Home sweet home.

Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 8.55.38 amScreen Shot 2018-03-05 at 8.56.15 amScreen Shot 2018-03-05 at 8.56.50 amScreen Shot 2018-03-05 at 8.57.03 amScreen Shot 2018-03-05 at 8.57.24 amScreen Shot 2018-03-05 at 8.57.36 amScreen Shot 2018-03-05 at 8.57.45 amScreen Shot 2018-03-05 at 8.58.21 amWe’ve been away from the farm for two weeks in New Zealand.  I’ll post more about that shortly, but for now I’d like to highlight some of the cool moments from the past few days back on the farm.

First Wesley has jumped into his groove and is a happy little chap running around playing with his bike, the chickens and swimming at the pool.

Last night we witnessed an incredibly beautiful lightning storm come through the region.  We woke this morning relieved to see that there were no lingering fires on the horizon.

I also managed to spot this rather impressive jumping spider, a female Sandalodes Superbus (Superb Jumping Spider) on the back gate of the house.

The chickens were very well taken care of during our trip, but sadly we’ve had to kill 5 roosters (saved the meat for the freezer) as they had completely destroyed several of the females.  We’ve got the numbers down so that the girls can recover and the balance of male to female will be appropriate.

We’re stoked to be home to enjoy the quiet space and the ease of life here in the country.  It’s clear to see that Wesley while he enjoyed New Zealand – loves his time here on the farm too.

On our second day home he pulled me close to him and said to me “I luh you” which oh my god I’ll never forget.  It was just so sweet and so beautiful.

Maratus Spider – Western Australia

Maratus Jumping Spiders Western AustraliaMaratus Jumping Spiders Western AustraliaMaratus Jumping Spiders Western Australia MaleMaratus Jumping Spiders Western Australia MaleMaratus Jumping Spiders Western Australia MaleMaratus Jumping Spiders Western Australia FemaleMaratus Jumping Spiders Western Australia FemaleMaratus Jumping Spiders Western Australia FemaleMaratus Jumping Spiders Western Australia FemaleScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.34.36 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.34.48 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.34.59 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.35.12 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.35.28 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.34.29 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.36.40 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.37.18 amScreen Shot 2017-12-29 at 8.37.33 am

These are some of the exquisite spiders and insects that we’ve found around the home over the past couple of weeks.  The Maratus spiders shown are both male and female (the first 9 images).  What’s interesting about them is right now they are out an about in the natural world – where as many of the species are untraceable at this time of year.

We ask ourselves – why is this particular species active?   I’ve spent the past few weeks observing the yard at all times of day and found something of a patterned emerging.  Only after the sun began to lower, and the time beyond 3.30pm would I ever spot the Maratus.

The large orange wasp, stings her prey and creates a tomb like space for the creature to lay dormant and become host to her offspring.  Many jumping spiders become entombed and it’s no wonder they are hard to find when it is warm and the wasps most active.

Mike helped me out with spotting and found the female Maratus which is so small that when you take a photo and blink – if she’s moved it’s quite challenging to locate her again.

Lucky for us all – the temperatures here have been mild (mid to low 30’s) and the breeze cool.  Summer so far has been wonderfully warm.

Do you have spiders in your yard? 

I’ve read recently that jumping spiders are the most common across the planet.

Point Louise, Greenhead Western Australia

Western Australian WeevilWestern Australian GrasshopperGreenhead Western Australia RedterrainYellow Flowers Greenhead Western AustraliaLimestone Lichen Greenhead Western AustraliaWhite Sand Dunes Greenhead Western AustraliaCoastal Flower Greenhead Western AustraliaLimestone Cliffs Greenhead Western AustraliaBlue Banded Bee Greenhead Western AustraliaCoastal Walk Point Louise Greenhead Western AustraliaGreenhead Western Australia Indian Ocean ReefIndian Ocean Reef Greenhead Western AustraliaCoastal Jumping Spider Greenhead Western AustraliaPoint Louise Greenhead Western Australia RedterrainCrested Tern Greenhead Western AustraliaCrested Tern Greenhead Western Australia

The breeze was so refreshing at the beach yesterday.  I had a few solo hours in the bush and sand dunes keeping an eye on what’s flowering, what bugs are pollinating at midday and where the little jumping spiders are on the coast at midday.  Do they move about in the full sunlight part of the day?

A little treat to myself during this little venture was an iced coffee.  And people! Australia and New Zealand do this right!  It comes with whipped cream on top and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  The bitterness of the coffee is all at the bottom, and as you finish the drink you’re left with the sweet taste of ice cream to cool you down.  On a crazy hot day it is perfectly refreshing.

My search for the first two hours proved uneventful, though I did see many butterflies, beetles and wasps (and even one blue banded bee) out hustling between all the flowering coastal plants.

I’d thankfully slathered on a huge portion of sunscreen before leaving.  As I wandered the beach it crossed my mind to remove my shoes and feel that soft white sand and warm Indian ocean between my toes.  As I progressed along Point Louise, I followed a path up the limestone cliffs and began to walk North.

This was perhaps a poor impulsive decision as I then spent the next hour painstakingly walking along a gravely hot path barefoot.  What’s worse?  The sharp pain of awkwardly placing my foot on a rock or the searing pain of the hot ground cooking my feet?  Both at once was fairly uncomfortable.  I had to hype myself up to turn around and walk to full track back!

The good news is during this little tortured walk, I managed to spot what I’d been looking for.  One small brown jumping spider hopped across the path and into the shade.

After several hours out in the sun, I started to make my way home.

Greenhead is a gorgeous little community, with a number of holiday homes to rent a couple of cafes and a small pharmacy.  Now that Christmas is nearly upon us the town will be bustling with holiday makers, children and plenty of happy families soaking up the sun on these lovely beaches.

We’re also settling into the weekend and will be celebrating a quiet little Christmas with Wesley and friends.  Eggnog spiced with a little rum will be whisked up by Mike after a successful and popular batch last year.  He’s keen to try again (it was so delicious and I don’t even like liquor) and today I’ve baked some old style cookies my grandma taught me how to make when I was a child.   I hope you take time to connect with your loved ones, create or uphold traditions and cherish these memories.

New Spider Discovered – Tharpyna (Crab Spider) Western Australia

Tharpyna Spider Western AustraliaTharpyna Spider Western Australia Crab SpiderNew Species Tharpyna Spider Western AustraliaYesterday I sent off a brief email detailing the behaviours of this unusual red and black spider.  It was found about a month ago at the front of our home here in Warradarge.  I first noticed it as it was scrambling in the sand (quite frantically) as soon as the sun started to dip toward the horizon.  It was new to me at the time.  Initially I thought it was an orb spider as I’d been referencing an Australian spider field guide and it was the only image that seemed to match my red and deep black spider.  Being the curious person that I am, I decided to contact the author to see if he knew what it might be.

The author (Robert Whyte) confirmed with me this morning that “It is an as yet unknown, at least as far as live photos are concerned, species of Tharpyna, you are the discoverer! It looks like it is a mature male, so it may have been frantically out and about for a quick shag before bedtime. Many crab spiders are daytime spiders, but Tharpyna are often under bark and may be night hunters. It is one of the prettiest Tharpyna I have seen. ”

So my first question to Robert was a little egotistical: Could I name it?  He wrote me back saying that technically I could but it would need to be scientifically named and also peer reviewed.  I let him know that I’m no scientist – and he was able to share with me the details of another expert based in Poland who might be able to help.

I also asked how he was able to distinguish that it was a crab spider and not the orb I’d originally guessed at.  He informed me that there were several identifying features that clued him into the species.  You see, I am a literal amateur.

“The eye tubercles, eye arrangement, general flatness and shape, shape of male palpal (sex) organs, arrangement of legs (laterigrade).”

I’m quite thrilled to share this news with you all.  It is a really great to know that there are new species out there for discovery, and that there are resources out there to help novices like myself.

I’ll update you if this little beauty gets a name.

If you have a love for spiders, or want to look at some examples of them from across Australia this book is worth every penny.  I also want to thank Robert for being so kind and taking the time to help me with identification and steering this newbie in the right direction.

-Holly

Western Australian Spiders

Here is an assortment of spiders that I’ve managed to photograph of the past couple of years from Perth, to Coorow and Warradarge.  They come in all shapes and colours…  Stay tuned I’ve got some exciting news about spiders to share with you in my next post.

Robert Whyte, author of the field guide “Spiders of Australia” has kindly helped me identify these beautiful spiders.  From top to bottom:

  • Lycosidae A Wolf Spider
  • Sandalodes scopifer
  • Thomisidae Tmarus sp.
  • Araneidae Araneinae Araneus arenaceus relative
  • Thomisidae Zygometis xanthogaster
  • Thomisidae Stephanopis ornata or close relative
  • Salticidae Apricia jovialis female

The comprehensive field guide he wrote has been incredibly useful, and comes with very clear images of each spider and categorises them in a straightforward and practical manner.  I imagine even people with spider phobias would enjoy the maratus jumping spider section!  If you’re looking for a copy take a peek at it here.