A New to Me Gall, 09-17-21

I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed out to Lake Solano Park with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne. The park hadn’t been open since the start of COVID-19, so we hadn’t been there in “forever”. The weather was fairly cooperative, about 61º when we got there, but it warmed up fast and was a  bit humid, so after only two hours we were starting to sweat. Still, we were out there for about 3½ hours.

Canada Geese, Branta canadensis

After stopping off for some coffee, we got to the park right around 8:00 am when the gates opened. We drove down to the PAD D parking lot, and went looking right away for the little Screech Owl that lives in a tree around there. Driving along to the parking area, we could see how close the year’s wildfires had come to the park. The firefighters were pretty much able to stop the fires at the edge of the parking lots and paved areas. Amazing.

We didn’t see the little owl right away, and were worried that he had abandoned his tree. Later, though, as we were resting before leaving the park, a couple of birders came by and let us know that he was back in his regular spot again. (I’m saying “he”, but I don’t know if it’s a male or a female.) We went over to his tree and there he was, poking his head out and showing off his beautiful yellow eyes!  After a few seconds, he ducked back into his tree, and waited to see if he’d come back up again.  I played some screech owl calls to try to lure him out, but he wasn’t buying it.  He DID answer, though; we could hear him hooting softly from inside his tree. Awwwwww!

Western Screech Owl, Megascops kennicottii

There were lots of Acorn Woodpeckers around, filling up and defending their granary trees. We saw some chase away a squirrel and others go after other birds that got too close. Eventually, one male came down to a tree trunk near us and posed for a while before getting back to work.

We chased a little yellow bird around the park, but couldn’t get a clear shot of it. I thought it might have been a migrating Yellow Warbler.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We caught fleeting sight of some other birds and heard a lot of them but we couldn’t get photos of most of them. It’s still super early in the migration season, so I wasn’t too concerned with the lack of solid sightings.

One very cool sighting though was when Rox noticed a bird flying quickly past us with something in its talons. I knew if it had something in its talons it had to be some kind of raptor, so I walked a little ways down the lakeside to see if I could see where it landed. It was in a spot where it was backlit, so we couldn’t get the best of photos, but we could still see it was an Osprey feasting on a huge fish! So cool!                  

Some of the local peacocks were walking around the park. Like most birds this time of year, they were molting. Neither of the males we saw had any of their long fan feathers.

We saw a few galls on the oak trees in the park, but were surprised to find that some of the trees were absolutely sticky with some kind of residue. We thought it might have been honeydew, but there was sooooo much of it; it got our hands totally dirty, so we had to detour to the restroom facility to wash up before continuing on with our searches. We were happy to come across some live oak kermes on one of the trees.  We still have not seen a single spiny-ball Live Oak Wasp Gall. That’s so distressing to me.

We found a large, dark Orbweaver spider on one of her two webs, and also came across quite a few assassin bugs and their egg cases.  There were also LOTS of midges in the air, and I had to be careful not to take in any deep breaths when around them; I didn’t want to get a mouthful of them. Hah!

We were able to walk down the two lengths of the trail at the end of the park. They’re usually overgrown with blackberry vines and horsetails, but the groundskeepers have gone through them and cut out all of the overgrowth making it possible to get down to the water’s edge down there. We were hoping to see some birds and maybe even an otter or two there, but…nope. Maybe next time.

We DID eventually see some otters in the water across the lake from us. We tried to keep up with them, but they were very fast. We decided to drive to the other end of the park to see if we could catch them there, but they fooled us, and stalled mid-lake, so we couldn’t get any closeup photos of them. Wiley critters. I did report them to Otter Spotter site.

River Otters, North American River Otters, Lontra canadensis

We were out for about 3½ hours and by then I was tired, so we headed into Winters for lunch.  We wanted to go to the Putah Creek Café but couldn’t find a place to park. Rox suggested she’d drop me off in front of the restaurant and she’d go find a place to park nearby. I nixed that idea, so Rox drove around and went into the parking lot of Rotary Park that was kitty-corner to the restaurant. She found an open spot in the shade of a tree, and exclaimed, “What’s that on the leaves?” We looked closely and realized they were pale fuzzy galls — galls we’d never seen before. We were so excited. It was as though we were SUPPOSED to park there!

The galls were those of the Wool-Bearing Gall Wasp and were on a Southern Live Oak, a tree we had never seen before as well. According to cecidologist Joyce Gross: “…This oak is not native in California but is sometimes planted in parks and other locations in the state. The galls on this oak are made by wasps also not native to California. Both the oak and wasp are native to the eastern U.S…”

We thought it was amazing that the wasps were able to follow or travel with the trees and establish themselves here.

Oh, and cecidologist is like our new word. Hah! It means one who studies plant galls (known in botany as cecidia).  That discovery kind of made our day. We then had a yummy lunch at the Putah Creek Café including some Bacon Bloody Marys before going home.

This was hike #80 of my annual hike challenge. (I’m trying to do 104 before the end of the year; twice the #52HikeChallenge.) #MigrationCelebration

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Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  3. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  4. Assassin Bug, Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii
  5. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [heard, glimpsed]
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  8. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  12. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  13. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  14. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  15. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  16. Damselfly, Arroyo Bluet, Enallagma praevarum
  17. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail Damselfly, Ischnura cervula [males have 4 spots on thorax]
  18. Damselfly, Pond Spread-Wing, Lestes sp.
  19. Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula [round flat, “spangle gall”]
  20. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  21. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  22. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  23. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  24. Gall Inducing Wooly Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  25. Great Horsetail, Equisetum telmateia
  26. Green Heron, Butorides virescens [Rox spotted some]
  27. Himalayan Blackberry, European Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  28. Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus
  29. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  30. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  31. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  32. Live Oak Kermes, Allokermes cueroensis
  33. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  34. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  35. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  36. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus [glimpsed]
  37. Osprey, Pandion haliaetus
  38. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  39. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  40. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  41. Red Spider Mite, Tetranychus cinnabarinus
  42. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  43. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  44. Round Gall Wasp, Cynpis conspicuus [round gall near base or midrib of leaf on Valley Oaks, formerly Besbicus conspicuus]
  45. Southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana
  46. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Cynips douglasii [summer gall, pink, spikey top]
  47. Trout, Brown Trout, Salmo trutta
  48. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  49. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  50. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  51. Water Strider, Trepobates subnitidus
  52. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  53. Western Goldenrod, Euthamia occidentalis
  54. Western Screech Owl, Megascops kennicottii
  55. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  56. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  57. Whitestem Hedgenettle, Stachys albens [stinks!]
  58. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  59. Wool-Bearing Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuslanigera [fuzzy, eggshell color, with hard pip under the fuzz]
  60. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi