Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bare Ground

Blue Jay Barrens has several small areas that are so inhospitable that very little plant life is able to survive.  They are mostly the result of massive erosion that took place through many decades of poor land management practices.  This particular site is primarily rock covered by a thin layer of silt and clay.  It is excessively wet in the winter and as dry as a baked brick in summer.

Some plants manage to grow here, but their life is a struggle.  Sometimes odd rarities that can’t compete elsewhere survive in these bare spots.  I enjoy exploring these areas because the plants are spread out and easy to observe.

What appears to be soil from a distance turns out to be small gravel.  It takes a pretty tough seedling to anchor itself in this ground.

Insects and other arthropods are the real draw in these areas.  Native solitary bees find the conditions to be perfect for their underground nests.  Many of these species require bare ground as nest sites. 

I visited this site on a cool, cloudy morning, which may explain why the bees were still in their tunnels.  I saw a bee just inside the entrance to about every tunnel I checked.  I imagine they headed out to forage as soon as the weather warmed.

Little spiders were the most abundant residents this morning.  I think this is the young of one of the larger Wolf Spiders.

This is a female Thin-legged Wolf Spider, one of the Pardosa species.  These are small, fast moving spiders that are very difficult to see.  The blue egg sac carried beneath the abdomen is what gave them away. 

That blue egg sac is really something.  It gave the spider away every time, sort of like Rudolph’s nose.  It seems that a spider predator would have no trouble finding these females.  Judging by their abundance here, it might not be so bad if a few do get eaten.  When I crouched down to get some shots, there were a half dozen spiders within camera range and a lot more not far off.  If all those eggs hatch, that’ll be a lot of baby spiders.