Well, what did I get up to this week.... Monday I started to continue with the rattlesnake drawing. But I didn't get very far before I couldn't focus and my eyes began to ache again. So accepting a certain amount of defeat on this eye strain thang, I've brought my optician appointment forward a few months to get them checked. It's no good if I can't work either at the zoo or at home.
Drawing and painting were out for this week again so I got on with a lot of 'jobs to do when not drawing/painting'. I have several species waiting to be illustrated a Von Der Decken's hornbill, a bush mantis, false black widow spider and a number of anemonefish and anemones. I will need reference for these so armed with a camera I went on a reference hunt. Getting photo's that I have taken myself and actually seeing the animal in question is a good preliminary step. It helps familiarise me with the species.
For the spider I had to go to the reptile house. There, one of the keepers had got on her hands and knees and scrabbled about in the inevitable dark cobwebby places of the reptile room breeding room to find examples of said spider. Apparently they have made themselves at home in this warm and prey rich environment; the prey being the fruit flies baby crickets etc that inevitably escape from the 'waiting to be fed to the reptiles and amphibians' containers. Unlike the real black widow these spiders are not dangerous, they'd hardly be allowed to run amok in the reptile breeding rooms if they were. However they can, as all spiders do, still bite.
By the time I had arrived she had just 'bagged' herself a 'juicy female' and a smaller less rounded female. Looking like the well known black widow, the 'juicy' spider had a huge rounded abdomen underneath which her tiny thorax and long dark shiny pointy 'poised for action' legs protruded. I'm not a great one for spiders.... had a fear of them from childhood. I blame my two rascally brothers for chasing me and, so say, putting spiders down my back! In the years I have worked at the zoo I have adapted and calmed my fear - I've had to as I've had to draw/paint quite a number of spiders - usually from life. I can now even pick a small sized one up...on a good day. And once even held a tarantula! I find them totally fascinating and even beautiful when looked at closely, but get one moving fast around me and my fears resurface.
Neither myself nor the keeper were wanting these spiders anywhere near our bodies. Whilst they are not the dreaded black widow they can still impart a bite and we didn't want to find out how much that might hurt. So 'safely' contained in a small plastic lidless tub, I angled the camera down for an aerial shot. Bless her, this little female spider wanted only to tuck herself into one of the tubs corners, so it was with great delicacy and care that the keeper, using VERY long tweezers, nudged her into the middle so I could get a better shot. For the signage of this species I do not actually need to illustrate of it. The display the species will be housed in is in a 'town house' setting - a mock room with kitchen area showing mice, a cellar and attic showing brown and black rats, a fish tank and on the 'stairs', a case-like display tank for showing spiders. This is where the species will go and a framed photo on the wall with a basic caption is all that is required for the spider.
The keeper liked the look of this 'juicy female' so much that she decided she'll keep it for the display. So using the tweezers with great care she attempted to seperate the two spiders by lifting the smaller one out using the silk it had laid down behind it. However there was a few seconds of 'worry' as on lifting the small one out it brought the big 'juicy' female with it dangling like hypodermic needles on a silk thread as they whipped around in the air in front of our legs. The 'juicy' one abseiled quickly to the ground which at first we didn't realise..... where had the spider gone!!! As the small spider was safely returned to a cobwebby corner, I saw the large 'juicy' one on the floor so quickly placed the empty plastic tub over it to not only contain it for my peace of mind but to protect her from being accidently stood on. Only then did I breathe out, at last, in relief.
Just another day at work!