There was too much going on immediately following my return from New Zealand last week for me to get this ready to post, but I’m postponing the final episode of my Bushy Park trilogy for a day to bring this to you on this new Webnesday.
While I was visiting my friends in Wanganui, I went out prowling in their garden in the late afternoon and spied what at first glance looked rather like a child’s small toy that had somehow found its way to its position in the crease of a leaf on their feijoa tree. Fortunately, my memory kicked in and I pretty much immediately knew what I was seeing. Squiddy has a wonderful book on New Zealand spiders, with which I have spent many a happy hour, and—apart from my very favorites, the jumping spiders—one in particular, an orb-weaver, has captured my interest on numerous occasions. According to the book, they are reasonably common, and I’ve been hoping to see one for several years, but until this day they had eluded me.
It’s a Poecilopachys australasia, commonly known as a two-spined spider, and it’s a successful immigrant from Australia. I was very excited and set up my camera on my new tripod (which will live in NZ and be there for me when I visit from now on) and, over the course of the next hour or so, until the light faded, tried to get a few sharp images in the brief moments when the leaf stopped moving in the practically-constant breeze. Out of more than 50 tries, I managed only one that had reasonable detail.
The next morning, I was pretty sure that it would have moved to somewhere else, as they are nocturnal, but after breakfast, on impulse, I went out to check—and it was still there! My first suspicion was that I’d spent a very careful hour photographing an arachnid corpse, but just to be on the safe side I took the precaution of setting up again and performing another half-hour session, getting ever closer, under the calmer conditions.
Finally, satisfied that I had managed to get the shot I had envisioned, I selected a piece of very small, very flexible grass and gently stroked first its abdomen (without apparent result) and then its legs, which it had folded tightly beside its head, and was rewarded with a brief movement of one leg to a slightly new position and then, shortly afterward, back again. I concluded that it was probably a female preparing to lay her eggs. I left her in peace without any further disturbance, and was doubly elated with the fulfillment of a long-term wish! Isn’t she magnificent?