kw: observations, natural history
Here in the Northeast, it is sunny and 50°F (10°C), quite balmy for December 1. We've had such a warm November, we've been calling it Indian Summer. I learned long ago that in Colonial times, a warm spell in late Fall was called Goose Summer, because it coincided with the sky being full of migrating geese. Such a sky is one of my favorite sights.
But I have another migration in mind just now. It also happens that several genera of spiders hatch in the Fall, and shortly after hatching the baby spiders go a-ballooning. Some wander to the top of something before taking off. Others were thoughtfully placed, as eggs, by the mother spider, near the top of a tree or bush. They raise their little abdomens to the wind and send out a few silk strands. When the breeze gusts, they let go and go aloft. They can sail for great distances, but most go perhaps a few dozen meters.
An image such as this (original found at everglobe's Flickr photostream), shows a few strands on the grass from spiders that landed and shed their silk. Sometimes they land in one spot in such numbers that the grass takes on a silky look. I have seen that in Oklahoma, but not here.
This image, by Marc Chappell, shows a host of baby spiders, with some of the uppermost sending out silken streamers. The long grass stems are covered with silk shed by those that didn't quite get off the first time they tried.
Whether at a takeoff or a landing spot, such concentrations of silk are called Gossamer, derived from Goose Summer, the time of year that they appear. I can't quite call this one of my favorite things. Having breathed in a baby spider or two, I have mixed feelings. But seeing the low afternoon sun shimmer across a lawn spattered with gossamer is a joy, particularly if I hear the cackle of a skein of geese flying overhead just then.