The Frankenstein Tree has Galls!, 08-13-21

Friday the 13th!  I got up around 6:00 this morning, and decided to go out to Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  There was still a bit of smoke in the air, but there were also high clouds so it made things a little humid, too. It was 62° when I got to the river, and it was around 73° when I left.

Before I even got into the parking lot I saw a young female coyote loping through the grass. She took a winding route through the field and toward the car, then saw me, and did around-about through the trees, and finished off on the road. Because she was moving so quickly, it was hard to keep up with her with my camera, so I got some blurry shots of her as she went by. 

Later, when I was walking the trail, I could hear a pack of coyotes yip-yowling from across the river. Cool.

When I walked around the nature center to head out for the trails, I came across two live oak trees that were oozing alcoholic flux. Both of the trees had been drilled up by sap suckers, and the sap wells allowed the bacteria to get in under the bark.

Alcoholic Flux bacteria [also known as Foamy Canker, Slime Flux], Phytophthora sp. x other bacteria “…is a stress-related disease that affects sweet gum, oak, elm and willow trees. The disease is caused by a microorganism that ferments the sap that seeps or bleeds from cracks and wounds in the bark. The result is a white, frothy ooze that has a fermenting odor similar to beer.”

The beer smell was obvious around these trees. Usually, you’ll also see insects around the flux, drinking in the ooze, but I only saw a few ants starting to move in. Sometimes, the insects (and other critters like squirrels] that feast on the flux exudate get drunk on it, and stumble around afterwards.

“…The] foamy, flux shouldn’t be something that causes you too much concern. It’s often thought of as benign, as it doesn’t damage the heartwood of your tree, and can often dry up when fall weather becomes cool and dry. And in any case, chemical treatments are typically ineffective…”

I was hoping to see some fawns out and about, but didn’t see any. There were a lot of bucks out, though, all of them still in their velvet.

As I was leaving the preserve, I saw three of the deer walking by me and through a small crowd of visitors, heading for the gardens in front of the building. They stopped to eat soft leaves off the redbud trees and some of the flowering plants like the yarrow, goldenrod and coyote mint. Smart babies.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, eating leaves off the redbud tree in the garden area by the nature center

I was also on the lookout for galls.  On the live oak trees, I haven’t seen any of the spikey summer generation galls of the Live Oak Gall Wasp yet, and I didn’t see any today either. I did find the first Kernel Galls of the season, though, so that was nice.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I was happy to see galls forming on the “Frankenstein Tree” (half blue oak, half valley oak) for the first time in years.  I’m not certain, but I  suspect that Round-Up had been used around the base of the tree to control weeds… and thus poisoned the ground and the tree, making the tree unpalatable to the gall-forming wasps.

On this trip, I found Plate galls, Striped Volcano galls, Clustered galls, and Saucer galls on the tree. So great to see. The tree persevered! On the other go-to Blue Oak, there were Crystalline galls and Hair Stalk galls among others.

The Valley Oaks were just starting to show off large caches of Red Cone galls.

Galls of the Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi

There aren’t a whole lot of bird species out this time of year, but I did see (and hear) a few. There were Red-Tailed Hawks screeling at one another. I figured they were up in a pine tree, but I couldn’t see them. Noisy critters, though. I also saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk fly up from the high dried grass on the ground, cross the trail, and into a tree. I don’t know what it had on the ground, but it wasn’t in the bird’s talons when it flew up. 

Acorn Woodpeckers were in one of their granary trees buzz-bombing a California Ground Squirrel that had gone high enough into the tree to steal some of their acorns.

Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus

I also saw a scruffy-looking Scrub Jay bopping around with a large Green Darner dragonfly in its beak. It didn’t eat the dragonfly, though; instead, it buried it in a shallow hole under some leaves for later.

California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica, with a Green Darner Dragonfly, Anax junius

And in another area, I was watching some Rio Grande Wild Turkeys walking through the tall, dry grass, and saw the dark forms of quail scurrying out from under the big birds’ feet. I could hear the quail calling and pipping to one another, too, but I couldn’t get a clear photo of them.

I walked for a little over 3 hours, and then headed home. This was hike #69 on my annual hike challenge.

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Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Alcoholic Flux bacteria, Foamy Canker, Slime Flux, Phytophthora sp. x other bacteria
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  5. Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  6. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  7. California Fuschia, Epilobium canum
  8. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  9. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  12. Clustered Gall Wasp, Andricus brunneus
  13. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  14. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa
  15. Coyote, Canis latrans
  16. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus
  17. Deer Grass, Muhlenbergia rigens
  18. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  20. Gall Inducing Wooly Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  21. Goldenrod, California Goldenrod, Solidago californica
  22. Green Darner Dragonfly, Anax junius
  23. Hair Stalk Gall Wasp, Andricus pedicellatus [thread gall on blue oak]
  24. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  25. Kernel Flower Gall Wasp, Callirhytis serricornis
  26. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  27. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  28. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  29. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  30. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  31. Plate Gall Wasp, Andricus pattersonae
  32. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  33. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  34. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  35. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  36. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermed
  37. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas [cup shaped, sometimes rough edges]
  38. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  39. Striped Volcano Gall Wasp, Andricus atrimentus, Summer generation [looks like a tiny volcano]
  40. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  41. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  42. Western Kermes, Rattan’s Kermes, Allokermes rattani [found on blue oak]
  43. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  44. Western Small Milkweed Bug, Lygaeus kalmii kalmii
  45. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  46. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  47. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
  48. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis