By Jay Wilson
The Mission Times Courier is adding a new feature to their coverage of Mission Trails by including a special monthly calendar of park activities. There will also be more in-depth articles about things to see and do in the park, like the following about Mission Trails’ eight-legged friends written by one of our own park rangers.
Spooky, crawly arthropods?
With winter upon us, what better way to get in the spirit than to visit Mission Trails Regional Park, the “hostess with the mostess!” Get up close and personal to a naturally made spiral or funnel web that might have a cool spider on it eating and sucking the juices of its prey that’s already dead — hopefully.
Want to see bats? We got them, too! Just a bit after sunset, be sure to look up and you just might see some cute bats flying overhead. Our local bats are insect eaters, while other types of bats eat fruit, pollen, nectar, small animals, fish and even blood. Don’t worry though, I’ve yet to hear of one trying to eat a human.
Still, there’s something in the park even cooler than bats — tarantulas. Tarantulas live in warm habitats around the world, ranging from rain forest, desert and scrubland. Most tarantulas are found in South America but you won’t need to book a flight to South America to see them.
Instead, donate some of that money you’re going to save on airfare to the MTRP Foundation and head on over to the park. Our local tarantula (in the geunus Aphonopelma and family Theraphosidae) can vary from black, to grey, to brown. Although tarantulas are for the most part nocturnal, you might get lucky and see one during the day.
There’s no need to be afraid of tarantulas; they are fairly docile and tend to mind their own business. However, if threatened, they will rear up on their back legs and expose their fangs. When seriously threatened, most tarantulas will use their hind legs to flick the barbed “urticating” (irritating) hairs from their abdomen into the eyes of would-be attackers, such as birds, snakes, rodents, other tarantulas and the Pepsis wasp — also known as the “tarantula hawk.” Don’t become another attacker. Always keep in mind that although they pose no serious threat to humans, tarantulas do have venom and can bite.
During the fall mating season, a mature male ditches his burrow in search of true, happy, endless love. Not really. They just want to find a receptive female to mate with. Male tarantulas may walk for a significant amount of time to find a female, but the neat part is that this is when people are most likely to come upon a tarantula. When a male finally finds a female by scent, he approaches the entrance to her burrow and taps (like a true gentleman should) on the thin strands of web that lead into her burrow. If a willing female is drawn to the male, she will exit the burrow and the mating will commence.
However, the male doesn’t stick around, because if the female is hungry, she may make her babys’ daddy her next meal. I like to call this the “two-for-one special.” Females live longer than males and can live up to 25 years, whereas males only live up to eight years. A good time and place to see a tarantula here is at dusk around the grasslands, so be on the lookout.
—MTRP ranger Araceli Dominguez
Music and Art in the Park
The concerts listed on the calendar include a special concert on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 2 p.m., featuring the Quartet Luminoso, which is comprised of a cello, a viola, a violin and a clarinet.
The current art show “Mission Trails Mixed” features six local award-winning artists presenting a variety of media. Their sow will be in the Visitor Center Gallery through Feb. 3.
The next show features acrylic and mixed media art by award-winning artist Katheryn Gail Ackley; it will be shown Feb. 4 through March 3.
Donate and get involved
Any day of the year is a perfect time to donate to the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation and continue supporting its goals to educate, preserve and project one of San Diego’s unique natural environments. Visit mtrp.org and click the “Donate” button. While you’re on our website, make sure you are registered to receive the MTRP e-newsletter to keep up with all the news and activities at the park. Our e-newsletter is free, and your email address is secure.
—Jay Wilson is executive director of the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recreation Events at Mission Trails
[Editor’s note: for arts and music events at Mission Trails Regional Park, see our Arts Calendar on Page 23.]
Jan. 22 — Guided Nature Walk, 9:30 a.m. from Visitor Center; Family Discovery Walk, 3 p.m. from Visitor Center
Jan. 23 — All programs are free
Jan. 25 — Trail restoration, 9 a.m. at East Fortuna; Guided Nature Walk, 9:30 a.m. from Visitor Center
Jan. 28 — Park beautification crew, 8:30 a.m. at East Fortuna; Nature Walk, 8:30 a.m. at Kumeyaay Lake Campgroaund; Guided nature walk, 9:30 a.m. from Visitor Center; Birding Basics class, 1 p.m. at Visitor Center
Jan. 29 — Guided Nature Walk, 9:30 a.m. from Visitor Center
Feb. 1 — Trail restoration, 9 a.m. at East Fortuna; Guided Nature Walk, 9:30 a.m. from Visitor Center
Feb. 3 — All programs are free
Feb. 4 — Wildlife tracking walk, 8:30 a.m. from Visitor Center; Mountain Bike with a Ranger, 9:30 a.m. from West Sycamore; Guided Nature Walk, 9:30 a.m. from Visitor Center
Feb. 5 — Nature Walk, 8 a.m. from West Sycamore; Guided Nature Walk, 9:30 a.m. from Visitor Center
Feb. 8 — Trail restoration, 9 a.m. at East Fortuna; Guided Nature Walk, 9:30 a.m. from Visitor Center
Feb. 11 — Habitat restoration crew, 8 a.m. at Kumeyaay Lake Campground; Guided Nature Walk, 9:30 a.m. from Visitor Center; Discovery Table, 10 a.m. at Visitor Center
Feb. 12 — Guided Nature Walk, 9:30 a.m. from Visitor Center
Feb. 15 — Trail restoration, 9 a.m. at East Fortuna; Guided Nature Walk, 9:30 a.m. from Visitor Center
Feb. 18 — Guided Nature Walk, 8 a.m. from Kumeyaay Lake Campground; Trail improvement crew, 8 a.m. Kumeyaay Lake Campground; Guided Nature Walk, 9:30 a.m. from Visitor Center; Star Party, 5:30 p.m. at Kumeyaay Lake Campground