Duck Face, 07-28-21

I got up around 6:00 this morning, and headed over to William Land Park in search of jumping galls. Someone on Facebook had posted a video of the galls jumping around on the trail at the Cosumnes River Preserve, so I wanted to see if they were active here, too. I found some of them under the Valley Oak tree at the edge of the parking lot. There weren’t a lot, but you could see them jumping.

As I’m sure I’ve told you before, each gall is formed on the underside of the leaves of Valley Oaks and holds a single larva. When the time is right, the tree releases all of the galls at the same time (over a period of a day or two), so the ground is covered with them. Inside the fallen galls, the tiny larvae twist and flex, causing their gall to jump in the hopes that the gall will land on the earth and nestle safely under leaflitter.

Although it’s fun to see the galls jumping on the cement, it’s kind of sad, too. The problem with this particular oak tree, is that half of the galls are dumped onto the asphalt parking lot where the larvae just bake in the summer sun. They can’t jump high enough to get over the curb and into the dirt.

Galls of the Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius

I didn’t see any other galls on the tree; everything seems so late this year. And I’m still astonished by the overall lack of insects I’m seeing when I’m out. I was hoping to see some sleepy longhorn bees or some caterpillars or some mantids…but nothing.  

While I was walking through the WPA Rock Garden to get to the middle pond, they turned the sprinklers on. I wouldn’t mind if the sprinklers “sprinkled”, but they’re massive units that dump water on the plants like a firehose. The drops of water actually hurt when they hit me. The water also mucked up the dirt paths, turning them into slippery mud trenches.

Once I got to the pond, I was sad to see that the Sacred Lotus has now covered almost the entire surface of it, leaving little room for the ducks and geese.

I was worried that maybe the lotus seeds were toxic — and could poison the water — but that’s a problem, I guess, with the Blue Lotus, not the Sacred Lotus.  I did see birds and a squirrel drinking from the water, so I guess it’s okay.

Speaking of the seeds, “…[They] can remain dormant for an extensive period of time as the pond silts in and dries out. During flood conditions, sediments containing these seeds are broken open, and the dormant seeds rehydrate and begin a new lotus colony. Under favorable circumstances, the seeds of this aquatic perennial may remain viable for many years, with the oldest recorded lotus germination being from seeds 1,300 years old recovered from a dry lakebed in northeastern China. Therefore, the Chinese regard the plant as a symbol of longevity…”

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There were quite a few domesticated ducks lounging around the edges of the pond, so I decided to try to get photos of their faces. I was more successful with some than with others. There were also a few Wood Ducks in the water; males and females. None of the males were in their adult breeding plumage.

I walked around for about 2½ hours, and I headed home. It got up to a scotching 104° today, and the air was full of smoke from the surrounding wildfires. It was hard to take a full breath outdoors.

This was hike #66 of my annual hike challenge.

Species List:

  1. Absinthe Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium [silvery leaves]
  2. Amaranth, Red Amaranth, Amaranthus cruentus [what I call “Cock’s Comb”]
  3. Boquillas Silverleaf, Leucophyllum candidum [loaded with pale purple flowers]
  4. Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa interior [yellow-orange milkweed]
  5. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  6. Caper Bush, Capparis spinosa
  7. Cayuga Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. cayuga
  8. Cherokee Rose, Rosa laevigata [cream colored rose with bright yellow stamens]
  9. Crested Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Crested
  10. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  11. Deodar Cedar, Cedrus deodara
  12. Indian Runner Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Runner
  13. Italian Cypress, Mediterranean Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens
  14. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  15. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  16. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  17. Pig’s Ear, Cotyledon orbiculata [drooping orange bell flowers with curled lips]
  18. Prickly Pear Cactus, Indian Fig Opuntia, Opuntia ficus-indica
  19. Redwhisker Clammyweed, Polanisia dodecandra
  20. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia [tracks]
  21. Ruellia, Ruellia sp. [wrinkled purple flower]
  22. Saint Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum giganteum [a kind of buckwheat]
  23. Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera
  24. Salvia Summer Jewel White Tropical Sage, Salvia sp. [white sage]
  25. Sea Squill, Drimia aphylla [tall spikes of white flowers]
  26. Silver Sotol, Dasylirion cedrosanum [Century Plant]
  27. Stargazer Lily, True Lilies, Lilium ‘Stargazer’ [large pink-and-white lily]
  28. Stinking Madder, Plocama calabrica
  29. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  30. Violet Tubeflower, Iochroma cyaneum [purplish tube-shaped flowers in bunches]
  31. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  32. Yellow Cosmos, Cosmos sulphureus
  33. ?? gall on the flowering head of the Absinthe Wormwood