Monday, August 21, 2017

Topped Off With a Tarantula

The morning was shaping up to be rather anticlimactic this past Saturday as I was searching for critters in the desert about forty minutes from my home. A few scorpions, a couple of species of lizards, some desert birds, and a handful of rabbits, including one that was being hauled off as prey by a great horned owl, were fun to see, but none of those were on my target list for the morning.

My top two targets were desert horned lizard and tarantula. I was hoping to find one or both so I could make them the subject for my practice with macro photography. I spent my initial time at dawn cruising the rough roads that meander through the sagebrush and juniper habitat with hopes of spotting a wandering male tarantula. They aren't often seen, but dusk and dawn are good times to look for them, especially during breeding season when the males are driven by their genetic programming to wander around looking for love near a female burrow. After an unsuccessful attempt at cruising for the big spiders I went on foot and decided to methodically course ideal habitat for desert horned lizards, gravelly, east-facing hillsides warmed by the morning sun. I came up empty again despite my strategic and persistent approach to locating my target species.

Listening for and locating some desert birds provided a break from the fruitless efforts to find the horned lizard and tarantula, but I eventually decided to try one more time to locate a horned lizard when I spotted some ideal habitat rising up from a small wash that was just down hill from me. I weaved my way through a maze of sagebrush as I headed down the hill and was just about to cross the wash and push up the next hillside when the prize of the day came into view--a male tarantula was basking in the sun at the base of a bush just to my left. I went from a desert wanderer on autopilot to the excitement level of a kid in a candy store when I realized my morning was being topped off with a tarantula. I was sliding around on my belly on the desert floor just like my grandkids slide around on our luxury vinyl tile in order to capture most of the images I'm sharing in this post.

Male Tarantula Utah County, Utah
The image below was an attempt to get a tight focus on the tiny eyes at the top of the spiders head. They aren't easily discerned unless one knows what to look for, but they form a small dark bump at the front of the tan-colored head.

Macro Focus on the Tiny Eyes of a Male Tarantula Utah County, Utah
Here is a heavily cropped image to show more detail of the tarantula's eyes and head. There are some fangs that can deliver venom behind what looks like long whiskers.

Macro Focus on the Tiny Eyes of a Male Tarantula Utah County, Utah
I captured a few more images as the spider was attempting to put an end to our private little photo shoot.

Male Tarantula Utah County, Utah

Male Tarantula Utah County, Utah


  1. Hi Jeff:

    What macro are you using?

    1. I have recently started experimenting with the Nikon 105mm.