The Goldenrod Galls are Showing Up, 05-09-20

I woke up around 6:00 am after a fairly good night’s sleep, and got myself ready to head out to the American River Bend Park again for my walk. The Poltergeist was acting up a little bit, so I stuck to trails I knew weren’t too lumpy or full of obstacles.  It was already about 64°F outside when I got to the park, and it felt kind of humid, too.

The first thing I saw when I drive into the park was a squirrel that jumped up onto the top of a fence post to look in the window at me.

There were literally hundreds of Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars all over the ground. Some are big enough already to start working on their chrysalises.  Most of them had climbed up onto the stems of the tall grass to warm themselves in the sun before continuing to fill their bellies on pipevine.  There were also several butterflies still flitting around.

On the Italian Thistles there were quite a few Painted Lady butterfly caterpillars laying in their thin webs, gorging themselves on plant material.  They usually don’t show up until July, so I was surprised to see them. I’m afraid they’re going to get caught in the cold if it rains next week.

Caterpillar of a Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui on Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There were tons of Mugwort plants everywhere, and along with them I also found quite a few Mugwort Weevils – including a mating pair.  They do the “dead-drop” when you try to touch them  – let go of whatever they’re holding onto and fall to the ground — so I had one dead-drop into the palm of my hand so I could get some closeup photos of it. They kind of look like tiny anteaters with crew cuts to me…That vaguely fuzzy body and long proboscis.

Mugwort Weevil, Scaphomorphus longinasus

I also saw lots of katydid nymphs, but not too many of them were cooperative enough for me to get photos of them. I did get pictures of a couple of different species of fly, though.  And I found a Western Tussock Moth caterpillar that was partially paralyzed and had several white eggs laid on its body.  I’m assuming it had parasitized by some kind of braconid wasp. Yikes!

There were loads of Elegant Clarkia flowers all along the trail in variations from pale pink, to deep rose to pure white.  So pretty.  And the quaking “rattlesnake grass” was thick in some places and thigh-high.  On some of the California Goldenrod plants, there were the rosette galls of the Goldenrod Bunch Gall Midge…and they seemed larger this year than I have ever seen them. 

Gall of the Goldenrod Floret Gall Midge, Rhopalomyia solidaginis

Amid the plants were a few damselflies, bumblebees, and a burnt yellow Clubtail dragonfly.  I couldn’t get a look at the side of the dragonfly’s thorax, so I wasn’t sure exactly what species it was. Later, I discovered that it was a Sinuous Snaketail Dragonfly, Ophiogomphus occidentis. Cool! A first for me!

Sinuous Snaketail Dragonfly, Ophiogomphus occidentis

On the road adjacent to the trail, I found the smashed bodies of two rattlesnakes.  They were close to one another, but one had obviously been dead for a longer period of time; it was more desiccated than the other.  I noted, however, that the rattles were gone from both snakes.

As for the birds today I saw a pair of Common Mergansers in the river, and was able to follow the male with video for a little bit while he swam under the surface.  The water in the river there is very shallow and super clear. 

I also saw several bonded pairs of Western Bluebirds in the picnic area, and watched a female House Wren carry nesting materials to her chosen nesting cavity while the male stood by, singing away. The female tried bringing long grasses to the nets, but couldn’t seem to figure out how to get them across the threshold, so she opted then for small bits of grass and twigs.

I later came across several male Wild Turkeys strutting for a single female. They all looked like pretty high-ranking boys, with pure white pancakes and long snoods, but one of them was missing several tail feathers.  The female was not at all interested in them. As I was heading out of the park, I saw a female turkey hurrying four little poults across the road in front of the car.  She moved too quickly for me to get more than a fuzzy photo of her and the kids.

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

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Arroyo Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma praevarum
  3. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [heard, saw in flight]
  4. Black Cottonwood, Populus trichocarpa
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  7. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  8. Braconid wasp, Family: Braconidae [eggs]
  9. Bristly Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus
  10. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  11. Bush Katydid, Scudderia furcate
  12. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  13. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  14. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  15. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  16. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  17. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  18. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  19. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  20. Cheatgrass, Bromus tectorum [reddish heads, split open when dry]
  21. Common Hoptree, Ptelea trifoliata
  22. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  23. Cranefly, Mosquito Hawk, Tipula dietziana
  24. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata
  25. Glossy Privet, Ligustrum lucidum
  26. Goldenrod Bunch Gall, Goldenrod Floret Gall Midge, Solidago canadensis
  27. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum
  28. Green Plant Bug, Ilnacora malina
  29. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  30. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa 
  31. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  32. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  33. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  34. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard]
  35. Lauxaniid Fly, Homoneura occidentalis [yellow fly with reddish eyes, black hairs]
  36. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  37. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  38. Mugwort Weevil, Scaphomorphus longinasus
  39. Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus oreganus
  40. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  41. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  42. Oracle Oak, Quercus × moreha
  43. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  44. Pacific Pea, Lathyrus vestitus
  45. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui
  46. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  47. Rattlesnake Grass, Greater Quaking Grass, Briza maxima
  48. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus [heard, saw in flight]
  49. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  50. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  51. Sinuous Snaketail Dragonfly, Ophiogomphus occidentis [club tail, yellow with gray eyes]
  52. Snakefly, Agulla adnixa
  53. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  54. Swift Crab Spider, Mecaphesa celer
  55. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  56. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  57. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  58. Vivid Dancer Damselfly, Argia vivida  [bands and arrowheads]
  59. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  60. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  61. Western Goldenrod, Solidago lepida [gets the bunch galls]
  62. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  63. Western Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio rutulus
  64. Western Tussock Moth, Orgyia vetusta
  65. Yellow Dung Fly, Scathophaga stercoraria
  66. Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus [invasive]