Surprised by Fawns when Looking for Galls, 08-20-19

My friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne Moger, picked me up and did all the driving today.  She took a longer route to the Cosumnes River Preserve down Freeport Avenue which is a lot more picturesque than going by the freeway.  There are some really nice views of the river along the road… And the weather was cooperative.  It was 59º when we left the house around 6:30 am, and it got up to about 86º by the afternoon.  There was a slight breeze blowing most of the time, so it was very nice.

The gates at the preserve hadn’t opened yet by the time we arrived, so Roxanne parked on the side of the road (as everyone does when the gates are closed): the walking trails are open even when the boardwalk and nature center aren’t.  I wasn’t expecting there to be many birds or much water at the preserve this time of year, but I was actually surprised to see most of the sloughs and little pond completely dry and empty. 

Only one pond had water in it, and it was a really nice surprise to see standing on the far bank of it two fawns still in their spots!  Mom didn’t seem to around anywhere, so I inferred that she must have left the fawns there (where there was shade and water for them) while she went foraging.  That’s not an uncommon thing for mother deer to do.  This was first pair of twins I’d seen this year so far.  (All the other fawns I’ve seen have been singles, even though twin births are the norm for the Columbian Black-Tailed Deer.)  I think I took about a 100 photos of them. Hah!

The fawns were a BIG surprise!

Roxanne and I had really gone to look for galls and spiders.  Although we didn’t see much in the way of spiders, the galls didn’t disappoint.  There were some trees that were COVERED in Red Cone galls, and others dripping with honeydew from the Flat-Topped Honeydew galls. Lots of Yellow Wig Galls, Spiny Turbans and Oak Apples, along with a few Convoluted Galls, Disk Galls, Fuzzy Galls, Club Galls and some others.  We also saw some Ash Flower galls and Leafcurl.  On some of the willow trees we found some Willow Apple Galls made by wasps and Blister galls made by mites.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The queen Paper Wasp on her nest. There were no eggs in the chambers yet.

While we were looking for more galls, I noticed, tucked under a leaf, a Paper Wasp queen and two of her daughters working on their nest. The daughters flew off when we lifted a leaf to get a better view of the nest, but the queen stayed where she was and gave us the stink-eye until we left her alone.  As far as I could tell, there were no new eggs in the chambers of the nest yet.  So, I inferred that the daughters had just finished them, and the queen hadn’t laid any more eggs yet.  Paper Wasps are far less aggressive than Yellow Jackets, so I’m actually able to get pretty close to them; close enough, in fact, to get a pretty good photo of the queen’s face.  Each Paper Wasp has different facial markings, so they recognize each other as individuals.  So cool. ((You can read more about that here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/12/111202-wasps-people-faces-recognition-insects-science-animals/))

Along the side of the road I found a big chunk of some kind of animal hide, a few large bones (which I assumed were from a deer), and part of an opossum skeleton, including half a skull, one paw and some rib bones. And, yeah, I took photos of the opossum.

 We also saw a Painted Lady butterfly, a couple of Lorquin’s Admiral butterflies, a Cabbage White and a Monarch (!).  

At one point along the trail, we heard this weird clicking/rasping sound and couldn’t figure out what it was. Might have been a hidden bird or maybe the trees rubbing together?  We just couldn’t figure it out no matter how close we were able to get to it. It kind of creeped me out…. Especially when it got louder when Roxanne approached it from a different angle. What is it?! Here’s the video: https://youtu.be/3bTIqvSkUA4

We found several different species of willows along the way.  And ID-ing willows is kind of difficult for me because I’m not really a “plants” person and they “all look the same” to me.  (Is that being a plant racist?) But here’s a good guide from Calscape: https://calscape.org/loc-california/Salix(all)/vw-list/np-0?

We walked from the pond near the boardwalk area, through the oak woodland and up to the nature center… a total of about 4 hours, which is my limit.

SPECIES LIST:

1. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Eriophyes fraxinivorus
2. Ash Leaf Curl Aphid, Prociphilus fraxinifolii
3. Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
4. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
5. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
6. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
7. Club Gall Wasp, Xanthoteras clavuloides
8. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
9. Common Brown Leafhopper, Orosius orientalis
10. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
11. Common Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes
12. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
13. Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula
14. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
15. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. peploides
16. Fuzzy Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis washingtonensis
17. Great Egret, Ardea alba
18. Jumping Oak Galls, Neuroterus saltatorius
19. Leafy Bud Gall Wasp, Andricus foliates
20. Lorquin’s Admiral Butterfly, Limenitis lorquini
21. Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus
22. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
23. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
24. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
25. Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
26. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui
27. Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
28. Praying Mantis, Mantis sp. (exuvia)
29. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
30. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
31. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii
32. Spotted Orb Weaver Spider, Neoscona crucifera
33. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Cyclosa conica
34. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
35. Twinberry Honeysuckle, Lonicera involucrate
36. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
37. Velvety Tree Ant, Liometopum occidentale
38. Virginia Opossum, Didelphis virginiana
39. Willow Apple Gall Wasp, Pontania californica
40. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Blister Gall, Aculops tentanothrix
41. Woolly Aphid, Prociphilus sp.
42. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
… and a teneral damselfly I was unable to identify.