Hiking – Birthday Hike
My 2018 birthday started with what seems to now be a tradition: we went for a hike! This time was on the Appalachian Trail to go check out our hiking log. Our destination was a two hour round trip walk, which left plenty of time to do something else with the remainder of the day.
As mentioned in last week’s post, the woods are full of various types of mushrooms this year. This hike was no different. However, instead of taking photos of fungi, I decided to keep an eye out for living creatures.
I’ll start with a tip. When you go on an early morning hike, don’t volunteer to lead the way. The person in front is the one that will walk into all the spider webs that were built during the night. Don’t be that person!
As soon as my husband agreed to take over the lead, he stopped to show me the masterpiece shown here. Apparently, spiders can make these orb webs in an hour or so. But what I could never figure out is, how do spiders make webs between trees that could be yards apart? Any description I’ve found says they attach a thread between two objects. But if it’s yards apart, how do they do that? Do they attach to one tree and then fling their body to another? Do they climb down and back up? Hmmm.
We passed the spider and continued along the path. It was a very humid morning and I was actually surprised to see any forest life at all. As soon as I finished thinking that very thing, we saw several deer. Unfortunately all of them were too far away and behind too many trees to get a good photo.
Deer weren’t the only animals out that morning. I almost stepped on this tiny salamander to the left. I believe it’s an eastern (red-spotted) newt. An amazing fact is that they can live up to 15 years – if not crunched under a hiker’s boot. The newt secretes poisonous toxins and the bright color is supposed to serve as a warning to predators. I’m very glad I spared his life – they eat mosquito larvae which is helpful in keeping down the population of those bugs.
Besides seeing a few more deer, the only other organism of interest was the common earthworm. The one pictured here was a few inches long, which is about normal. These only live a few years.
Their entire role in life seems to be to digest earth and all the associated nutrients, and to then release a more fertile material that improves the mineral-richness of the soil. Apparently, they also improve drainage by aerating the dirt.
By the way, did you know earthworms have both male and female reproductive organs? When two worms mate, they both put sperm in the other’s body. And then through a process I can’t begin to describe, they combine their own eggs with the sperm from the other worm. Seems like it would be even better to use their own sperm and own eggs, but I’m sure there’s a reason it doesn’t work that way.
So, my birthday hike ended with sightings of four deer, a worm, salamander and multiple spiders. What did you see on your last hike?
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