Friday, August 29, 2008

Busyness in the Sanctuary and mystery spiders

I was out checking the Dr. George Trail in the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary this morning when I heard a tapping that made me stop for a moment. It was a Downy Woodpecker foraging in the trees, and I decided to watch it for a while. I suppose I was standing still enough not to be noticed much, because before I knew it I was in a whirlwind of bird activity. Chickadees, Goldfinches, Yellow-rumped Warblers (I was actually kind of proud of myself for recognising those. I'm not much of a birder) and assorted LBJs (Little Brown Jobbies. Handy technical term, that) were all very busy in amongst the poplars. I even managed to end up in the way of a sudden Red Squirrel fight. Apparently somebody was in someone else's territory, and the someone else was pretty quick to let the other one know.

It was a nice, far-from-quiet moment, and the neat thing about Red Deer's park system is that you don't have to be in the Sanctuary to have moments like that. Our city trails are home to an amazing amount of wildlife, and you only have to be willing to slow down and listen to find it. I'm always amazed at the the things people will miss just because they're in too much of a hurry to get to where they're going. The next time you're out for a walk, why not take a minute to be still and blend in a bit more? You might be surprised at what's out there.


We've had a couple of questions in regards to funnel-weaving spiders lately, and I think it's partly due to a report out of Winnipeg of a possible Hobo Spider bite. I say possible Hobo Spider bite because the reports I've read made it sound as though the doctor on the case was taking his best guess as to what did the biting.

It's true that Hobo Spiders make funnel-shaped webs, but they're not the only spiders that do. The photo above (click on it for a larger view) shows a Grass Spider (Agelenopsis sp.) on her dew-covered funnel web. These spiders are very common along the trails in Red Deer, and they're nothing to be worried about. They're shy spiders which will retreat to the bottom of the web whenever possible and are very unlikely to bite a person.

Another funnel-weaving spider that you might notice is the common European House Spider. As the name suggests, these spiders are accidental immigrants to Canada. You can sometimes find their funnel webs in undusted corners. Again, they're very unlikely to bite a person, and unless you happen to be allergic to spider bites a bite won't give you much more than an itchy bump for a day or two.

If you have questions about your local spiders or any other wildlife, please give us a call at 403-346-2010.

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