Monday, 24 March 2014

More Canterbury and Banks Peninsula

Tomorrow I head down south. Today was my last day around Canterbury and Banks Peninsula.

This last 10 days I have found seven populations of Cantuaria burrows. Much better success than I had expected, considering I am just warming up, but the recent rain has made the burrows much easier to find (the surrounding soil dries out much more slowly than the thin trapdoor lids, which show up pale against the dark damp background). Many of the spiders have had to fashion new lids to their burrows, the poor wee buggers. The rain has smoothed a lot of them down, which will make them harder to find when everything dries out again.

I have moved away from using the big fighty aggro carabid beetles to flush out Cantuaria. It was great for a couple of times, but most of the time when I have used them the spider has stayed down the burrow and (presumably) been munched by the carabid. I have contemplated gluing the beetles' jaws together, but these are native beetles and that isn't exactly ethical. If I can create some kind of tiny muzzle for them that can be removed, I will do that instead.

Some of the populations I have found are really small. I found a tiny one on a bush track near Oxford (the description in the Book, by Forster and Wilton (1968), says "Chalk hill in Canterbury" - thanks guys). Three large burrows. Surrounded by tiger beetle holes. I couldn't find any more burrows, and not for want of searching. I fear that population is on its last legs, possibly due to the tiger beetles eating all the young spiders. One that I found this morning only had one (again very large) burrow in it, but about 30 metres or so further up the track was another population; the two were probably once joined (and may still be connected by males, or by burrows that I didn't find).

I stay up late most nights to catch the spiders, but if I don't do any catching one night then I get up early the next morning to find more populations. Plus there have been a few things to tie up at work which have meant late nights even when I'm not catching. Late nights, early mornings. Sometimes early nights which throw me right off. I have no idea whether it's night-time or Wednesday. Hopefully I'll get into some kind of routine. My routine before was nice. Overall though, it's refreshing to only have one thing to do - find Cantuaria, and find more Cantuaria, and do not think about anything else.

Tomorrow, Kakahu. Tonight, sleep.

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