Tiny Toad and Big Gall, 06-22-21

I got up at 5:30 this morning to a lovely 57° outside, and headed over to the Gristmill Recreation Area for a walk. (It got up to 88° by the late afternoon.) I slept better last night, but still had to get up around 1:00 am because of pain. I took some meds and went back to bed. When I got up, I took my regular 6:00 am meds and the pain was pretty much under control, so I was comfortable throughout my walk. Walking usually helps with pain control, too. I wish I had more stamina to do it more often and/or for longer periods of time.

I started out my walk by going along the river’s edge, keeping as close as I could to the spots where the river stone and gravel were less “rollie”.  One of the first things I noticed was something tiny jumping near my feet. At first I thought it was a gray grasshopper, but when I reached down and got a hold of it, I realized it was actually a teeny-tiny toad! I took a few photos of it, and then let it go again.

On some of the willows, I found several of the central vein galls on the leaves like the ones we found at Putah Creek, and also saw some beaked twig galls, and some very large petiole galls. 

On another willow leaf I saw a tiny string of colorful schmutz, not really knowing what it was I took a photo of it anyway. When I got home and blew the photo up, I realized it was some kind of caterpillar! Welcome the new-to-me caterpillar of a Zigzag Furcula Moth, Furcula scolopendrina. The long split tail is definitive.

Caterpillar of the Zigzag Furcula Moth, Furcula scolopendrina. Note the long split tail.

The mullein was in bloom, including Great Mullein, two colors of Moth Mullein, and Doveweed.

On a few more of the cottonwood trees, I again saw that heavy dangling stuff that I think is the flowering seed head or catkins deformed by mites of fungus or something. All of the specimens were up too high for me to grab, even with my cane, but I found an old, dried up one on the ground. It was pretty old and smashed up, but you could see that each “kernel” had been swollen and deformed into a wrinkled “flower”. I’ve been doing research on the formations since I first saw them, and I think I’ve figured them out. Finally.

I think it might be the work of the Cottonwood Catkingall Mite, Eriophyes neoessigi. I found an image online that’s similar to what I’m seeing, and the caption read: “This particular gall was about the size of a large bunch of grapes….and pretty heavy.”  Yep. I’m pretty sure that’s what it is.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Not many birds on the water, mostly Canada Geese and Mallards. I saw one or two female Mergansers, too.  In the trees, though, I could hear all sorts of birds, even though I couldn’t see many of them or get photos of them. Along the trail, there were several areas where I could see both Nuttall’s and Hairy Woodpeckers foraging for insects. One would knock the other out of the way, or gang up with a mate and drive the odd bird out away from the tree. It’s so neat to see the two species working in such close proximity to one another.

When I was stopped on the trail, getting photos of a group of the woodpeckers, a gentleman walked up close to me. He stopped abruptly, startled and gripped his chest. Then he laughed. He’d been walking with his head down, and suddenly saw my shadow, like death, in front of him. It scared him a little bit. He said he was thinking about his brother, but I didn’t pry or ask him for more information because it looked like the mention of his brother was painful for him. I wished him a good walk, and he did likewise. Sometimes, the people on the trail are so nice.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back home. This was hike #55 on my 2021 hike challenge.

Species List:

  1. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcisaloe       
  2. Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  3. Asian Clam, Corbicula fluminea [little tan or white shells]
  4. Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis
  5. Black Locust Tree, Robinia pseudoacacia
  6. Black Mustard, Common Wild Mustard, Brassica nigra
  7. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  8. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  9. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  10. Brazilian Vervain, Verbena brasiliensis
  11. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  12. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  14. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  15. Chinook Salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
  16. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  17. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  18. Cottonwood Catkingall Mite, Eriophyes neoessigi [long panicle, like a bunch of grapes, heavy]
  19. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  20. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setiger
  21. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  22. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  23. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  24. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  25. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum
  26. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  27. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias [flyover]
  28. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  29. Hairy Woodpecker, Dryobates villosus [long bill]
  30. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanu
  31. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  32. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  33. Johnson Grass, Sorghum halepense
  34. Long-Jawed Orb Weaver Spider, Tetragnatha sp.
  35. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  36. Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
  37. Mullein, Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria [thin stick, white or yellow]
  38. Non-Biting Midge, Cricotopus bicinctus [black and white, turned up tail]
  39. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  40. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  41. Pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium
  42. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  43. Sapromyza Fly, Sapromyza sp. [tiny, reddish-orange]
  44. Smooth Petiole Gall Sawfly, Euura sp. [willows]
  45. Sneezeweed, Rosilla, Helenium puberulum
  46. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  47. Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima
  48. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  49. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  50. Western Toad, Anaxyrus boreas
  51. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  52. Willow Beaked Twig Gall Midge, Rabdophaga rigidae
  53. Willow Mid-Rib Sawfly, Unknown species [per Russo, pg.219]
  54. Zigzag Furcula Moth, Furcula scolopendrina