More Dragonflies Than Birds, 08-08-21

I got up around 5:00 am with the intention of going up Highway 16 to look for galls. But where I wanted to look was already more than halfway to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge so I decided to stop up there, and then hit Highway 16 on the way back home. I took my dog Esteban with me and he was a good boy for the majority of the trip; only whined twice, and I think it was because he was getting bored and tired and wanted to get home and lay on his bed.

At the refuge, it wasn’t as smokey as I thought it might be, but it was still “dark” which helped to muted the light for photo-taking. It was 59° when I got there, but heated up to 91° by the time I left. 

Smoke in the morning, most likely from the Dixie Fire

Before I drove out onto the loop, I walked Esteban over toward the nature center so he could do some potty if he needed to. At the restroom area, the janitors were cleaning out the women’s bathroom, so I walked around the courtyard and took photos of some of the few plants that were still in bloom: jimsonweed and narrowleaf milkweed. When the janitors were done, I thanked them for their work and they grinned.

A Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia, on Narrowleaf Milkweed, Mexican Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
Seed pods on Sacred Datura, Jimsonweed, Datura wrightii

Most of the preserve is super-dry, so there’s not a lot of stuff to see on most of the auto tour route. The permanent wetland area is the only place where there was any water. The extension loop to that part of the route was open today but it’s slated to close on September 10th.

I was hoping to see some Clark’s and Western Grebes and their babies, and there was a handful of them out on the water, but they were so far out in the middle of the lake that they were beyond the reach of my camera. All I got was a few fuzzy shots.

Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkii [black above the eye], and chicks.

As I was watching them, though, I saw a pair of parents with their two white chicks. While dad went fishing, one of the chicks tried to follow him while the other one stuck close to mom. When dad came up with a fish, the chick closest to him grabbed it and ate it, and then swam back to mom and his sibling as though he was showing off how clever he’d been.  Hah!  I wish the video I took of that had turned out! Dang it!

American White Pelicans, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos; Mallard Ducks, Anas platyrhynchos; Double-Crested Cormorants, Phalacrocorax auratus; and a Canvasback Duck, Aythya valisineria [near the water]

There’s a lot of start and stop on the auto tour route, mostly stopping to get photos and to look around. I used to worry about my car, Vincenzo, on those trips in the summer months because he’d overheat during the stops. But since his “operation” several months ago, he’s been doing great — and there was no overheating or stalling in the whole trip today. Phew!

The big news of the day was the damselflies and dragonflies. There was finally the large swarm of damselflies out around the water — mostly little Bluets — that had been missing the last time I was out there.  They’re food for the larger dragonflies and for the big spiders that are out all over the place in the summer here.

I didn’t see any exuvia on the tules, but there were lots of dragonflies out flitting around. Right now it was just the small and medium sized ones. I didn’t see any of the larger Darners around.  The big ones should be out in a few more weeks. So, maybe one more trip out there at the end of the month would be in order. Here are a few other critters I saw today:

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

A couple of surprises: I caught a glimpse of an otter running across the road and then saw its head in the water, but then it disappeared, so no photos.

This is all I got to see of a North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis, along with a couple of substantial latrine sites.

When I was stopped further along the route taking dragonfly photos, I could hear a bird singing in the tules on the other side of the car. I turned and took some fast shots — and found that it was a Tricolored Blackbird! I hardly ever see those guys.

Tricolored Blackbird, Agelaius tricolor

The auto-tour route is 6 miles long, but because I drive so slowly, it takes me 4 hours to get around it.  So it was after 11:00 am when I left.  I then headed back down the freeway and took Highway 20 to Highway 16 and headed home that way.

My friend Roxanne had told me about some thorn galls on a Valley Oak tree next to the post office in Guinda, so I stopped off there to take a look.

Rox did some terrific research on the galls — which are unusual for this area.  She wrote:

These galls are highly irregular in shape and are pink or rosy when fresh. They turn brown when the larvae stops feeding (the photo of a brown gall doesn’t look a lot like these shown here). On valley oaks (Q. lobata) they may appear on either side of the leaf, on veins and ribs, on the petiole and on young twigs! They appear singly or in clusters. According to Alfred Charles Kinsey, The Gall Wasp Genus Cynips (1929) the range of this agamic (unisexual) species is ‘probably confined to a limited area including parts of Mendocino Lake, and northern Sonoma Counties, and rimming at least the northern part of the Sacramento Valley. The remarkable gall of this species is, apparently, not rare in the Mendocino-Lake County area, but it is as far as we know confined to that part of California’…”

Joyce Gross also has photos of the thorny dried galls.

I’m glad I was able to locate them. There were also Oak Apple galls, Red Cone galls, Flat-Top Honeydew galls, and a few Spiny Turban galls on the same tree and on the other trees in the area.

Galls of the Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis

I would have stayed longer to check them out more of the trees in the area, but by then I’d been out for too many hours and was tired, so I went on to the house. Because I was in the car for the majority of this outing, I didn’t count it toward my annual hike challenge.

In the valley the smoke was at its worse having been trapped in some of the depressions between the hills, but in Sacramento, it was lessening.   The PM2.5 AQI levels in the area reached: 168 AQI (Unhealthy)  on Sunday, August 8.

Species List:

  1. Alkali Heliotrope, Heliotropium curassavicum
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  4. Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  5. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  6. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  9. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  10. Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis [white faced]
  11. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  12. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare
  13. Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
  14. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  15. California Gull, Larus californicus [yellow legs; dark eye; red spot]
  16. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  17. Canvasback Duck, Aythya valisineria
  18. Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkii [black above the eye]
  19. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  20. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  21. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  22. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  23. European Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa [flat body in adults]
  24. Familiar Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma civile
  25. Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
  26. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  27. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. peploides
  28. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  29. Funnel Weaver Spider, Family: Agelenidae
  30. Glaucous-Winged Gull, Larus glaucescens [gray wings/grey wing-tips; red spot; pink legs]
  31. Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia
  32. Grasses, Family: Poaceae
  33. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  34. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  35. Harding Grass, Phalaris aquatica [a type of canary grass]
  36. Harlequin Bug, Murgantia histrionica
  37. Himalayan Blackberry, European Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  38. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  39. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  40. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  41. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  42. Narrowleaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  43. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Mexican Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  44. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  45. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  46. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  47. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  48. Paper Wasp, Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
  49. Paper Wasp, Red Paper wasp, Apache Paper Wasp, Polistes apachus
  50. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  51. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  52. Red Gum Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  53. Red Gum Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei [on eucalyptus]
  54. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis [partial sighting; several latrine sites]
  55. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumariumswal
  56. Sacred Datura, Jimsonweed,  Datura wrightii
  57. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  58. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  59. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii [summer gall, pink, spikey top]
  60. Thorn Gall Wasp, Besbicus heldae
  61. Tricolored Blackbird, Agelaius tricolor
  62. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  63. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  64. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  65. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
  66. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta [heard]
  67. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  68. Widow Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula luctuosa
  69. Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  70. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis