I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve to take advantage of the cooler morning weather. It’s been heating up fast lately.
The showy milkweed by the nature center is growing, but is not in bloom yet. There were lots and lots of Oleander Aphids on them. The ladybeetles, who along with their kids eat aphids, were present, too.
According to a 2014 article by Mary Louise Flint (who now volunteers at Effie): “[Lady beetles] eat 50 or more aphids a day. The Convergent Lady Beetle, which is the species sold for release, feeds almost entirely on aphids and will not remain on plants with low aphid populations and will not control other garden pests…”
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The Elegant Clarkia and Goldwire plants are finally in bloom there, and on the Goldwire were lots of tiny Saint John’s Wort Beetles. They’re golden and iridescent and look like little jewels… but they eat the hell out of the Goldwire. When you touch them, the beetles do a “death drop”; they curl up their legs and fall to the ground.
According to an article by Debbie Hadley: “…Predators quickly lose interest in dead prey, so insects that employ the strategy of playing dead (called thanatosis) can often escape unharmed. The act of feigning death often looks like a demonstration of “stop, drop, and roll,” as threatened insects let go of whatever substrate they happen to be clinging to and drop to the ground. They then stay still, waiting for the predator to give up and leave…”
There was a stand of Woolly Sunflowers in one spot close to the river, and on the flowers, I found quite a few different critters. The most interesting was a pair of Swift Crab Spiders. The male was on the back of the petals of the flower and was missing half of his legs. The larger female was on the other side of the petals. I think the male paid a high price for mating with her.
There were a few California Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars going through their later instars among the pipevine in the tall grass. Some of them brandished their “horns” at me. The horns, which come out of the top if the head are called “osmeteria”.
“…The everted organ resembles a fleshy forked tongue (not unlike a snake tongue)… [and emits] a foul, disagreeable odor which serves to repel ants, small spiders, and mantids…”
There were lots of the butterflies hanging around the blooms of the Yerba Santa plants.
An unexpected insect I found today was a long-horned bee napping on the flower of a thistle. These bees are solitary, living alone and not in large well-organized hives. Males sometimes form “sleeping aggregates”, choosing to sleep together on the stems and flowering heads of plants.
There were several deer out this morning, including a few males in their velvet. I came across one group of eight deer, and a couple of the does were pregnant. One was VERY pregnant. Does in this preserve usually have their fawns in July, so she has a few more months to go.
I watched a pair of Scrub Jays chase a squirrel out of “their” tree, and also watched a pair of Black Phoebes making visits back and forth to their nest. On one trip, one of the parents brought a cranefly for the kids to eat. On another trip, both parents sat on a raining below the nest — and I got the impression they were trying to call the kids out to take their first fumbling flight.
Among the birds, though, I think my favorite sighting was the Ash-Throated Flycatchers. They migrate up here from Mexico to breed, so we only get to see them during the brief breeding window.
Looking for galls, I found a lot of the usual suspects on the live oak trees, but wanted to check out the blue oaks, too. I was hoping to find some spring galls that I hadn’t seen before. By the time I got to my go-to tree in the preserve, it was already warming up outside so I didn’t spend a lot of time in the sun. But I did find some excellent specimens of the galls of the Hair Stalk Gall Wasp. These galls form as a hair-like extension of the leaf’s vein, and have a teardrop shaped capsule at the end in which the wasp larva grows.
Along the river bank I could hear Killdeer, and saw some Canada Geese and female Common Mergansers.
I walked for about 3 hours and headed back home. This was hike #42 of my #52HikeChallenge.
- Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
- Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
- Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
- Bay Laurel Tree, Laurus nobilis
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
- Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
- Bush Katydid, Fork-Tailed Bush Katydid, Scudderia furcata [nymph]
- California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
- California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
- California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
- California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
- California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
- California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
- California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
- California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
- Camel Cricket, Gammarotettix bilobatus
- Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [flyover]
- Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii [purple, circles]
- Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
- Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica
- Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
- Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
- Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
- Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
- Cranefly, California Tipula, Tipula californica
- Cranefly, Limonia sp.
- Cudweed, California Cudweed, Pseudognaphalium californicum
- Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
- Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves]
- Foothill Penstemon, Penstemon heterophyllus
- Fruit-Tree Leafroller Moth, Archips argyrospila
- Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum
- Green Leafhopper, Nephotettix virescens
- Hair Stalk Gall Wasp, Andricus pedicellatus [thread gall on blue oak]
- Harvester Ant, Red, Pogonomyrmex barbatus
- Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
- House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
- Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
- Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
- Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
- Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
- Long Horned Bee, Eucera sp.
- Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus
- Marginal Leaf Fold Gall Midge, Macrodiplosis erubescens [on margins of leaves of red oaks]
- Nodding Thistle Receptacle Weevil, Rhinocyllus conicus
- Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
- Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
- Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
- Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
- Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
- Prickly Sowthistle, Pigweed, Sonchus asper
- Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
- Sachem Skipper, Atalopedes campestris
- Saint John’s Wort Beetle, Chrysolina hypericin [metallic gold, blue or copper]
- Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
- Spicebush, Common Sugarbush, Protea repens
- Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus [heard]
- Spurge, Petty Spurge, Euphorbia peplus
- Sunflower, Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus
- Sunflower, Common Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum
- Swift Crab Spider, Mecaphesa celer
- Tapered Stem Gall Wasp, Protobalandricus spectabilis [live oak]
- Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
- Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
- Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Varied Carpet Beetle, Anthrenus verbasci
- Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
- White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
- White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
- Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus [invasive]
- Yerba Santa, California Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum
- ?? spider egg case with black flecks