giant insects (and now spiders) that pop up on occasion.  My theory as to why this happens here has everything to do with contemporary pollution and a degraded environment.  For some reason, arthropods in particular are sensitive to these ecological changes which can result in gigantism in these organisms.

Great Wolf Spider, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

Great Wolf Spider on a stump, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

I decided to call this the Great Wolf Spider, (Lycosa styreni).  Looking around, I could find no trace of a web and decided that this was a ground hunting species like other members of the family of wolf spiders, Lycosidae.  I imagined that this impressive spider subsisted upon the small mammals that it could capture within the confines of this park.  That would include many rodents including squirrels, rats, groundhogs, and perhaps the occasional beaver.  I also imagine that stray cats and dogs would be on the menu too.  This spider has large pink-colored fangs that gave it a somewhat bucktoothed appearance.  As long I kept my distance and did not make any threatening moves…the spider tolerated me.  I also noticed that this amazing creature also has unusual eyes.

Detail of Great Wolf Spider eyes, June 2014

From what I could discern…this spider sported four eyes total and all in a row.  It had two large and rather mismatched eyes.  One eye possessed a large red iris that leant a diabolical aspect to it.  On either side of these “great eyes” were two smaller, black vestigial eyes.  I wonder if the smaller eyes are used to detect peripheral motion?  It was disconcerting in the least to be the object of attention from these unblinking eyes.  I approached this spider with caution.  Although I was fearful once the spider moved…I, however, was never in any actual danger since the spider never took any aggressive actions toward me.  I was of course satisfied to keep my distance just in case!

Great Wolf Spider waiting in ambush, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

The Great Wolf Spider seen from behind, June 2014

My last images of this impressive arachnid show it blending into its surrounding environment.  The sun light filtering through the tree canopy produced a dappled light and dark pattern that helped camouflage the spider as it lay in wait of its next meal.  The only bit of movement that could betray it was the slight, subtle twitching produced by its driftwood-like legs.  It was at this moment that I decided to back off and head home.  I don’t know if this spider is a one of a kind creature or whether there are other examples of this species that could populate this park?  I’m inclined to believe that I was observing a single individual.  The question is…how long will it be before our continued abuse of the environment produces monsters we may regret?  Until the next adventure…

At the river's edge, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

 

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Falls of the Ohio, late May 2013

Another great day at the Falls of the Ohio.  Although it’s late May, we haven’t immediately jumped from a cool spring into a sweltering summer heat.  We still have time for that.  I’m following the deposited driftwood which forms these nice clearings punctuated here and there by small stands of willow trees.  There’s a method to my walks.  I carefully and as quietly as I can listen and look for any bird life in each new area I move into.  If I don’t find any birds than I move around the driftwood looking for interesting pieces and any other water born junk of note.  If an object captures my eye, I usually take a photograph of it in the context of the environment surrounding it.  If it is something really unusual, portable,  and potentially useful…then I may drop it into my collecting bag.  I also try to pay attention to any new flowers or insects that are out since my last visit. I don’t collect anything living since with the exception of fish…it’s against the park’s rules.

Falls of the Ohio, late May 2013

I will also walk the river bank doing much the same thing before heading back into the trees and my studio under the willows.  It’s here at my outdoor “atelier” that I check out my latest finds and with the materials I’ve previously collected…attempt to make art from them.  I was taking a break sitting on a bench I made and letting my mind “go blank” and just listening.  In the trees I could hear Northern orioles, Blue jays, and Catbirds all making their distinctive sounds.  With birds, you don’t need to see them to know they are present.  Small, noisy flocks of Cedar waxwings were flying from mulberry tree to mulberry tree seeking out ripe fruit.  I also kept hearing a “clicking or clacking”  sound originating behind where I was sitting which I mistakenly took for a squirrel moving among the branches.  I would look over my shoulder every now and then, but I didn’t see anything at first.  I didn’t see anything at all…until it moved!

Giant spider on web, late May 2013

Between its cryptic coloration and the dappled light effects of sunlight filtering through the tree tops…I had completely missed seeing the biggest spider in the world!  I know I had to walk by this marvel, but it didn’t register at all until this moment.  The spider wasn’t making any threatening gestures yet…perhaps it was remaining still “thinking” that I hadn’t located it.  The spider on its web was perhaps a dozen feet away from where I was sitting.  Meanwhile the hairs on the back of my neck were on end and I had an acute case of goosebumps all over my body!  Instinctively, I reached for my camera and started taking pictures.

Giant spider, May 2013

Carefully walking around the spider and its web, I snapped off as many images as my nerves would dare.  I still had no idea what it was capable of doing especially in protection of its nest?  I had my stout walking stick at the ready.  Nestled in a depression in the wood at the web’s base was a silk-lined “pocket” that held three white cocoons.  I wasn’t sure if these were egg cases or the wrapped up remains of former meals?

giant spider egg cases?, Falls of the Ohio, May 2013

In trying to describe this spider to you…I utilized my walking stick not only for protection, but to gauge its size as well.  Later in the comfort of my home, I estimated that the length of its body from the head to the tip of its abdomen to be approximately 30 inches or 76 centimeters long.  It’s moving legs made the spider seem much larger, but they were harder to measure.  The legs were perfectly camouflaged resembling the driftwood all around us.  The spider’s abdomen is covered with coarse hair arranged in bands of orange, white, and a bluish-black colors.  Otherwise, the spider is as white as the large river-polished chunks of Styrofoam that wash up on these fabled shores all the time.

Head of Giant Driftwood Spider, May 2013

lower jaws of Giant Driftwood Spider, May 2013

The head of what I’m now going to call the “Giant Driftwood Spider” is very unusual for a spider.  The fact it is nearly distinct (as in insects) and not simply continuous with the thorax makes it different.  The head was not, however, capable of movement.  This spider features four eyes.  It has two, larger dominant eyes and a vestigial pair located between them.  The fangs were purple in color and supported by black jaws used for gripping prey.  The clicking sound I had heard earlier were its fangs rubbing together.  Like all spiders…I assumed that this species is carnivorous as well.? Consistent with true spiders, this giant species also has eight legs, although the Giant Driftwood Spider’s are not uniform.  After watching this great arachnid for several minutes, it surprised me by leaving its web and walking towards the river.  I naturally, followed behind it at a discreet distance.

Giant Driftwood Spider, May 2013

Giant Driftwood Spider on a stump. May 2013

Giant Driftwood Spider on tree roots, May 2013

The giant spider moved deliberately through the driftwood field pausing once in a while for whatever reason.  Thoughts about what this spider did for food crossed my mind.  Was it an ambush predator secretly lying next to a log waiting for a meal to walk by?  Did it rush and overwhelm its prey with a lethal bite to the body?  I thought this likely since its web by my outdoor studio didn’t seem big enough to capture anything larger than birds or rodents.  I got the sense that this spider was able to go a long time between feedings.  I continued to follow the spider when it stopped at another silk construction it had previously created.

Great Driftwood Spider in yellow silk lair, May 2013

The spider stopped by what I’m guessing to be another silk trap?  The spider may have been trying to hide its form with the silk?  Perhaps it uses a method similar to trapdoor spiders in catching its food?  I will confess that I do get “creeped out” by having spider webs go across my face.  I have always had an aversion to this feeling, although generally speaking…I’m okay with the spiders themselves.  In this particular area, it felt like I was constantly wiping my face which made me very ill at ease.

Giant Driftwood Spider in its lair, May 2013

Giant Driftwood Spider attack!, May 2013

I circled back around to get a better look and when I did the spider lunged for me! With fangs clacking together and its legs gesturing wildly, the spider held its ground, but did not advance towards me.  With stick at the ready and in deep fear, I was prepared to swing down as hard as I could on the spider if I had to.  That’s when it occurred to me how wrong that would be?  Who was doing most of the provoking anyway?  Perhaps the spider was reacting in self-defense?  As with most living things, this spider had as much if not more reason to fear humans.  Even though this was the biggest spider I had ever seen…I was still bigger than it.  With that realization I backed off and took my leave of the Giant Driftwood Spider.  Reaching my home, I couldn’t wait to see the pictures and to tell the story of this remarkable animal encounter.  The world is full of natural marvels and the Falls of the Ohio…has many of them.

willow tree and roots at the Falls of the Ohio, May 2013

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