SPIDER WALKS – A contribution by Sasha Haldane

stewartgoeswalkies is so grateful to have received this contribution from Sasha Haldane. Sasha is a Hong Kong based photographer that concentrates on insects, spiders in particular. Her dedication to her chosen field and the subject she concentrates on will be made obvious in the following pages by the standard of her comments and photography. 

Hi! I’m Sasha. I have lived in Hong Kong since I was a child, and I love the amazing trails that we have in throughout the territory. I spend much of my time walking in the Country Parks, hoping to find bugs to photograph. 

I started doing my photography last year when every avenue of recreation closed down due to the pandemic. This was except for the country parks and although many other things have opened up again, my fascination with Hong Kong’s biodiversity has continued. My favourite subject to shoot is jumping spiders, but I’m interested in all the hidden life around us.

When I head out on a walk, I generally take my ‘running bag’ with me – an Oxitis, which is engineered for women and has a ton of pockets. There is one that perfectly fits my camera, an Olympus TG6. The Oxitis bag comes with soft water flasks – and I tend to use those to carry my water. There is also a special phone pocket and places for sunglasses, keys, snacks etc. as well.

The TG6 is a small handheld, it has fantastic macro capabilities and lets me get close to my subjects. The only disadvantage is the lack of a telephoto, which means I can’t take many butterfly and bird shots!

As I occasionally run the trails as well, I like to use my Hoka speedgoat shoes to walk in. These have Vibram soles which stick the slippery patches incredibly well on any walk and I love them for that, as I have a problematic back and don’t want to slip!

I walk in a variety of parks – I generally walk on Hong Kong island as I live there, but I also head out to Lantau and the New Territories to look for particular species – anywhere from Bridespool, to the sides of Tai Mo Shan, from the marshes to the catchwaters.

I don’t usually walk fast, though I do spend many hours on my feet out hunting. Many of the things I look for are tiny and there is much scanning and turning over of leaves to find things – I also spend time looking on handrails for insects as these are the highways of the insect world and have their own ecological niche. Stream beds are also rich in different species. There tends to be more species congregating near water, and it really depends on what you are looking for in terms of the location you head to.

Groups of us also go out at night – a lot of species are nocturnally active, particularly the smaller web spiders, so these are easier to spot them. Also, some of the diurnal species are asleep or slower moving at night so you can get good shots of them as well. Night walks mean a light is needed, and I usually use a head torch though some of my friends prefer hand torches as they are more easily directed and don’t tend to blind other people when you swing round to talk to them! 

Night walks are also great for seeing snakes and amphibians. I have been out in the parks so much that I have seen a lot of snakes, both during the day and night, as they also like to hunt frogs near the water, and I am very pleased to have had sightings of them – if you don’t bother them, they don’t bother you and some are very chilled about being photographed. 

I’m also probably one of the few people who are happy to see Nephilia pilipes, the Golden Orb spider, as the eco-systems they have on their webs are so interesting, with the attendant males, but also a number of parasitic and opportunistic spider species there as well . As I mentioned my favourite spiders are the jumping ones (Salticidae) and I spend a lot of time looking for them. They are usually tiny, the biggest one being not much larger than my thumb joint, and I love their bravado! I have posted some shots below to show some of the amazing things I see on my walks.

Just to get a perspective on the size of the jumping spiders this is a picture of an Epocilla female on the web of my hand between the thumb and fingers. They often jump onto my camera as they see themselves in the lens reflection, and think it is a rival. Then they have a bit of an explore and often end up on my hands.

This is a Cuckoo wasp – named as such as they use other wasps to raise their young! This was a shot I chased for a long time as these wasps are very wary.

This is an Irura bidenticulata female jumping spider – they are tiny at about 4-5mm long and purple and gold in colouring. I had to crop this shot so you could see it in detail!

A Cyclosia papilionaris caterpillar – looks like a traffic light! 

Another tiny jumping spider called a Rhene.

A Geisha distinctissima plant hopper

A Siler collingwoodi jumping spider – male. They are about 5mm long. One of the territory’s most colourful spiders, this one is a juvenile coming into his adult colouration.

A Rufous burrowing snake. Non venomous, harmless. They spend most of the time underground but have amazing rainbow reflective scales.

Pancorius crassipes – female and the largest of the jumping spider species in Hong Kong. This one was out after a rain shower and has a raindrop as a hat.

A Crimson dropwing dragonfly on the banks of a stream.

A Carrhotus jumping spider female in a flower

A Crobroter or Flower mantis nymph (which means that it is not at the adult stage yet).

A female Portia orientalis jumping spider – the most intelligent of all the spiders with the ability to think ahead, have spatial reasoning and possibly the capacity to count, according to a recent paper on them.

Tiger beetles fly away from your feet and are both pretty and ferocious!

PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL PHOTOS ARE THE PERSONAL COPYRIGHT OF THE AUTHOR – SASHA HADANE. PHOTOS MAY BE USED BY SCHOOLS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSE. YOU ARE REQUESTED TO CREDIT THE PHOTOGRAPHER WHEN USING THEM. COMMERCIAL USERS ARE REQUIRED TO OBTAIN THE PERMISSION OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER. YOU CAN SEE MORE OF SASHA’S WORK ON INSTAGRAM AT @haldanesasha!

Thank you for visiting stewartgoeswalkies. I am so grateful to Sasha for this fantastic contribution. I hope you enjoyed this post. Please feel free to leave a comment and if you would like to submit a story about a past experience it will be greatly appreciated. You can leave a comment below and I will send you my contact details.

stewartgoeswalkies has made a commitment to the reduction of plastics in our environment. Please try to avoid buying drinking water in plastic bottles when you can bring it from home in a reusable bottle or bladder. Let’s work together to save the planet.

Published by stewartgoeswalkies

Happily married man to a wonderful lady. Living in Hong Kong. In my younger days I enjoyed hiking, camping and rock climbing. I've trekked in the Himalayas and climbed Mt. Kinabalu in East Malaysia.

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