I think this is a juvenile Argiope spider. With its legs fully spread, it was about the diameter of a quarter, and its web was about the size of my hand.
During a brief stop at our family’s prairie this morning, I noticed a small spider on its web, and set up my tripod to see if I could photograph it. Just after I got a couple nice photos, a grasshopper nymph blundered into its web, and the spider leapt into action. I tried to get pictures of it as it was quickly wrapping the little grasshopper, but I only managed one – it was moving quickly, and there was some vegetation in the way.
I managed to get this shot when the spider paused briefly while wrapping the grasshopper nymph. The image is a little fuzzy because I was shooting through some grass leaves, trying not to disturb the action.
However, once it had its prey stabilized, the spider slowed down and I was able to watch and photograph it for the next 10 minutes or so as it waited for the nymph to become sufficiently paralyzed. When I finally had to leave, the spider hadn’t yet started to feed. Instead, it was perched above the nymph with two legs resting on the nymph like it was feeling for a pulse. Every time the nymph twitched, the spider quickly pulled its legs back as if it had touched a hot stove. Very carefully, I pulled my tripod away and left the spider to its meal.
This was shortly after the spider finished the wrapping process. You can still see the silk attached to its spinnerets (near its rear end).
…waiting for the grasshopper to stop kicking… I assume spider got to eat it eventually, but I had to get to work.
Being a nature photographer sometimes means I can plan trips to interesting places and spend extended periods of time focusing on nothing but photography. More often, however, my photography comes in short opportunistic bursts in the middle of other activities. Fortunately, my family and coworkers are (mostly) patient with me when these opportunities arise and I briefly break away from whatever we’re doing.
Spider in foggy prairie. The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska.
This week, two of my coworkers and I spent a couple days at our Niobrara Valley Preserve working on some strategic planning. Our time together was really productive, but we were in one of the most scenic places in the world with almost no time to get outside and enjoy it. When I woke up Tuesday morning, it was foggy outside, but bright enough that the sun was just barely visible through the fog. My two coworkers were nowhere to be seen, so I made an executive decision that it was a great time for photography and slipped out the door and up the hill to a beautiful prairie ridgetop.
This web seemed to be uninhabited except by hundreds of water droplets.
A single water droplet at the tip of a grass leaf.
I spent about 20 minutes photographing spiderwebs and other dew-covered natural wonders before slipping back into our cabin, ready to resume the meeting. Fortunately, the other two – including my boss – hadn’t started without me. Throughout the rest of the morning, I only sighed aloud a few times as I watched the fog slowly break up over the river and bluffs just outside our cabin, and I’m pretty sure I only pointed out the beautiful photography light seven or eight times. Other than that I was completely focused and productive…
The same spider as shown in the first photo, but from a different angle. As long as my knees were wet from the dewy grass and the spider seemed ok with my presence, I figured I’d better shoot as many angles as I could…