A walk in the wilderness is almost always full of surprises. I experience such pleasant moments every once in a while. These two specific instances that I share with you below occurred a few years apart. Both are to do with spiders – spiders that are both, curiously shaped and have interesting behaviour.
It was almost 5 years ago. I happened to be at the Bannerghatta Nature Camp conducting a training programme. I was sipping my coffee during one of the breaks. Idly, my fingers meddled with the tip of a twig. But what my fingers experienced got me curious and I was prompted to take a closer look. As my finger had passed over the tip of the ‘twig’, it had felt something soft. From common sense I knew that the twig should be stiff and rigid. On further scrutiny, I saw something that made my eyes pop out. There was a spider that sat at the tip of the twig. The spider looked very much a part of the twig – rather it looked more like a broken twig.
The spider had a curious way of sitting with its legs retracted and held close to the body as it rested during the day. This was the Tree-stump Spider – a name so apt and befitting its appearance and behaviour!
It was soon time to resume the programme. But within the short time I had at my disposal with the spider, I had managed to get some record shots. When I came back to check for the spider much later, it was gone. Glad I got the picture at the first instance!
This incident was all but forgotten. More recently, friends of mine stumbled upon a similar spider and photographed the same. I saw the pictures and my jaws dropped! I wanted to go, see and photograph this amazing little creature. The good Samaritans that they are, my friends offered to drive me to the same spot on the outskirts of Bangalore. I kept my fingers crossed and hoped to meet this spider in person.
Once there, I was taken to a bamboo clump and was told that the spider was in front of me! I thoroughly scanned the bamboo twigs and failed miserably to spot the spider in spite of knowing what I had to look for. Only when it was pointed out did I realize that I had been staring at the spider all the while without being able to spot it. I have seen creatures camouflaged in a variety of situations, but this one was something else.
It was difficult to believe my eyes. I disturbed the ‘spider’ a little. It moved a few inches away and sat on a section of a bamboo twig between the nodes that was bereft of any uncertainties.
It moved back to the same node in no time where it was again beautifully camouflaged. I spent the next half hour photographing it from various angles.
This spider was seen in the same place for quite a few days after. This led me to wonder how the spider was finding food. I did some fact-finding and learned that Tree-trunk Spiders are orb web builders. They weave a new web each evening and sit in the middle of the web to catch their prey.
The second sighting of the Tree-stump Spider Poltys sp. got me marvelling as to how many times I might have walked past a spider while it watched me. Not just that, I am now going to be forced to suspect every twig and the result – my walk through a wooded area is only going to take longer!