marbled orb-weaver

10.18.23 ~ Johnston Mill Nature Preserve
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

We enjoyed this woodsy walk along New Hope Creek very much! It reminded us of the land conservancy properties we were so fond of in Connecticut. This trail felt a little wilder and more remote than the other hikes we’ve been taking down here so far.

New Hope Creek

Still not encountering much wildlife, however, or birds. Sometimes I really miss my shore birds. I know there are birders down here who post many pictures online so I’m going to have to figure out where they go to take them.

squirrel having his breakfast

What is the universe trying to tell me? How is it that this arachnophobe winds up moving to a place with an endless supply of spiders? This marbled orb-weaver seemed to be very busy repairing some damage this leaf did to her web. We watched, spellbound, for a very long time.

After this we got a glimpse of an owl flying across our path and then up high, out of sight, into the trees… It always amazes me how soundless their flights are.

stairway down a steep decline
underneath the fall colors
lichen on a fallen and cut tree trunk

All in all, it was a very pleasant autumn morning ramble along the creek and in the woods. 🍂

zipper spider

“Don’t let Mom see,” Larisa advised in an early morning text. She found a zipper spider in their garden and thought her father might like to check it out. If you, dear reader, are an arachnophobe you might want to skip this post. There are pictures. Well, I am afraid of spiders but my curiosity was piqued.

The zipper spider is also known as a garden spider, writing spider, banana spider or golden orb weaver. The female is BIG. Her abdomen can be more than inch long! The zipper, zigzag she weaves into the web is called a stabilimentum. Scientists don’t know its purpose but they have several theories. Katherine’s is that it warns birds not to get caught in the web.

We had picked up Katherine from school and asked her to show us the spider. She loves and is very knowledgeable about bugs. There was some kind of magic at work here because I didn’t feel terrified when I saw her from a safe distance, perched on her magnificent web in the bright sunshine. The giant web was hanging between two tall bushes. After admiring her size and coloring and that amazing zipper pattern I realized that we were looking at her underside.

underside

Well, that wouldn’t do. When I expressed my disappointment to Katherine she said she would show me a way around to the other side of the web. It involved climbing up over a porch bench and jumping down into a narrow space between the house and the bushes, and then making our way between the bushes until we got to the opposite side of the web. Wow! My little Katherine was an excellent nature guide.

If the sun sets you free …
You’ll be free indeed, indeed …
She’s only happy in the sun

~ Ben Harper
♫ (She’s Only Happy in the Sun) ♫

Mind you, if I had seen this spider in the house I would have had a panic attack. But somehow, outside, it was different. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this. Why the difference? Larisa says these spiders never come in the house. Because they love the sun? Maybe because house spiders creep around in dark places is why they are so dreadful. All I know is that the words of Ben Harper’s song came to mind when I saw this one!

gossamer

9.19.21 ~ Merritt Family Forest, Groton, Connecticut

There’s a web like a spider’s web
Made of silver light and shadows
Spun by the moon in my room at night
It’s a web made to catch a dream
Hold it tight ‘til I awaken
As if to tell me, my dream is all right

♫ (American Folk Song) ♫

We used to sing that song around the campfire when I was a girl. It’s such a comforting tune but my spider dreams were never all right. The following pictures are of the pappi of American burnweed seeds caught in another cobweb. I don’t think this spider could have been pleased with what his net trapped!

From the first opening of our eyes, it is the light that attracts us. We clutch aimlessly with our baby fingers at the gossamer-motes in the sunbeam.
~ Lucy Larcom
(The Unseen Friend)

I am an incurable arachnophobe so I was happy to not see any spiders out and about. But I couldn’t help appreciating the handiwork they left behind.