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