Thursday, March 04, 2004

a surreal day

Two days after a fire turned my study area into a black wasteland, I was walking there to survey the damage. Many colonies were charrred, the webs were broken and all the spiders huddled amidst the embers and burnt corpses of their siblings. It was around 4 in the afternoon, and I was checking the colonies one by one, when I suddenly noticed a kite hovering above me. It seemed rather low, so I was wondering what it had spotted, for kites are usually predatory birds, though they are known to scavenge as well. I noticed that there was a sort of garbage dump nearby and so I thought maybe that's what it's after, because it was making alarm calls and swooping. I finished checking the colony and moved on to the next, when to my surprise, the kite switched positions as well. It was hovering in smaller circles with my head at the center of the circle. This was when I began to get suspicious. I knew that kites were not ground nesting birds, so there was no way that I could have disturbed a nest or something, but at this point I was in position to point it out to the kite. So I ducked under a tree. Immediately the kite started swooping lower and making tighter and tighter circles, geting ready to swoop. I still was more or less unconcerned at this time, though I was getting a crick in my neck because I had to keep looking for the kite. But then two other kites joined the first one, and then the situation became ..shall we say... problematic. I couldn't keep my eyes on all the kites at the same time. And they kept coming closer in classic mobbing behaviour, which ironically enough, I had written an article about a couple of months back. So i dodged from tree to tree and finally reached the road where they left me. I did try to sneak back to my study area from another route, but one of the kites promptly turned up again and I had to beat a hasty retreat.

Later, after sunset had fallen on the land, I walked in the darkness towards the colonies (my spiders are nocturnal). In the glare of the headlamp I could see many glowing spots on the ground. I thought they were glowworms at first but they turned out to be eyes. The light was getting reflecting off the eyes of wolf spiders that dotted the undergrowth, like miniature constellations.