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Nojoqui Tarantula Migration DxPeditions: 2006
Each year, on the Central Coast of California, thousands of tarantulas brave countless dangers as they migrate to their ancestral breeding grounds somewhere in northern Santa Barbara county. Their journey, fraught with danger, is most unusual among large scale migrations . Once thought to be only myth, the Nojoqui Tarantulas have recently been rediscovered and their great migration the source of scientific wonder and amazement.
Thought to be related to the Amazon tarantula, the Nojoqui tarantula's origins are unknown. But stories past down from Nojoqui locals depict a series of strange and mysterious events related to the annual migration.
2004's migration, centered near Rancho Alegre in the Santa Ynez mountains, had its share of strange and mysterious events including the discovery of one of the largest tarantula webs ever seen, shown below.
!! HOT NEWS !!
FAMED NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER TO COVER THIS YEAR'S MIGRATION!
10/21/2006 "Day of the Tarantula Migration": News of this year's Nojoqui Tarantula Migration DXpedition has reached all the way to New York City and attracted the attention of the NEW YORK TIMES! Famed reporter, Tim Neville (and a photographer) will be accompanying us on our migration DXpedition in hopes of reporting on mass numbers of tarantulas spreading across the Santa Ynez valley.
T-Day: It is widely known that tarantulas sleep late in the fall. No doubt the rigors of the prior evening's duties require additional rest, or possibly, after sleeping on their backs an entire night disturbs their internal clocks. Regardless, we felt no pressing urge to hit the road early.
I met up with New York Times reporter Tim Neville and his photographer around 11am at a local golf course in the heart of tarantula country. Based upon several tarantula sighting emails we received the prior week, we focused our day's journey in two areas in the Santa Ynez Valley: the upper Paradise Road and Foxen Canyon tarantula habitats. As we drove out into the wilderness, our senses were peaked to detect any tarantula-like feature emerging from the road ahead. We were gitty with anticipation as everything on the road ahead appeared tarantula-like.
As we drove up Paradise Road into the heart of the Santa Ynez wilderness, we were struck at the beauty of the area. Although I have driven these roads many times before, the influence of the heavy spring rains was clearly still apparent in the abundance of wildflowers and swollen streams we passed through in our search for this year's migration.
We drove for about an hour, our eyes peeled for any fuzzy brown objects darting across the road. Alas, our efforts in this were in vain. We spoke with several cyclists that we passed along the road who told us they saw a few tarantulas "some distance back", but after driving a distance to find them, our search yielded none.
We drove way up into the top of the Paradise Road to a camping ground near the river. I set up my radio and started calling CQ Tarantula Migration Dxpedition, but was not making many contacts. Later, I found out that there was a strong solar event that wiped out the bands during this period. All in all, I made two, count 'em, two (2) contacts, which was 2 more than the number of tarantulas that Tim found during the same period.
So, we packed up and headed toward the Foxen Canyon Road. This area is widely known for its mass numbers of tarantula sightings. In fact, the prior day, Tim found and photographed a tarantula as it crossed Foxen Canyon Road, seen in the photo below. We drove for another couple of hours, our eyes peeled for masses of tarantulas we knew were out there, lurking. As before, we found none save for the dried up body of the little fellow shown below, which was run over just after Tim took this picture. It must have been payback for not saving his life, because we never did see any the entire day.
...it's lonely out there.
Tim Neville (left) and Steve enjoying libations following a day of tracking tarantulas.
By this time, Tim's photographer was getting quite bored and needed (he said) to get back to LA. So, Tim came back up the mountain with me to our campsite at the Devil's Fingers where we were also conducting our CQ Diablo event. Since it was almost dinnertime, Tim joined us for some delicious burgers, beer and good conversation. Unfortunately, the only wild things Tim had the pleasure of finding was some Wild Turkey (some seen in that glass above).
yes, they can walk on water too!
May 25, 2006:
We have reason to believe that this year's migration will peak again during the Orionid meteor shower in late October. What's more, a near earth object is predicted to light up the evening skies around the same time. The potential for bizarre tarantula behavior has once again put the Nojoqui tarantulas in the spotlight of the scientific community.
Historically, near earth celestial encounters have figured prominently in Nojoqui lore. Cave drawings, depicting tarantulas riding the tails of comets across the sky are said to be thousands of years old. Other cave drawings show hordes of tarantulas as numerous as the stars in the night sky. Unusual tarantula behavior has been observed during such celestial events. A particular Nojoqui children's fable tells the story of the "Old Man" who tried to jump better than the tarantulas. The competition occurred the evening of a particularly large Orionid meteor shower, coinciding with a large migration. Though the fable ends comically, the Old Man does learn a lesson and the children learn the value of setting priorities.
Although not confirmed, this year's buzz is about the robot tarantulas that are being deployed by a local university in an attempt to document this year's migration behavior. Equipped with infrared and subaudible sensors, these "robotulas" (as they're called) will mix with the group and collect data for analysis. It is hoped that many of the myths can be debunked, notably one that tarantulas sleep on their backs after mating.
October 21-23 appears to be the most likely target dates for the DXpedition. Luckily, we have saved most of our dxPedition equipment, scoopers and aluminum gators. Ken, KG6JMJ, will once again be my partner and hopefully he'll avoid the sushi the night before.
The team is also looking to meet qualified tarantula researchers who would accompany the opXpedition team and conduct scientific operations. Interested parties should contact this station at the 'contact me' link above. We are planning on inviting the Discovery Channel along as well for official documentation.
May 30, 2006
Important new research has just been made available to the DXpedition team. Recently discovered ancient rock drawings found in the Painted Cave area in Santa Barbara, depict a religious ceremony utilizing Peyote. Although not fully studied yet, some of the images suggest that the Peyote is fed to both participants and tarantulas. A particular image has a large number of tarantulas held captive while being forced to swim through a hollowed tree filled with Peyote laced water. The tarantulas emerge on the other side clearly agitated.
Another painting shows Indian maidens being fed Peyote tea and then placed in a smaller enclosure with several tarantulas. Wild ensuing events are suggested by a series of other smaller paintings. This group of paintings now can be identified as the basis to several Nojoqui historical tales including the fable of the "Old Man" and the belief that tarantulas sometimes sleep on their backs.
But by far the largest of these paintings shows a very large meteor shower illuminating a migration of such enormity that the earth itself is covered with tarantulas! One researcher commented that the brilliance of the depiction of the flaming meteors as they streaked to the tarantula covered earth below reminded him of the 'flaming groovies' of the 1960's which, as he added, are widely known to have been invented in Isla Vista, which is very near to the Painted Cave area of Santa Barbara. Isla Vista is the student community adjacent to the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the location where, during the 1960's, a Bank of America office (acutually a single wide mobile home) was located and subsequently burned during a student riot.
Oct. 16, 2006
Tarantulas sighted on Happy Canyon Road! We just received the following email:
We rode up Happy Canyon from near Highway 154 and saw the first
tarantula in the middle of the road just before the point where the road
rises steeply out of Happy Canyon. When we turned around, as we
generally do at this point on this ride, to go back down the canyon we
almost immediately saw another on the side of the road
This is excellent news indeed and comes just in the nick of time. We have also been contacted by a reporter, Tim Neville, who is planning on covering this year's migration for the New York Times! He and a photographer are planning on arriving in Santa Barbara October 20th and spending the weekend in the Santa Ynez valley searching for the masses of tarantulas we know are lurking.
More to come.
recent tarantula sightings: 1990