Mostly Mantids and Some Woolybears, 09-27-19

Around 6:30, I headed out to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk.  It was overcast and chilly all day, in the 70’s.  A twenty degree drop from Wednesday. So, I actually had to wear a light jacket. 

As I got closer to the preserve, I drove down Bruceville and Desmond Road to see if there was anything to see there.  The fields were full of cattle. In one of the fields I could see Turkey Vultures gathered on the ground. Between two adults was a dark-headed young one.  They were so far away that I couldn’t see what they were eating, but it’s always a treat to see these large birds so nearby.

A juvenile Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura, with two adults.

When I got to the preserve, the gate wasn’t open at the boardwalk, so I parked on the street.  I wasn’t really expecting to see much of anything.  Folks had mentioned that the Sandhill Cranes were returning to the area, but I thought it was still too early to see them.  One or two flew overhead, and then I saw a small flock flying later during my walk, but none of them landed anywhere near where I was. 

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Most of the fields and “wetlands” are still entirely dry, but I did find a few birds around a shallow pool along the boardwalk. It looks like, too, that they’ve cut down a lot of the high grass and tules, so when the water is pumped back in, viewing of the waterfowl should be a bit easier.  Saw a few different sparrow species including white-Crowned Sparrows, Golden-Crowned Sparrows and Song Sparrows. The Song Sparrows as somewhat “residential”, but the White- and Golden-Crowned Sparrows migrate in and out of the area. So, it was nice to see them back again.

And I also saw a very small smattering of duck species: Mallards, Green-Winged Teals and Northern Pintails. The Pintails always seem to migrate in before most of the other species, so it wasn’t too surprising to see a few of them out there today.

While I was watching a couple of Greater Yellowlegs, I saw something moving on the surface of the water. It was backlit, so I never got a good look at it, but I did get a video snippet.  I think maybe it was a bird or a vole or something that was dead, and little fish were pulling at from underneath making it bob and propelling it across the water.  So weird.  What do you think?

I found a few galls, including some I hadn’t found yet this year: the galls of the Hairy Gall Wasp, Sphaeroteras trimaculosum.  They’re sometimes called “woolybears” because when they line up on the backside of a leaf, they look like woolybear caterpillars. 

This is an interesting gall in that they seem to show up in the late part of the season, and they take two years to mature.  They form on the leaves of Valley Oaks and stay on the leaves when the leaves fall off the tree in the winter.  Then the larvae inside the galls stay there, on the ground in the leaf litter for two years before the wasps emerge.  I always seem to find them on the younger smaller Valley oaks, and on the leaves closest to the ground.

What I saw the most of today, though, was Praying Mantises, greens one and tan ones. They seemed to be everywhere in the branches of the sandbar willow trees along the boardwalk.  Their bodies are the same shape and relative size of the leaves on the trees, but once I managed to see one of the mantises, I suddenly saw lots of them.       

Once you see one mantis amid the willow leaves, you can see more… Can you spot the one in this photo?

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed home. 

Species List:

  1. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Eriophyes fraxinivorus
  2. Bindweed, Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
  3. Bush Sunflower, Encelia californica
  4. California Dancer Damselfly, Argia agrioides
  5. California Dock, Rumex californicus
  6. California Praying Mantis, Stagmomantis californica (smallest 2-2.5 inches) Can be brown, yellow or green
  7. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  8. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  9. Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais
  10. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  11. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  12. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  13. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  14. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  15. Hairy Gall Wasp, Sphaeroteras trimaculosum 
  16. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  17. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  18. Lavender Dancer Damselfly, Argia hinei [female]
  19. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  20. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  21. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  22. Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
  23. Pennyroyal, Penny Royal, Mentha pulegium
  24. Prickly Lettuce, Lactuca serriola
  25. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  26. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  27. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  28. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  29. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  30. Water Smartweed, Persicaria amphibiaI
  31. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  32. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  33. Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides
  34. Willow Stem Gall Wasp, Euura exiguae