Back to Effie, 08-30-20

It was smoky again this morning, but I felt like I needed to get some exercise, so I went out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Center/Preserve again for a walk.  I got there around 7:00 am and was 63° there.  It got into the low 90’s by the late afternoon.

An Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,chewing the husk off of a black walnut.

There was so much smoke at the preserve that I coughed a lot through the whole walk and wore my facial mask for part of it. I didn’t see much beyond the usual suspects during my walk, but I did see three different species of squirrel. 

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I was out for about 2½ hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  2. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  4. Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  5. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  6. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  7. California Brickellbush, Brickellia californica
  8. California Fuchsia, Epilobium canum
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  12. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  13. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  14. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  15. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
  16. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  17. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  18. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  19. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  20. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  21. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  22. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  23. Mealybug Destroyer, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri [nymph]
  24. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  25. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  26. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  27. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  28. Plum, Prunus cerasifera
  29. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  30. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  31. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  32. Small Milkweed Bug, Western Small Milkweed Bug, Lygaeus kalmii ssp. kalmii
  33. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, asexual, fall generation, Antron douglasii
  34. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  35. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Conical Trashline Spider,  Cyclosa conica
  36. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  37. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  38. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis

It’s Still Smoky at the EYNC, 08-26-20

I got up around 6:00 am and was out the door by 6:30 am to head over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Center/Preserve for a walk with my friend Roxanne.  All volunteer activity at the preserve has been cancelled until the 28th because of the smoky conditions, so this wasn’t an “official” trail steward walk today. 

It was about 69° when we got to the preserve, but it felt “humid” and warmed up quickly. It was around 75° when we left. Although the air seemed less smoky this morning than it did yesterday, there was definitely something “irritating” in the air; I was coughing through the whole walk.  I was also really dragging today, so we didn’t get very far and didn’t stay out as long as I would have wanted to.

We saw no deer at all today, but did see several bachelor groups of Wild Turkeys. Some of the turkeys were trying to pull grapes down from the wild grapevines, jumping up to grab at the fruit from the ground. When they got hold of bunches of the grapes, they’d run around with the bunches by the stem trying to keep them all to themselves. It’s so funny to watch them do that.

Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia

Some of the Showy Milkweed plants had seed pods that were bursting open, showing off all of their fluffy seeds. They’re so pretty. I wonder if the nature center gathers the seeds for redistribution throughout the nature study area.

We got a few photos of a Red-Tailed Hawk that was perching and flying back and forth across the main trail.  It’s amazing how these large birds can literally “disappear” into the foliage when they want to; their camouflage is so good.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

There were a few Acorn Woodpeckers who were pulling the acorns off the trees and stuffing them into their community granary tree. I tried to get photos of them with the acorns in their mouths, but between the time I got the camera focused on the birds, they’d already stashed the acorns. I watched them do several passes, each time landing in the same spot, and I still couldn’t get a decent shot! Nature photography is HARD sometimes. Hah!

CLICK HERE for a full album of photos.

We had better luck getting photos of our “spirit bird”: the Black Phoebe.

Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans

Our other focus today was on galls.  We found quite a few on the go-to Blue Oak there, and also found quite a few tongue galls on the alder tree near the little pond by the nature center.

2. Alder Tongue, Western American Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina occidentalis

On the way out, we met the volunteer coordinator, Rachael Cowen, coming in ready to start her work day. She mentioned that she liked the photos of the Vinegarweed I’d posted a few day ago.  Roxanne and I noted that we hadn’t seen any of the Vinegarweed or the tarweeds on the Effie side of the river, and Rachael joked that maybe we could secret some seeds into the preserve and discretely scatter them along the trails.  Hah!

We walked for about 2½ hours and then headed home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Alder Tongue, Western American Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina occidentalis
  3. American Bull Frog, Lithobates catesbeianus [tadpole]
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  5. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  8. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  9. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  12. Clustered Gall Wasp, Andricus brunneus
  13. Common Duckweed, Lemna minor
  14. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus
  15. Deodar Cedar, Cedrus deodara
  16. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  17. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  18. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  19. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  20. Hollyleaf Cherry, Prunus ilicifolia
  21. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  22. Kernel Flower Gall Wasp, Callirhytis serricornis
  23. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard]
  24. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  25. Minnow, Phoxinus phoxinus
  26. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  27. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  28. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  29. Orange, Sweet Orange, Cultivated Orange, Citrus X sinensis
  30. Plate Gall Wasp, Andricus pattersonae
  31. Plum, Prunus cerasifera
  32. Pokeweed, American Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana
  33. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  34. Purpletop Vervain, Verbena bonariensis
  35. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  36. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  37. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  38. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  39. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas
  40. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  41. Small Milkweed Bug, Western Small Milkweed Bug, Lygaeus kalmii ssp. kalmii
  42. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, asexual, fall generation, Antron douglasii
  43. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  44. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  45. Urchin Gall Wasp, Antron quercusechinus
  46. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  47. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  48. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia

Galls and the Reverend Mother, 08-23-20

I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed out with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne, to go visit what I call the “Reverend Mother” tree at William B. Pond Park on the American River. The tree is my go-to tree for galls every year.  Unfailingly, the tree sports hundreds of galls of at least a half dozen different species.

Today, the “Reverend Mother” did not disappoint.  She even gave Roxanne her first sighting of an oak Rosette gall. Yay!  We also found Spiny Turbans, Flat-Topped Honeydew galls, Yellow Wig galls, Fuzzy galls, Disc galls, Jumping galls, Irregular Spindle galls, Red Cones, “Baby Leaf” galls, Oak Apples, and Club galls.  So that was twelve different kinds of galls on just one tree.  Thank you, mama!

There were some old lerps from the lerp psyllids on the Eucalyptus trees, but most of them had already fallen to the ground.  On one Eucalyptus tree we also found the galls of the Australian Eucalyptus Gall Wasp.

Australian Eucalyptus Gall Wasp, Ophelimus maskelli

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

On some of the Live Oak trees there were Ruptured Twig galls, first generation spiny Live Oak galls, Erineum Mite galls, and some tiny galls that looked like messed-up Two-Horn galls. We’re not sure if they’re their own species, are a different generation of another species, or are Two-Horned galls that have been infiltrated by another insect. Near some of the ruptures on the branches of one tree, we also found what I think are some kind of scale insect.  They looked like tiny mud sausages set out in rows… The more you see, the more you realize that there’s more you don’t know.  Hah!

Unidentified Scale Insect, Superfamily: Coccoidea

Along one part of the trail, we found lots of Vinegarweed. Rox had never seen them before and was startled by their strong turpentine scent.  They have such lovely purplish flowers.  We also found two kinds of tarweed, Fitch’s with its needle-like thorns and the softer Pit-Gland.  Like the vinegarweed, tarweeds are sticky to the touch and exude a resinous smell.  These plants bloom late in the summer providing pollinators with a source of nectar.

Vinegarweed, Trichostema lanceolatum

Speaking of pollinators, I was surprised to see a California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly flying around.  It’s very late in the season for them; most of the pipevine their caterpillars need to survive is dead and gone by now.

And speaking of nectar, I caught sight of a few Yellowjackets flying around the “Reverend Mother” tree and knew that they went in search of the honeydew exuded by the galls induced by the Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis.  I followed one of the Yellowjackets and caught her sucking on one of the galls.  Unlike Paper Wasps, Yellowjackets are usually super-aggressive, but this one was so focused on her food that she let us get pretty close for photos.

Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica

In the areas where there were stands of fennel plants, a small flock of Bushtits flitting from plant to plant, eating the seeds and flower heads. The tiny birds move so quickly, though, it was almost impossible for me to get a clear photo of any of them. Sigh.  We didn’t see a lot of other birds but did catch sight of some Western Bluebirds, Mourning Doves, the ubiquitous Canada Geese, California Scrub Jays and Yellow-Billed Magpies, among others.  We heard quails and some Belted Kingfishers, but didn’t see them.

We walked for about three hours, which is longer than we thought we’d walk today considering the bad air quality.  There’s a lot of smoke in the air from the wildfires northwest of us.

Species List:

  1. Australian Eucalyptus Gall Wasp, Ophelimus maskelli
  2. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [heard]
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  4. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  5. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  7. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  8. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  12. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  13. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  14. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  15. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
  16. Cottonwood Leaf Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populivenae
  17. Dallis Grass, Dallisgrass, Paspalum dilatatum
  18. Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula [round flat, “spangle gall”]
  19. Drippy Nut, Brenneria quercina, Lonsdalea quercina [a bacterium that infects wounds in oak tissue/acorns]
  20. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  21. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  22. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  23. Fuzzy Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis washingtonensi [round faintly fuzzy galls on stems]
  24. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  25. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  26. Irregular Spindle Gall Wasp, Andricus chrysolepidicola [on white oaks, Blue, Valley, etc.]
  27. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  28. Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidi [on Valley Oak]
  29. Live Oak Erineum Mite gall, Aceria mackiei [kind of looks like rust on the backside of the leaf]
  30. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  31. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  32. Mower’s Mushroom, Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
  33. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  34. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  35. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  36. Pit-gland Tarweed, Holocarpha virgata
  37. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  38. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  39. Red Gum Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  40. Red Gum Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei
  41. Redseed Plantain, Plantago rhodosperma
  42. Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata
  43. Rosette Oak Gall Wasp, Andricus wiltzae
  44. Round Gall Wasp, Cynpis conspicuus [round gall near base of leaf on Valley Oaks, formerly Besbicus conspicuus]
  45. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  46. Silver Wattle, Acacia dealbata
  47. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, asexual, fall generation, Antron douglasii
  48. Tarweed, Fitch’s Tarweed, Centromadia fitchii
  49. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  50. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, unisexual gall, 1st generation, Dryocosmus dubiosus [small gall with a horn on either end]
  51. Unidentified Flatsedge, Cyperus sp.
  52. Unidentified Oak Gall Wasp, Tribe: Cynipini
  53. Unidentified Scale Insect, Superfamily: Coccoidea
  54. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  55. Vinegarweed, Trichostema lanceolatum
  56. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  57. Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica
  58. Woolly Oak Aphid, Stegophylla brevirostris (lots of white fluff & honeydew)
  59. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
  60. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli
  61. ?? tiny spider

A Smoky Morning at Mather Lake, 08-21-20

Got up around 6:00 this morning.  It was super-smokey outside, but after not being able to get outside because of the triple-digit temperatures we’ve been having her for about week, I was going absolutely stir crazy and had to get out for a walk. I decided to go over to Mather Lake Regional Park and walked the oak forest side of the lake. 

The Mute Swan cygnets are as big as their parents now, but still make their baby peeping sounds. And their bills haven’t fully colored up yet.  On the white cygnets, the bills are a pinkish-orange color and on the gray cygnets they’re pinkish-gray. Everyone was out preening and eating this morning.

Swans preening

As for other birds, I didn’t really see or hear a lot of them. I saw groups of Canada Geese and some Great-Tailed Grackles, one Robin, one Pied-Billed Grebe and one Gallinule… I guess the birds don’t like the smoke either.

Nothing new in the gall arena today.  I found a few on the Valley Oaks, Live Oaks and Cottonwood Trees.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

As an aside, since we’re talking about galls: I questioned an ID one of the naturalist graduates made of a gall she found on a Blue Oak leaf. She put it down as a Spiny Turban gall (even though those are found only on Valley Oaks), and I suggested it was an Urchin.  She showed me the link she used to identify it, and it was a photo taken by Joyce Gross, one of the top gall people in California.  I still thought she was wrong and that the photo had been misidentified, but I wanted to check with Joyce to make sure.  So, I emailed Joyce, who is always great about getting back to me and helping me learn, and she said she’d had other people question her ID as well over the past several years.             

In response, she created a separate web page to address the question.  The short version is: the galls might be a different species altogether, or they might be urchin galls that have been invaded by an inquiline or parasitic wasp. The oddly-shaped galls have two larval chambers inside, but the “normal” galls have only one, so that adds to the mystery. Here’s the page with the long explanation.

Joyce said she’d like to continue her studies of the odd galls, but got side-tracked by a book she working on that’s due out in October of this year: Field Guide to California Insects: Second Edition.  So, the mystery and research continue…

I just find this all SOOOOO interesting.

Anyway, back to my walk. There were lots of blue damselflies out along the edges of the lake, and I saw several of them in close proximity to long-jawed orb weaver spiders. I saw one damselfly get tangled in a web, and before the spider moved in, I rescued it. Holding the damselfly by the wings, I was able to get a few close-up shots of it before I released it again.

Familiar Bluet Damselflies, Enallagma civile, versus a Long-Jawed Orb-Weaver Spider

There were hardly any dragonflies, though.  I only saw one green Pondhawk and one Blue Dasher. I saw a couple of Black Saddlebags Dragonflies flying, but couldn’t get photos of them. That was it.

I walked for about two hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. American Bugleweed, Water Horehound, Lycopus americanus
  2. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  3. Assassin Bug, Zelus luridus [eggs]
  4. Barn Swallow,  Hirundo rustica
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Black Saddlebags Dragonfly, Tramea lacerata
  7. Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis [white face, males blue, females are diluted yellow-tan]
  8. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  9. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  10. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  11. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  12. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  13. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  14. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  15. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  16. Common Spike-Rush, Eleocharis palustris [has a head somewhat like SB Sedge]
  17. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
  18. Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  19. Cottonwood Leaf Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populivenae
  20. Cottonwood Petiole Gall, Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
  21. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata [nymphs]
  22. Dallis Grass, Dallisgrass, Paspalum dilatatum
  23. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  24. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  25. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  26. Familiar Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma civile
  27. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  28. Fragrant Flatsedge, Cyperus odoratus
  29. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  30. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  31. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  32. Green Heron, Butorides virescens [in flight]
  33. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  34. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  35. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  36. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  37. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  38. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [in flight]
  39. Live Oak Erineum Mite gall, Aceria mackiei [kind of looks like rust on the backside of the leaf]
  40. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  41. Long-Jawed Orb Weaver, Tetragnatha sp.
  42. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  43. Minnow, Phoxinus phoxinus
  44. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  45. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  46. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  47. Pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium
  48. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  49. Pit-gland Tarweed, Holocarpha virgate
  50. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  51. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus [heard]
  52. Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
  53. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, asexual, fall generation, Antron douglasii
  54. Star Rosette Lichen, Physcia stellaris [on wood, hoary colored, black apothecia]
  55. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  56. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  57. Swamp Smartweed, Persicara hydropiperoides
  58. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  59. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, unisexual gall, 1st generation,  Dryocosmus dubiosus [small gall with a horn on either end]
  60. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  61. Western Pondhawk Dragonfly, Erythemis collocata [males are blue; females are green]
  62. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi

Volunteer Brunch in a Bag, 08-14-20

I got up around 7:00 am with the dog this morning, and after getting some breakfast and letting Esteban out for potty, I took a fast shower and got dressed to go to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve with my friend Roxanne. We left the house about 8:30 am and it was already 78° outside. [It got up to 102° today.]]

We went to the preserve for a volunteer brunch.  Before we even got through the front entrance, we saw a lovely female Flame Skimmer dragonfly who had landed on the antenna of a truck in the parking lot. She was very cooperative and we were able to approach her to get a few photos with our cellphones.

Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturata

Usually, these brunches are held indoors with all of the volunteers together in one room. The staff prepares food for everyone and it’s eaten buffet style. Because of COVID, this time, small groups of volunteers were let in in shifts, about 30 to 45 minutes apart. Rather than having a buffet, the staff had put together bagged lunches for everyone, and had personally decorated each bag with their own artwork. I got a bag with a deer on it, and Rox got one with a little gray mouse and sparkly dandelion puffs. So cute! 

My bag had a huge blueberry muffin in it along with a banana, mandarin orange, and hard-boiled egg.  Along with that we each got a cup of apple cider. As free gifts for the volunteers there were “Save the Frogs” water bottles from KEEN, little pins and magnets.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

And rather than having folks sit close to one another at tables, there were chairs spread out all over the main lawn in the shade.  Rox and I grabbed two of them and got them situated the way we wanted them by the little pond, and then enjoyed our meal. We noticed some Tongue Galls on a nearby alder tree and got some photos of them.  Ever the naturalists.  Hah!

Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina alni

After our meal, we headed out to go to William Pond Park and look for some galls there.  On our way out of the preserve, we met with Mary Messenger, a fallow trail steward, who was just coming in. She’d brought me a 2021 wall calendar and a bag of figs from her tree at home to share with everyone.  I thought that was so sweet of her.

At William Pond Park, I was going to show Rox where the “Reverend Mother” tree is, but it was just too hot to do anything.  So, we walked along parts of the manicured lawn there and got some photos of the galls on some of the Valley and Live Oak trees. On our way back to the car, we saw a White-Breasted Nuthatch in a tree, pulling on spiders’ webs and eating bugs.

White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Once I got home, for the rest of the day, I stayed indoors with the dog for the most part, went through my photos, and posted stuff to iNaturalist. 

Speaking of iNaturalist:

A pair of people in California spotted specimens of a species of cicada that haven’t been seen for over 100 years! It was a Clear-Winged Red Manzanita Cicada, Okanagana arctostaphylae. Considered the “holy grail” of cicadas, it hadn’t been seen in the wild since 1915. A woman found one near a standoff blueberry bushes on her property (which is surrounded by manzanita),and the other one was found by a guy who read about her experience and went out to the same area looking for them. 

Clear-Winged Red Manzanita Cicada, Okanagana arctostaphylae. [I did NOT take this photo.]

The cicada is reddish brown and blends into the wood of the manzanita trees. The guy who found it wrote, “…Collecting this species and including it in our research was going to be big news for maybe fifteen people on the entire planet.”   Hahahahahahaha!

He continued: “…Finding that beautiful insect, camouflaged so perfectly against the smooth red bark, and knowing that I’m the first scientist in 100 years to see this creature—that’s a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life…”

CLICK HERE to read more about it. So cool!  You never know what you might see out there, so keep observing and document your observations.

Species List:

  1. Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina alni
  2. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  3. Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturata
  4. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  5. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  6. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  7. Round Gall Wasp, Cynpis conspicuus [round gall near base of leaf on Valley Oaks, formerly Besbicus conspicuus]
  8. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, asexual, fall generation, Antron douglasii
  9. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  10. Western Sycamore, Platanus racemosa
  11. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  12. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

A Round About Trip to the Zinnia Patch, 08-11-20

I got up around 5:30 this morning, and was out the door with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne Moger, to head out toward Davis and the town of Yolo. It was about 63° when we left the house, and got up to around 90° by the afternoon. We stopped on the way at Starbuck’s for some coffee and breakfast sandwiches.

In Davis, we stopped off at the area where there had been Burrowing Owls in the past but, once again, we didn’t see any. The last time we saw them there was a year ago. CLICK HERE for video clip from last year.

Today, we saw plenty of burrows, but no owls.  It kind of makes me want to dig into the burrows to look for bones and stuff in order to have necropsies done (if there are bodies in there). We wonder if the owls have been killed by pesticide contamination, or if they were driven away by the plowing up of their fields right next to where their burrows are… I miss them.

The trip out there wasn’t a total bust, though. We stepped off onto the edges of the tomato fields and checked out the Velvetleaf and Ram’s Horn plants.  The Ram’s Horn are still in blossom, but they also had some of their distinctive curved seeds pods on them. 

The leaves can get pretty huge (5 inches across and a foot long),and the whole plant is sticky-sticky. “…The herbage is coated in glandular hairs carrying tiny oil droplets, making the plant feel oily to the touch and giving it a strong scent…”  I took some close-up shots of the “hairs” on the outside of the pods, and could see the little droplets of oil exuding from the glands.  Inside, the seeds were white.

Green pods can be “pickled and eaten like okra”.  When the pods dry, they turn black and split in half, looking like two large hooked claws, which gives rise to its other common name, Devil’s Claw.

Roxanne and I wondered why the Ram’s Horn was being allowed to grow and thrive in the tomato field. According to my research, the plants are impervious to most herbicides, so the only way to effectively get rid of them is to manually yank them from the ground. There weren’t a lot of the plants in the field we were looking at, so maybe it just wasn’t worth the effort to try to eradicate them.

After the stop at the ag lad, we went into town to the North Davis Ponds to look for dragonflies. We saw several different species flying around, but couldn’t get many photos of any sitting still on the plants. 

Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis

All along the edge of the pond there were tiny chorus frogs in the grass.  And we could hear the deep cello calls of the bullfrogs in the water. Whenever I tried to record their calls, of course, they shut up.  Hah!

On the Valley oaks around the pond, we found a few galls. Nothing that we hadn’t seen before, but it was still nice to be able to document them for our iNaturalist observations.

We walked around the park for about an hour or so, and then headed up the freeway further north to Metzger’s Zinnia Patch to see the flowers and look for pollinators.  The owner, Mark Mezger has planted two acres of Zinnias on his property – and he’s opened up the acres so members of the public can come in.  You can look at and photograph the flowers, cut some for yourself and take them home with you – all for free.

The flowers come is a wide variety of colors and sizes, and are really lovely.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Among the pollinators we saw were a few different species of bees, Cabbage White butterflies, skippers and Duskywings, some plant bugs and a few dragonflies.  I got lucky going down one row, when a large Green Darner dragonfly popped up out of the foliage and then flew down near my feet to hide in the shade of the plants. I was able to get a few photos of it before it took off again. Their big stiff wings sound like crackling paper when they take off.

Green Darner Dragonfly, Anax junius

I took a cue from Greg Ira (the statewide director of the university’s Certified California Naturalist program) and tried some super slo-mo video taking.  I got a few snippets of a Duskywing drinking nectar from the flowers.

We were out for about 5 hours before heading home.  Throughout the whole trip I liked the fact that even if we didn’t find a lot of what we were particularly looking for, we still managed to find things that intrigued and interested us.  This is why it’s always fun to go out with Rox.

Photo of me taken by Roxanne Moger. This shows you how tall the zinnia plants were!

Species List:

  1. Amaranth, Redroot Pigweed, Amaranthus retroflexus
  2. Azure Bluet Damselfly, Houstonia caerulea
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  4. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  5. Blanket Flowers, Gaillardia sp.
  6. Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis [white face, males blue, females are diluted yellow-tan]
  7. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  8. Bold Jumping Spider, Phidippus audax
  9. Bright Bead Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster glaucophyllus
  10. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  11. Broad-leaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
  12. Bull-headed Sac Spider, Trachelas pacificus [flat, domed egg sac]
  13. Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa
  14. Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
  15. California Praying Mantis, Stagmomantis californica [exuvia]
  16. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  17. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  18. Common Lamb’s-Quarters, Chenopodium album
  19. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  20. Cottonwood Leaf Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populivenae
  21. Cottonwood Petiole Gall, Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
  22. Familiar Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma civile
  23. Fiery Skipper, Hylephila phyleus
  24. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica
  25. Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturata
  26. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  27. Gray Looper Moth, Rachiplusia ou
  28. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  29. Green Darner Dragonfly, Anax junius
  30. Hare’s Foot Inkcap Mushroom, Coprinopsis lagopus
  31. Horse Mint, Mentha longifolia
  32. Hoverfly, Margined Calligrapher Fly, Toxomerus marginatus
  33. Intermediate Wheatgrass, Thinopyrum intermedium
  34. Johnson Grass, Sorghum halepense
  35. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  36. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  37. Mock Orange, Japanese Pittosporum, Pittosporum tobira
  38. Mournful Duskywing Butterfly, Erynnis tristis
  39. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  40. Orb-Weaver Spider, Metazygia sp. [with egg case]
  41. Pacific Forktail Damselfly, Ischnura cervula
  42. Pacific Tree Frog, Chorus Frog, Pseudacris regilla
  43. Pallid-winged Grasshopper, Trimerotropis pallidipennis
  44. Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Canis lupus familiaris “Corgi”
  45. Ram’s Horn, Proboscidea louisianica
  46. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  47. Redvein Abutilon, Callianthe picta
  48. Rock Pigeon, Columba livia
  49. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  50. Roma Tomato, Solanum lycopersicum ‘Roma’
  51. Safflower Thistle, Carthamus tinctorius
  52. Salt Marsh Moth, Estigmene acrea [caterpillar, dead]
  53. Strawberry Clover, Trifolium fragiferum
  54. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  55. Tule Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma carunculatum
  56. Umbrella Papyrus, Cyperus involucratus
  57. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  58. Velvetleaf, Abutilon theophrasti
  59. Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  60. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  61. Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  62. Western Tarnished Plant Bug, Lygus sp.
  63. White Sweetclover, Melilotus albus
  64. Widow Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula luctuosa
  65. Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus [seeds]
  66. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
  67. Zinnia, Elegant Zinnia, Zinnia elegans