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