Insects, Animals and Galls… oh my, 07-16-19

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my Tuesday morning volunteer Monarch monitoring and Trail Walking thing.  It was about 61° when I got there around 6:00 am but was already up to 80° by 10:30 when I left.  Eew.

 I got to the preserve a little early but was eventually joined by Mary Messenger (“The Other Mary”) another trail-walking volunteer, and my friend and co-naturalist Roxanne Moger. Before “The Other Mary” and Roxanne arrived, I saw Bewick’s Wrens, Rio Grande Wild Turkeys, a doe, and a very cooperative Anna’s Hummingbird just within the first few feet.  I could also hear Bullfrogs doing their deep cello-calls from the little pond.  Nice! 

 Roxanne and I did our Monarch monitoring task: still no eggs or caterpillars in our plot.  We found a dead House Wren, though, covered in tiny ants, several young praying mantises, lots of Oleander Aphids, a few Milkweed Bugs, and several Trashline spiders. I also found what I think was either a Twice-Stabbed Ladybeetle or a dark morph Asian Ladybeetle, but I couldn’t see its pronotum (the part between the wing-case shell and the face), so I’m not sure.  Either find would have been okay with me. I’d never seen one before.  I was worried that “The Other Mary” was totally bored during this part because she didn’t really know what she was looking for, and I couldn’t stop every two seconds to try to see whatever it was she was seeing and identify it for her.  Between Roxanne and I, though, we got it done in about 45 minutes.

Then we all took off for a walk together. We saw some Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, including several does and a young buck in his velvet.  One of the does looked like she had a hernia or something; a swelling in her abdomen just near the crease of the right hind leg. It was maybe the size of a fist, but it didn’t seem to interfere with her movements.

We heard Red-Tailed Hawks screeling at each other, and saw one fly overhead, but I wasn’t able to get any photos of it.

We also saw a handful of dragonflies including a cooperative Flame Skimmer, a Black Saddlebags and a Variegated Meadowhawk.  The Flame Skimmer was sitting in a tree and stayed very still for us, so we were able to get quite a few photos of it. In many of those photos you can see that it was holding its first pair of legs folded up behind its eyes. The dragonflies often do that so they can protect their spindly thread-like necks when they fly. Super cool.

While we’d stopped at an oak tree to look at the galls, two ladies walked up to us and asked what we were doing.  So, we told them we were naturalists volunteering for Effie Yeaw and doing Monarch studies and trail walking… blah-blah-blah… And it turned out that one of the women was also a naturalist who did volunteer work at Point Reyes! Small world. I gave her my Tuleyome card – I really need to get cards of my own – and told her to join us when she could. We’ll see if she responds to the invitation.

We also found this metallic iridescent blue wasp rushing along through the grass.  Both Roxanne and I tried to get photos of it, but I wasn’t very successful in getting a clear one that showed just how gorgeous the wasp was.  I couldn’t tell if it was a Blue Mud-Dauber (Chalybion californicum) or a Steel-Blue Cricket Hunter (Chlorion aerarium), but both of those species are found in California.  The mud-dauber eats Black Widows and the Cricket Hunter eats – duh! – crickets.  They way this one was rushing around the ground and digging through the leaf litter, I’m going to presume it was a Steel-Blue Cricket Hunter.

I love it when I learn or see new stuff. Roxanne and I came across a Rusty Tussock Moth cocoon that I thought had been parasitized by something. We could see tiny pearly white eggs in the white fuzz encrusting the cocoon.

More research indicated, though, that what I was seeing was the eggs laid by the female tussock moth (who is flightless) all over the cocoon from which she herself had hatched! The white “hairs” covering the eggs were from mama Tussock Moth’s own body.

I KNEW the Tussock Moths did this (I’d read about it a lot), but I’d just never actually SEEN it quite like this before. [[What you imagine when you read something, isn’t nearly the same as when you actually experience it.]]  Mama Tussock Moth lays her eggs in a white foam that she’ll then rub her body on to deposit her hairs. When the foam dries, it hardens, so the eggs are encased in it. (Kind of like the ootheca of a praying mantis.)

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

This photo is NOT mine, it’s from a website devoted to Tussock Moths. It shows, though, the wingless female Tussock Moth exuding the foam that will encase her eggs on top of her cocoon. READ MORE HERE.

 We walked by the acre that had recently been burned when the refuge maintenance people took a lawn mower out there to cut down the Starthistle, nicked a rock with the blade which made a spark and started the grass on fire. Eh-hem. It was right across the trail from where I knew there was a California Ground Squirrel burrow. I hope the squirrels didn’t get smoked out or asphyxiated. 

In the major tree in the burned acre there was also a besting cavity for some Ash-Throated Flycatchers. Apparently, they survived the blaze all right.  We saw a juvenile flitting around the hole to the cavity, then one of the parents flew up, fed the juvenile some bugs and flew off again.  Cool!  I didn’t get photos of the feeding activity because it happened so fast, but I did get a few shots of the juvenile.  (A fun fact about these flycatchers: they don’t drink water. They get all the fluid they need from the food they eat.  So, they do well in the summer heat.)            

Somewhere along the way, we lost track of “The Other Mary”.  She went down to the riverbank while we investigated the leaves of oak trees for galls. We kept an eye out for her, but we didn’t see her again.  I wasn’t worried that’s she’d get lost or anything (she knows the trails there very well), but I didn’t want her to feel like we ditched her (as that was not our intention at all).  When Roxanne and I eventually got back to our cars, I found a bag of small nectarines from “The Other Mary” sitting on my vehicle.  Awwwww! 

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. American Bullfrog (sound, tadpoles), Lithobates catesbeianus
3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
4. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
5. Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis
6. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
7. Black Saddlebags Dragonfly, Tramea lacerata
8. Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
9. Blue Mud-Dauber Wasp (?), Chlorion aerarium
10. Brown Stink Bug (larva), Euschistus servus
11. California Bay Laurel, Umbellularia californica
12. California Praying Mantis, Stagmomantis californica
13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
14. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
15. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
16. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
17. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa
18. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata
19. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus
20. Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturata
21. Great Blue Heron (fly-over), Ardea herodias
22. Great Egret (fly-over), Ardea alba
23. Green Lacewing (eggs), Chrysoperla carnea
24. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
25. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
26. Killdeer (heard), Charadrius vociferous
27. Large Milkweed Bug, Oncopeltus fasciatus
28. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
29. Nuttall’s Woodpecker (heard), Picoides nuttallii
30. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
31. Oak Tree Hopper (exoskeletons), Platycotis vittata
32. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
33. Pacific Tree Frog (tadpoles), Pseudacris regilla
34. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
35. Red Swamp Crayfish, Crawfish, Crawdad, Procambarus clarkii
36. Red-Tailed Hawk (fly-over), Buteo jamaicensis
37. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
38. Robber Fly, Family: Asilidae
39. Rusty Tussock Moth (cocoon and eggs), Orgyia antiqua
40. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas
41. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
42. Steel-Blue Cricket Hunter Wasp, Chalybion californicum
43. Trashline Orb-Weaver Spider, Cyclosa conica
44. Turkey Vulture (fly-over), Cathartes aura
45. Twice-Stabbed Ladybeetle, Chilocorus sp.
46. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus dubiosus
47. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
48. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
49. Walnut Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria erinea
50. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis
51. Woolly Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
52. Yellow Salsify, Tragopogon dubius