Over 20 Galls in Just 2-1/2 Hours, 08-30-19

I got up around 5:00 am this morning, let the dog out for potty, gave him his breakfast and then got myself ready to head out to the Johnson-Springview Park in Rocklin (Placer County).  It was about 61º outside in the morning and got up to a high around 90º.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I’d never been to the park before, but my friend and fellow-naturalist Roxanne were directed there by Zara Wyly of the Sacramento Tree Foundation who said it was a good place to find Blue Oaks; Zara also wanted us to let her know if the trees there looked like they were full enough of acorns to do some acorn gathering for the Foundation in October. 

The park is very “manicured” in the front portion of it with a playground area for kids and a disk-golf course on one side.  But the back side of the park is more “rugged” looking with a large field, a seasonal creek, a huge stand of different kinds of oak trees, willows, and other trees/shrubs.  There is ample parking, and restroom facilities, and a picnic area.  Dogs are allowed on leash outside of the RUFF dog park) , and while Roxanne and I were out there, we were greeted by a handful of little dogs and three huge dogs: a Black Lab (whose name I don’t recall), a solid-as-a-boulder 160-pound Rottweiler named “Mia”, and a gorgeous Coon Hound named “Copper”.  All of the dogs were super friendly.

We also saw a very healthy-looking grey-and-white feral cat sitting on top of a small collection of “cat houses” provided for them by the park. You can tell the caught-and-released feral cats from the domesticated cats by the fact that one of their ears gets cropped when they’re caught (then neutered and released again), and by the fact that they’re silent.  Domesticated cats meow and “talk” a lot; feral cats don’t do that.

You can tell a trapped-and-released feral cat by its clipped ear.

We didn’t see many birds around at all, but we’re between seasons, so that’s not unusual.  And we saw a few California Ground Squirrels and Eastern Fox Squirrels, and a couple of uncooperative dragonflies, but that was about it for animal life.

Even though I was seeing the place for the first time in one of the “worst” months of the year (the dog days of summer), I was impressed by it.  I can envision what it would look like in a more favorable season when everything is green, and the creek (Antelope Creek) is flowing at a wild pace.

We didn’t see anything in the way of acorns; only onesies/twosies here and there. Last year, in Sacramento County some of the trees were so heavy with acorns that the branches were bending with the weight of them.  It’s no unusual, though, for the oaks to be abundant in one season and then go several years without another heavy output of acorns; especially the Blue Oaks. They can go up to seven years without producing anything.

Anyway, what Roxanne and I were really after for our own fun and edification were Blue Oak tree galls.  There are a handful of Blue Oaks at Effie Yeaw, but they’re all trimmed up so much, you can’t get into the branches to really LOOK at everything.  Here, the majority of the oaks along the back of the park are left to grow they way they normally would without any heavy pruning, so we were able to, in some instances, be absolutely surrounded by the lower branches.  This made spotting the galls that only grow on the back of the leaves easier to spot and photograph.

All in all, I think we found over 20 different galls in just the 2 ½ hours we were out there, including some I had only seen in photographs and never photographed myself before, like the Bullet Gall, Gray Midrib Gall, Hair Stalk Gall and Round Honeydew Gall.  And the galls ranged in color from red, to pink, to orange and yellow, and bluish-grey…  We were so happy with what we saw.

Of all of the photographs I took today, this was one of my favorites. It’s of some leaves on a Blue Oak tree (Quercus douglasii) with yellow-orange Coral Galls (Disholcapsis corallina), a Gray Midrib Gall (Besbicus multipunctatus) and some Urchin galls (Antron quercusechinus)! Each gall is grown by the tree to accommodate the different species of cynipid wasp larvae.

The album includes a short video of a Geometrid Moth caterpillar, Inchworm, Family – Geometridae doing his thing. (I’ll look for a better ID, but this is all I have at the moment.)  When I first saw him, he was stretched out between two leaves trying to look like a twiglet on the branch. They can camouflage themselves really well. If he hadn’t moved, I probably would’ve missed him altogether.

Geometrid Moth caterpillar, Inchworm, Family – Geometridae, possibly “Oak Beauty”, Phaeoura quernaria

I had the magnifier lens on my cellphone when I took this, so he shifts in and out of the constrained field of focus a lot, but I think the way these little guys move is so funny and interesting to watch.

As we looked through the trees further, I was startled to see the large Oak Apple Wasp Galls (Andricus quercuscalifornicus) on Blue Oak trees.  I always thought (read and believed) that those ONLY formed on Valley Oaks, so I was really astonished to see them on the Blue Oaks.  I postulated that what we were looking at were at were “Frankenstein” trees, hybrids, a cross between Blue and Valley oaks. There are a LOT of different oak trees confined to the same area, so crossbreeding wouldn’t be out of the question.

A gall of the Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus, on a BLUE OAK tree.

When I got home later, I sent an email to Joyce Gross a gall expert who has a fantastic online site (http://joycegross.com/) that I use for reference all the time, and asked her about the Oak Apples growing on Blue Oaks.  She emailed me back within a few hours and let me know that some gall wasps (like the Oak Apple Gall wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus, and the Jumping Gall wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius) prefer Valley Oaks about 90% of the time, but can successfully lay their eggs on Blue Oaks as well because the Valley Oaks and Blue Oaks are both considered part of the “white oaks” group(as opposed to the “red oaks” group). So, you may sometimes both the Oak Apples and Jumping galls on Blue Oaks (especially when they’re close proximity to Valley Oaks like they are at this park).

So, I learned something new today.  Yay!

Another curiosity Roxanne and I came across were small white two-lobed formations we found in the fork of twigs on some of the trees.  The things looked like tiny “brains” but had a mostly smooth surface. The outer layer was almost papery, and inside we could see white feathery stuff that felt dry to the touch… I’m assuming the structures were some form of two-chambered eggs cases or something, but I don’t know for sure. 

One of the odd “white brain” structures on an oak twig with a California Jumping Spider, Phidippus californicus

We saw a Jumping Spider next to one of them, so I looked up photographs of their egg cases and, no, they don’t look anything like the structures we saw. I need to do more research to properly identify them. 

As I mentioned, we walked for about 2 ½ hours and then headed out to breakfast. 

Species List

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
3. Assassin Bug, Zelus luridus (nymph, egg case)
4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
5. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
6. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
7. Bullet Gall Wasp, Disholcapsis mamillana
8. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
9. California Jumping Spider, Phidippus californicus
10. Clustered Gall Wasp, Andricus brunneus
11. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
12. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea (eggs)
13. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
14. Coral Gall Wasp, Disholcapsis corallina
15. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus
16. Drippy nut, Brenneria quercina? (bacterium that enters through a hole made by insect oviposition, cynipids)
17. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto [heard]
18. Feral Cat, Felis catus
19. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
20. Gall of the Live Oak Wasp/Gallfly, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
21. Geometrid Moth caterpillar, Inchworm, Family – Geometridae, possibly “Oak Beauty”, Phaeoura quernaria
22. Gray Midrib Gall Wasp, Besbicus multipunctatus
23. Hair Stalk Gall Wasp, Dros pedicellatum
24. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
25. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
26. Jumping Oak Galls, Neuroterus saltatorius
27. Kernel Flower Gall Wasp, Callirhytis serricornis
28. Leaf Gall Wasp, Unidentified
29. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 2nd Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
30. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos [heard]
31. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
32. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
33. Pink Honeysuckle, Lonicera hispidula
34. Plate Gall Wasp, Liodora pattersonae
35. Praying Mantis, (possibly Stagmomantis californica) (ootheca)
36. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
37. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella
38. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
39. Round Honey Dew Gall Wasp, Disholcapsis canescens
40. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua (cocoons, pupa cases,eggs)
41. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas
42. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii
43. Sticktight?, Bidens frondosa
44. Striped Volcano Gall Wasp, Andricus atrimentus
45. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
46. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus dubiosus
47. Urchin Gall Wasp, Antron quercusechinus
48. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
49. Valley x Blue Oak, Quercus lobata x douglasii
50. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis [heard]
51. Willow Leaf Beetle, Plagiodera versicolora (larvae frass?)
52. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
53. … odd little white “brains”