Tree pods

I’ve been on the road a bit lately, researching for a book.  It means I get to use my cute little tent, camping in new places. I do like the freedom of being able to stop as and where I like — affordably.

My first night was spent at Coolah, where for $7 I got a great camp site, access to a campers’ kitchen and clean amenities with hot showers. Plus the shade of a beautiful spreading tree, which was very welcome as I sweated and struggled to erect the tent in the late afternoon.

Camp set up, glass of wine in hand, I began to look more closely at my surroundings.

There were willows by the creek, and cows — and a bull — in the adjacent paddock, separated from me by a single wire that I assumed was electrified.

I don’t have much knowledge of introduced trees, and was wondering if the beauty under which I sat was an elm, when I noticed some seed pods suspended within reach. Might be nice to grow a tree like this at home!

They seemed to be the only ones on the tree; luckily I refrained from picking one long enough to realise they were not seeds. Like Indian clubs, these smooth creations were hanging from a criss-cross of spider webs.  I could just see the spider’s legs protruding from its dry leaf shelter (circled).

Once home, my I.D. attempts tell me this is a Bolas spider. The egg sacs are described as being like spindles, but the photos show them to be as rounded as these. Given that the egg sacs were about 50mm long, I was surprised to read that the spider is small — the female is 12mm and the male 2mm!

If you want to identify that spider, the Findaspider website is the place to visit.

Hotfooted spiders

hotfoot-1One afternoon in this recent wild hot November that broke records and threatened many places with fire, I ventured out of my dim cabin to see what the sky was doing. It was dim because I was trying to keep the heat out with the curtains drawn; in any case the winds were too strong to risk an open casement window snapping and straining on its stay peg.

As soon as I reached the screen door I noticed these two spiders hanging from a join in the tin roof. Dead or alive? I couldn’t tell. It was 35ºC out there, according to the verandah thermometer, which was a lot further away from the heat of that tin than the spiders were.

I had never seen these spiders before. The extreme heat must have forced them out of the overlap, if that’s where they usually lived. They must be fried! When I went closer, they didn’t move. Quite decorative, with their pink and black colouring and curving ‘pedipalps’ (if that’s what they are).

Understandably, they seemed to be holding on with as few feet as possible. But why not simply move to the timber rafter?
hotfoot-2I walked to the other end of the verandah, on the lookout for other creatures seeking cooler relief.  Seeing none, I turned to take some more photos of my hot-footed pair. They were gone!

Clearly far more alert than they’d looked, as soon as my back was turned, they’d scarpered — hotfooted it, in fact!

Morning jewels


Last week gave me a morning of perfect synchronicity between light and water. A dewy night, mist lifting in time for the morning sun to illuminate the thousands of spider webs strung through the trees. They are probably always there, but invisible until diamonds are added.

There were elaborate and intricate multi-storey webs, webs that incorporated bright leaves into their settings …


— and webs that bent twigs to frame their creations.

By contrast, this week has been hot and dry; no mist, no dew, no diamonds, only the bright morning light.


This web, a regular at the end of my verandah, shone finely outlined like a giant thumbprint, the classic spiderweb we learn to draw without acknowledging the complexity and range of spidery spinnings.

Spider fruit


I usually don’t inspect a dish of grapes for animate occupants. But after this discovery I certainly shall.

Having eaten a small cluster of sweet black grapes, bought from a regional organic farm, I was about to select another bunch when I glimpsed hairiness where there ought only to be glossy fruitiness.


I blinked: was it hairy stems? But no, definitely hairy spider legs, as it emerged from the side of the bowl.


 I hurried outside with the bowl and gently tipped it onto the verandah, where it posed for a minute.  Another Huntsman, although not as bulbously brown as the big one on the rafters.

 ‘This is going too far!’ I admonished it, but it ignored me as it ambled over the edge.

I washed the grapes and remain vigilant.

The spider above

Lolling on the couch the other evening, I happened to glance up. In the low rays of the setting sun, an odd bump showed on top of one of the bracing rafters.


It was the biggest spider I have ever seen, with a very fat, light brown body. As its legs were bent around the rafter I couldn’t see how to catch it without damage.

But I kept the reading light focused on it so I could check if it was on the move — especially towards me. Needless to say, all concentration on my book was ruined.

The next day it was gone, but that night it re-appeared, underneath the rafters, and closer to my couch. It was straddling two 4 x 2 inch timbers (100mm x 50mm) so you can see that if it extended its legs it would be over 4 inches wide.

Again, I couldn’t work out how to catch it safely. I could now see it better —  the body downy and dotted, like a stitched-up Kiwi fruit. The light caught an almost metallic sheen on the legs and eyes.

Next day it was gone again and I haven’t seen it since. But each evening, as my cabin grows dim, wherever I sit, I am now compelled to check above me with the torch. And keep checking.

It is obviously a resident, and probably has been so for a long time.

I’m not fond of spiders; even the thought of looking through pages of spider pictures to try to identify it gives me the creeps. So does anyone know what sort of spider this is?