UPDATED (9.17): Thanks to the Natural History Museum’s Spider Pavilion webpage, I’ve learned this is not an orb weaver, but rather a jewel garden spider. The difference? Orb’s tend to sit smack in the middle of their webs, whereas jewel’s like to hide out in the foliage around them — and that’s exactly what this one did.

Whatever biological elements conspired to limit our property’s usual orb spider inundation this past year or two are not in effect this time around. These awesome arachnids have been out and about the yards early, albeit smaller in size than I typically see.

Until this morning, when I found this fine large specimen working on its web under the backyard bougainvillea (click it for the bigger picture):

For all you arachniphobes out there… sorry. It can’t all be hummingbird chicks and butterflies.

If it’s any consolation there is of course the drawback that I’m walking  face first into far more webs strung across walkways and such. But doing my exceptionally erratic version of the spiderwebfacefreakout dance is mostly a small price to pay to get to hang with such amazing creatures.