Stone Lake and Staten Island, 09-09-21

I got up around 6:00 this morning, and was out the door by about 6:30 to head over to the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. It was already 71º outside, and there were clouds in the air, so it was a little humid, too. (It got up to 99º today.) Not the best weather for walking. I’m generally not impressed with Stone Lakes at all, but one of my FB friends said she’d been able to find galls on the oak trees there, so I gave the place another shot.

Still not impressed.

Although there are quite a few Valley Oaks on the property, most of them are young and have very small leaves.  None of them were sporting many galls, and those that were sporting them didn’t have many species represented. There were quite a few Flat-Topped Honeydew galls all being protected by ferocious ants, some Oak Apples and Red Cones, Convoluted galls and Yellow Wigs.

But I didn’t find a single Spined Turban gall (which are very common in this area), and I only found one Club Gall and one Woollybear. Discoveries were few and far between — which makes for a “boring” outing.  I did find some old Spiny Leaf galls and Leafy Bract galls on the rose bushes.

I found a small aggregate of wasps napping between the leaves of a sycamore tree.  They often sleep together when they don’t have a nest, and are getting themselves ready this time of year to go into torpor for the winter months.

Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula

The find of the day there, though, was a huge paper wasp nest. It was built on the underside of a lateral bar on a wooden fence and was almost as long as my forearm! There were hundreds of cells. It looked like the wasps had capped off the ones nearest the center of the nest, but the outlying cells were still open, and I think the queen was laying eggs in them.

Paper Wasps aren’t volatile like Yellowjackets; they tolerate you as long as you don’t disturb them too much, so I was able to get some close-ups of the gals at work. Among the group was one with an all-yellow face and pale eyes.  I think that was a Golden Paper Wasp, Polistes auriferi, among the aggregate of European Paper Wasps, Polistes dominula.  One of these things is not like the other…

There were also a handful of dragonflies and damselflies skittering about, and I was happy to get a couple of shots of a large female Green Darner dragonfly sunning herself on a rose bush. These dragonflies are usually the last ones we see in a season and breed in September and October, so I’m hoping to see more around before the year is up.

A female Green Darner Dragonfly, Anax junius

There wasn’t much else to see at the preserve, and I knew I was pretty close to Staten Island Road, so I decided to drive over there. Folks in one of the birding FB groups had mentioned that they saw Sandhill Cranes there already. I was skeptical. It’s really early in the season for them. But I went anyway just to take a look-see.

Black-Necked Stilts, Himantopus mexicanus, and Long-Billed Dowitchers, Limnodromus scolopaceus

By then it was about 83º outside — too hot for me — but on the road I can stay in my air conditioned car and shoot photos out through the windows.  I only saw a few cranes at a distance, and they were flying elsewhere, but I was surprised to find some Red-Necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) in their non-breeding clothes.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos from the day.

The phalaropes are small little busy-bodies, and are migrating now, so I was happy to catch sight of them. They were so interested in what they were doing that when I got out of the car for a few minutes to get a closer look, they didn’t startle or fly off. They just kept doing their swimming circles, and came pretty close (within 15 feet I’d guess).

Cornell says: “…Migrates between Nearctic breeding grounds and wintering areas in tropical oceans, primarily off west coast of Peru and Chile… Presence on numerous large and small inland bodies of water suggests that fall overland migrants are largely traveling in short hops. Fall migration period longer than spring; first fall migrants appear in midsummer, last fall migrants linger into Nov…”

I also saw a few Northern Shovelers, Black-Necked Stilts, Canada Geese, some Greater Yellowlegs, Long-Billed Dowitchers, and a few others, but not a lot. The corn fields along the road haven’t been harvested/mowed down yet, and only one field was flooded when I was there. In a few more weeks, we should be able to see more birds. We’re still super-early in the migration season. #CABiodiversityDay.

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Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  5. Assassin Bug, Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii
  6. Bagrada Bug, Bagrada hilaris
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans [nest]
  8. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  9. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  10. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  11. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  12. Broadleaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
  13. Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
  14. California Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  15. California Vole, California Meadow Mouse, Microtus californicus eximus
  16. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  17. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  18. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  19. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  20. Corn, Maize, Zea mays
  21. Damselfly, Familiar Bluet, Enallagma civile
  22. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  23. Formica Ant, Lasius americanus
  24. Great Egret, Ardea alba         
  25. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  26. Green Darner Dragonfly, Anax junius
  27. Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
  28. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  29. Leafhopper, Alconeura sp.
  30. Leafminer, Family: Agromyzidae [on sunflower leaves ,maybe Liriomyza sativae]
  31. Leafy Bract Gall Wasp, Diplolepis californica [hard rosette gall on rose bush]
  32. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  33. Long-Billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus
  34. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  35. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Mexican Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  36. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  37. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  38. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  39. Orbweaver Spider, Subfamily: Araneinae
  40. Paper Wasp, Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
  41. Paper Wasp, Golden Paper Wasp, Polistes aurifer
  42. Pistache, Pistacia sp.
  43. Raccoon, Common Raccoon, Procyon lotor [scat, latrine area]
  44. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  45. Red-Necked Phalarope, Phalaropus lobatus
  46. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  47. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  48. Round-Gall Wasp, Fuzzy Gall, Burnettweldia washingtonensis [round, fuzzy, on twigs]
  49. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  50. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  51. Spiny Leaf Gall Wasp, Diplolepis polita [on rose leaves]
  52. Sunflower, Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus
  53. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  54. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  55. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  56. Water Smartweed, Persicaria amphibia [pink]
  57. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  58. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  59. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
  60. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  61. Woollybear Gall Wasp, Atrusca trimaculosa
  62. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi