A Walk in the Woods

Posted by By at 4 September, at 07 : 07 AM Print

Rain had fallen in the overnight, and the piece of low-lying forest through which I wandered was mostly wetland, at the edge of a cattail-filled meadow. Beneath my hiking shoes the path was cushioned – not soggy, but like a carpet with a nice sponge under it. Ahead of me – he’s always ahead of me – Grady the Golden Retriever kept looking back to be sure I was following. If I stop, he’ll come back to me. If I reverse direction, he’ll come jogging past to take the lead on the new course

I’d have been well-served to have worn swimming goggles. My glasses kept fogging up so badly they dripped. I finally hooked them in my vest pocket, the better to see the orb-woven web I noticed in a small clearing beside the trail, hung between a young evergreen and a shrub. The woods weaver, which gave every sign of wishing that guy with a camera would get it out of her face and stop scaring away breakfast, had front legs longer than rear, and all legs light green with dark bands. On her back was a dark tattoo similar to a Christian cross with an elongated circle around the cross part. On her belly, the tattoo was mostly yellow with a black spot.

Back home, I found a picture on the internet. Close, but only maybe. Anyway, the picture was captioned “unknown spider in PA.” Not much help, there.

Two days earlier I had found another orb-builder. She had had strung supporting lines between two trees about 6 feet apart. (That would be like a human building a crane across a 144-foot chasm, without benefit of rocket rifles, helicopters or other such engineered aids.) Then, in about the center of the cabling, she built a circular web – the orb – about 10 inches across and six feet off the ground, where critters and people could walk under it, but across a natural pathway that might guide an unwary fly to dinner.

What really caught my eye, though, was the tiny brown spider seemed to be carrying a pillow on her back – greenish with dark mottling in longitudinal rows, and miniature protuberances sticking out in various places.

So far, I’ve not found it online, either, though I found a few similar.

Over by some moss and decomposing trees was a good supply of puff balls, edible if you find them early enough in their life. These were sitting between yummy and smoky, the smoke being the puffs of spores that will eject from a hole that soon will develop top center of the little ball.

I get the same satisfaction of discovery paddling on a lake within a short distance of home – just me and the Golden Retriever in the canoe, watching – and sometimes trying to photograph – whatever happens by. It’s always a little different this time than the last.

The best time to be in the woods or on the lake is early morning, when few people are sneaking from beneath their air conditioned covers or begun to sip their first cup of coffee. I take my first cup with me to watch the planet wake.

Sometimes one need not even dismount the vehicle to see things that otherwise fly past the window. Like the white heron I saw standing in a stream, discussing the weather with a white-faced Hereford bull. It was the first time in weeks I had ventured out with only one lens, an excellent choice for photographing insects, not so great for the distance to the conversing bovine and his friendly frog catcher. Oh well. Lesson learned.

I’ve never been bored in the woods; there is just too much going on. Spiders, for instance, come in many shapes and hues, as do birds, and even trees. I don’t know what they all are properly named; I’ve always been satisfied just looking at the beauty of their creation and moving on. But lately, I’ve become more curious about the details. Stay tuned.

Photo by IntelGuy

This post was written by:
- who has written 169 posts for Rock The Capital
John Messeder is an award winning journalist with more than 35 years experience writing about education, environment and local government issues. He has lived in Maine, Florida, California and Alaska, and, by temporary turns, numerous places in between. John also is an accomplished photographer, and avid hiker, conservationist, oral history buff, and author of several books he has not yet got 'round to writing. He lives in Adams County, Pa., just over a hill from Gettysburg, with his wife and Golden Retriever. He may be contacted at john@JohnMesseder.com - Email jmesseder

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