Living at Baker is always interesting, whether it is singing coyotes in the night, unsuspected flowers blooming, or migrant birds fleetingly passing through the landscape; there is always something to grab ones’ attention. While playing with my sons in the parking lot adjacent to the Baker trailer, we stumbled across a large tarantula making its way through the grass. This was their first encounter with the hairy arachnid and they were suitably impressed – we literally had to drag them away when the spider had had enough and was becoming, understandably, a little tired of being watched closely. Belonging to the genus Aphonopelma, there are at least 14 species found in Texas but it takes a microscope and a good deal of experience to tell them apart. One trait they all have in common is urticating, or barbed, hairs on their abdomens which the spiders will brush off with their hind legs if they feel sufficiently threatened. These hairs can cause skin irritation and, more seriously, eye problems if they lodge in the cornea of their target. Tarantulas are fascinating to watch – just don’t watch them too closely!
While tarantulas are not known to be harbingers of storms, after spotting the shambling spider, it rained and rained and then rained a bit more. Aside from the obvious benefits to the wildlife and the flora, the downpours had the added benefit of scrubbing our Glen Rose formation until it gleamed. Walking the North Loop shortly after the storm, I was startled to see how Harris Creek had been transformed. All the dirt, leaves, branches, and algae had been power-scrubbed from the creek bed by the torrent that had rushed through the previous few days. All that remained was a tranquil, gurgling creek with crystal-clear water that magnified the yellowish-orange Glen Rose limestone that makes up its bed. Since the canopy is taller and thicker in that area, lending a darker atmosphere, the effect of the bright stream is striking. I like to think paleontologist Robert Hill, the scientist who gave the Glen Rose formation its name in 1891, would have admired our particular specimen.
Once again Baker Sanctuary will be closed down for the annual, deer-management hunt beginning November 1 and continuing through mid-January. During this time Baker will host eight hunters whose efforts at harvesting deer will help keep the habitat in prime condition for the Golden-cheeked Warblers who will be returning in early March from their wintering grounds down south.