A Coyote and Lerps, 07-06-19

Around 5:30 am I headed over to the William Pond Park (across the river from the American River Bend Park). I usually don’t like going over there because it’s “too manicured” for me, but I go there because there’s an oak tree that grow over there that always has interesting galls on it.

The weather was beautiful and it was about 55° when I got to the park.

At the naturalist class on Friday, one of my naturalist students, Jeanette, said she wasn’t seeing much in the way of galls out there yet, so I kept an eye out for them when I was walking. They’re just starting to show themselves around here.  I’ve found Pumpkin galls on the Live Oak trees, and today was able to find some Spiny Turban galls and Fuzzy Round galls on my go-to Valley Oak tree – and also spotted some aphid galls on a Cottonwood tree.  In another month or so, there should be dozens of different galls showing up all over the place.  I reminded the students that the galls may form on different parts of the trees depending on insect species. Some only form on the bark or stems; some only form on the top of the leaves; some only form on the underside of the leaves; some only form on the terminal ends of the branches… so, hey have to look everywhere.  And identifying the tree or plant on which you find the gall will make identifying the galls themselves easier.

I also saw lots of “lerps” today. They’re little teepees spun out of starch and sugar by tiny insects called Red Gum Lerp Psyllids (Glycaspis brimblecombei). Mama psyllid lays a bunch of eggs and as the babies hatch they cover themselves with the lerps. The babies then exude honeydew to attract ants and Yellowjackets that unwittingly defend them against other predators while they (the ants and wasps) guard the caches of honeydew. So, kewl looking.

Lerps of the Red Gum Eucalyptus Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei . the tiny “crab-looking” insect is a type of Lace Bug, Corythucha sp.

I came across a California Ground Squirrel sitting on top of a pile of fallen limbs and stumps, and thought its face looked “weird”. When I got home and went through my photos, I realized that the squirrel’s face was badly swollen on one side. It looked like it had swallowed bees or something; or maybe it had been struck by a rattlesnake. The adult ground squirrels are immune to rattlesnake venom. They can take a few strikes without dying, but some swelling can still happen.  The swelling didn’t seem to bother the squirrel too much. It was still busy stuffing its face with seeds and grasses.

California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi, with a swollen face.

Dogs off-leash in nature parks is one of my pet peeves. So, when I spotted what I thought was a dog taking a crap on the lawn in the park, I was muttering angrily to myself about “stupid humans and their unleashed pets”.  I first saw the canine from a distance, but as I got closer, I realized it was a coyote!  It posed for a few photos and then crossed the road in front of me and loped into the high grass… where two more were waiting for it. So, that turned out to be a “happy” moment instead of an “irritated” one. Go, Nature!  The coyote was very gray in the face and had a spot on its right flank that was furless and kind of leathery (like an old injury that had healed over), so I think it was pretty elderly (for a coyote).

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Part of my walk took me right along the bank of the American River, and I don’t remember it ever being as high or flowing as fast as it is right now.  The rocky areas where I’d usually walk are all under water now.  And because the water is moving so fast, and not really pooling anywhere, all of the insect larvae that usually breed in the water weren’t breeding there… So, not a lot of mayflies, dragonflies or damselflies. 

I DID see a stay cat that was missing an eye, as well as a few California Quails (males) sitting in trees overlooking their domains, and lots of Mockingbirds which seem to be doing their courtship stuff right now.  I also found a spot near the riverbank where there were a lot of raccoon tracks. Most of the tracks were around little puddles of water in the sand; so, I inferred that the racoons had taken whatever they were eating to the puddles to wash the food off.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back home.

Species Identification:

  1. Blackberry Rust Fungus, Gymnoconia nitens,
  2. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
  3. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus,
  4. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
  5. California Quail, Callipepla californica,
  6. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  7. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  8. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica,
  9. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  10. Chicory, Cichorium intybus,
  11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  12. Coyote, Canis latrans,
  13. Domestic Shorthair Cat, Felis catus,
  14. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setigerus,
  15. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare,
  16. Fitch’s Tarweed, Centromadia fitchii,
  17. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis,
  18. Flax-leaved Horseweed, Erigeron bonariensis,
  19. Fuzzy Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis washingtonensis,
  20. Giant Mullein, Verbascum thapsus,
  21. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  22. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus,
  23. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  24. Jalisco Petrophila Moth, Petrophila jaliscalis,
  25. Lace Bug, Corythucha sp.,
  26. Long-Jawed Orb-Weaver Spider, Tetragnatha sp.,
  27. Mayfly, Epeorus sp.,
  28. Minnow, Phoxinus phoxinus,
  29. Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria,
  30. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  31. Nectarine, Prunus persica,
  32. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos,
  33. Oak Apple Wasp Gall, Andricus quercuscalifornicus,
  34. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum,
  35. Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitranversus,
  36. Purpletop Vervain, Verbena bonariensis,
  37. Queen Anne’s Lace, Wild Carrot, Daucus carota,
  38. Rabbit Tail Grass, Lagurus ovatus,
  39. Raccoon, Procyon lotor,
  40. Red Gum Eucalyptus Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei,
  41. Red Gum Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus camaldulensis,
  42. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
  43. Robberfly, Efferia sp.,
  44. Sneezeweed, Helenium puberulum,
  45. Spanish Clover, Acmispon americanus,
  46. Spiny Turban Wasp Gall, Antron douglasii,
  47. Spotted Lady’s Thumb, Persicaria maculosa,
  48. Tarweed, Common Madia, Madia elegans,
  49. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
  50. Tree Tobacco, Nicotiana glauca,
  51. Treehopper, Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittata,
  52. Turkey Tangle, Fogfruit, Phyla nodiflora,
  53. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
  54. Variable Flatsedge, Cyperus difformis,
  55. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
  56. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli,