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Colonial Spiders, Long-tailed Potoo

Monday, April 6, 2009

Where were we? Oh yes. Colonial spiders. As if one spider weren't enough, in Guyana they have colonial spiders, or communal spiders. Let's just say unimaginable bunches of spiders, all living together in one enormous web. This is a single web. Once again, a British bird magazine editor for scale and human interest.

And here's a close up of what's going on in the giant web. A whole lotta spiders, all doing spidery things. Together. Lucky for arachnophobes, most North American spiders come one or two to a web. Although I saw live oaks positively draped in spider webs in Anzalduas Park in So. Texas once. It looked like Christo had had a nightmare there.

I have no idea what these little beasts are up to, why there are several hundred thousand of them all spinning merrily away. I imagine that they share whatever falls into the web. That may be going on here, with the cluster of spiders, or maybe they are having a meeting or maybe it's a bar scene or a stoning. I just do not know. But I enjoyed wondering.

Here's our guide Asaph at another enormous web. Yikes. It was the size of my Explorer. This is one good reason not to walk in the forest at night. There are others. I don't know. Maybe if a person fell into a web this big the tiny spiders wouldn't all converge and cluster all over him and make short work of him. Or maybe they would. I wasn't about to try it, as curious as I was.

The trees at the foot of Turtle Mountain were spectacular, muscular and huge. Looking down into the forest, I felt I could see almost anything walk, fly or crawl by.I saw a Kevin Loughlin stopping to rest along the way.

And some other creatures, too. Here's a colorful little frog, perhaps a poison dart frog?

At last, we reached the top. The view was even better than promised. So much forest, so much life, so much potential. It was breathtaking to think of what might live under and in this unbroken canopy.

The cliff was severe. And there was no guardrail. 

Infinity always gives me vertigo --Bruce Cockburn

In the distance, the Issequibo glimmered.

It was all downhill from there. We never wanted to leave, just sitting there looking out over the rainforest, dreaming about what might fly by. What a place for a Big Sit. Black and white hawk-eagle, capuchinbird, jabiru...oh my.

But climb down we did, and near the trailhead we found the coolest possible wasp nest. Shaped like a butternut squash and covered with steel-blue and orange wasps it was.

Weedon wanted to see it more closely, get a nice picture of this amazing paper nest. I'll confess: so did I. But I used the 300 mm. telephoto. They were gorgeous things, blue and bronze, stripey and alert, with bewitching magenta wings. Luke warned in a low voice, "Don't go any closer, that's close enough." Everything was fine until Mike tripped on a palm frond, and a phalanx of winged warriors stormed out and stung the blue-eyed crap out of poor Weeds. Ow! I was out of there like a scalded ape.

There was a consolation prize, though---probably the most elegant potoo on the planet, the long-tailed potoo. I knew it only from a very strange Louis Fuertes painting, which turns out, seeing the live bird, to be right on.
Here, it's doing its potoo best to be a dead snag.

Eureka! its eye is open!

A beautiful potoo, with its eye open, that doesn't look like a bag of rags. Major bonus. This is the Fred Astaire of potoos. What a dandy capper for a wonderful day.

Back in Ohio, we're plunging down to the 20's tonight, something which fills me with great sorrow and ennui. I will have to say goodbye to hundreds of lilac buds this evening, to the roses' new growth, just pruned; to the bleeding heart, laden with flower buds. Oh, I'll spray things down with water at dusk, hoping to make protective ice on  buds and leaves, the way the orange growers do, but I expect the weather will win out after all. Wish me luck.

April is ever the cruelest month for the things I love most. In fact, I realized today that I dread April altogether. Hence the Guyana posts, an escape for the weary heart.


The first part of this post made me itch. We've got dreadful freezing weather too. Good luck through this bout.

The wasps? Beautiful! The spiders? Made me say all kinds of words I don't want my kindergartner to hear. Love your blog anyway!

Isn't the weather in Ohio this week just nasty? This mix of rain and snow. Eurgh.

Yay for the pootoo, it's gorgeous!

I didn't realize how big those webs are until you said that your guide was standing right next to it. Crazy!

And those are beautiful landscape views of the rainforest. So serene.

And Potoo!? What is that? I'd have to Google that. That's one of the most unbelievable birds I have ever seen.

What a wonderful post, this is.

Best of luck saving your garden.

Thank you for this escape.
Although those webs are the stuff of which nightmares are made! I can imagine getting wrapped--bound and hog-tied by an army of eight-legged mountain men. A huge mummy, they'd make.
The wonders in those woods, I imagine yet undiscovered--mindbending, wide, treed space.
Just fascinating.

Great post! I love your adventures in Guyana - makes me remember some of ours. Alas, our hike up Turtle Mt got rained out but, yeah, I get to hear about yours. And, poor Mike, you left us hanging. So how bad were the stings???

I used to have arachnophobia as a child/teen, then grew out of it...but seeing those monstrous webs? Gotta hand it to you,I think I would have been standing a lot further, miles perhaps, away!But the Potoo? Wow!

Five stings on head and neck, ow! Weeds took it like a man, but he said they hurt like blazes.

Colene, Honduras is coming up and I'm looking forward to reliving that trip. Such fun to have you along both in real and virtual life.

Giant spider webs evoke a shudder in me, and I like spiders. I just don't particularly want to be surrounded by them. Kind of a Fear Factor proposition.

I'm so totally with you! Love to watch and admire those creepy-crawlers, potential poisonous biters and stingers, one or a few at a time. But once the perceived mass is even close to half my size or they might (horrors!) surround you. I'm outa there.

Good luck wishes with the weather tonite.
Fingers crossed for luck.

Keep with the spiders, wasps, and Long-tailed Potoo. Forget about the freeze and April...

Poor Weeds! Thanks for making me howl at the "scalded ape" remark. You're are incredibly funny, you know.

On second thought, you can keep the spiders to yourself :o)

Maybe you could put out smudge pots, like the orange growers used to do...memories of SoCal........The potoo has that gleam in his eye: You were going to laugh at me but you better not.

LOL.. for a moment there, I could not tell where the Potoo's tail ended, and I was thinking, "How on God's green earth does it fly with a tail that long???"

The spider webs would be reason enough never to go anyplace in the dark... ewwwwwww. Nightmares there.

Oooh... I love communal spider webs! Always impressive and intimidating all at once.

I'm with you on the wasps. I'll stand back and take my pictures from a distance, thank you.

The potoo is very very cool! I love that one-eye-open look, as though to let you know you weren't sneaking up on it and hadn't gone unnoticed. But it's camouflage is striking: it looks like a dead branch that wasn't worth more than a first glance.

Thinking warm thought for your plants.
We are several weeks behind you so the plants fand flowers didn't get toasted.
We had our first butterbutt of the season on Monday.

Love the potoo shots.
Also I like the name potoo.

Potoo, the name for a two hole outhouse.

It was rough going but I'm glad I hung on until the Potoo arrived; amazing. Sorry about your lilacs. And peaches. I uncovered lovely crocuses on Sunday and now they are covered in snow. It's a much lesser loss, but it is still a loss.

If that's a female potoo, her tin roof is definitely rusted.

BOTB looks like a little blog cross polination happening.

You know what pollination leads to, Ric? Rusty roofs.

The spiders in the pictures were still enough to give me the shivers down my back! The giant web and the thought of all those spiders climbing all over you if you ran into it! Need I say more?
The potoo was the cleansing I needed! We have more snow later in the week forecasted. One day it is warm the next snowy, windy and cold. Ah well, spring in the Rockies.

Ew, I almost missed the rest of the glories of this post just from looking too closely at those communal spiders. Reminds me of trying to go to sleep at my grandparents' house in the woods as a kid, staring at the roiling mass of Daddy-Longlegs that half-covered the bedroom windows.

Just curious, though... I noticed you made that poor British magazine editor stand MUCH closer to that giant web than you did friendly Asaph. Was he really there for "scale and human interest," or was it more bait and human sacrifice? As I said, just curious... ;-)

I was 11 when I went back to Guyana. I was scared of every little bug I saw.Here it takes a lot to get me. It amazes me to see you brave the forest. I even have a friend who claims he will never go back because of the size of these bugs. Great pics!!!

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