The Paper Wasps were the Standouts, 07-10-22

I got up around 5:30 AM, so I could tend to the dogs and then head out to the Cosumnes River Preserve to look for galls on the oak trees there.

On the way to the preserve, I made a couple of stops along the way where there were some wild roses and narrow-leak milkweed plants growing among the humps of blackberry vines.  On one of the rose bushes I found a lot of witch’s broom formation caused by Rose Rosette Disease. One twig was covered in the broom which was also covered by the seed-fluff from nearby willow trees. I stupidly tried to pull the fluff away with my hand and got a handful of thorns instead! Ouch!! Handling the plant more gingerly after that, I was able to get quite a few photos.

I was hoping to find evidence of Monarchs on the milkweed, but… nothing. I did come across a milkweed bug, though. I also came across a plant I had never seen before: Sharp-Point Fluellen, a kind of Cancerwort. The tiny flowers on it looked like a cross between a snapdragon and columbine. It’s a non-native, but hasn’t been classified as “invasive” in California yet.

Along the road, I didn’t find any galls on the oak trees and that was VERY worrisome. Near the small pond by the boardwalk area, however, I found a few galls on the oaks. They’re just starting to emerge, and many were very small, tiny even. I also found some galls on the ash trees. So, maybe in another week or two more galls will be evident – hopefully. I’m really worried that the wasps associated with the galls are vanishing…

In the pond by the boardwalk area, I saw several birds looking for a meal including a Snowy Egret, an American Robin, and a Killdeer. The Killdeer also stopped to take a quick bath.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Elsewhere, I saw a few Black Phoebes and all of them were looking a bit ratty. I wondered if they were fledglings or adults going through major molts. In the birdhouse near the gate, which was previously occupied by Western Bluebirds, there was a family of Tree Swallows. I saw adult birds going in and out of the box, and “claim” and “protect” the box by standing on top of it. I don’t know if they had babies or eggs in there or not. Tree Swallows can have two broods per year.

I also saw a couple of dark voles scurrying across the ground, and saw I think were some of their above-ground runways that they use to find food

I always check the kiosk and restroom facility near the parking lot area at the boardwalk because praying mantises and wasps often use those to build nests and leave oothecas. I looked at the back of the kiosk and didn’t find anything but the old nests of mud-dauber wasps, but then I was surprised to see several large nests near the top of the kiosk, all of them active. I got some photos and video snippets of those.

The videos show several of the wasps fanning their wings around the top of the nest. I looked up the behavior and found that, like bees, the wasps fan the nest to keep it cool enough for proper growth of the eggs and larvae. [I kind of figured that was what I was seeing, but I wasn’t sure.]  I also found this out:

“…Once the eggs hatch, the larvae will expect plenty of food so that they can pupate and emerge as adult wasps. While the larvae are wailing for food, you may hear noises that resemble popping, such as that emitted by a drop of water from a leaky faucet hitting the tub. This popping/dripping sound is the larvae mashing their mouths, signaling to the queen (later to worker wasps) they are hungry…”

Oooo, I’ll need to try to hear that next time I can get close to a  nest. Paper Wasps are pretty mellow and don’t freak out by humans coming closer (as long as they or next aren’t tampered with). This is VERY different from Yellow Jackets who will attack en masse if you come anywhere near their nest.

On the outside wall of the restroom facility, there was another large nest. Some of the cells were shut (so the larvae inside could finish their pupation), and others were open. I could see the developing larvae in some of the open cells. So cool. Outside the edge of the nest was a Western Black Widow Spider hanging in its web. I wonder if it would go after the larvae in the wasp’s nest (or even the wasps themselves).

I was out for 4 hours.  This was hike #41 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year; and for the Summer Series, this was 4 more hours of a required 20 hours for the challenge [so, 10 hours toward that total so far].

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. American Serpentine Leaf Miner Fly, Liriomyza trifolii
  3. Ant, Argentine Ant, Linepithema humile
  4. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Aceria fraxiniflora
  5. Ash, Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  6. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens [heard, glimpsed]
  7. Bee, Metallic Sweat Bee, Lasioglossum dialictus ssp.
  8. Bee, Sunflower Chimney Bee, Diadasia enavata
  9. Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [red canes]
  10. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  11. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  12. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  13. Cancerwort, Sharp-Point Fluellen, Kickxia elatine
  14. Chicory, Cichorium intybus
  15. Denseflower Willowherb, Epilobium densiflorum [small, dense, pinkish flowers]
  16. Drippy Nut Disease, Lonsdalea quercina [Proteobacteria]
  17. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  18. Floating Primrose-Willow, Ludwigia peploides
  19. Freshwater Apple Snails, Family: Ampullariidae
  20. Great Egret, Ardea alba [flew up onto an electrical box along the road]
  21. Hayfield Tarweed, Hemizonia congesta [white]
  22. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  23. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  24. Ladybeetle, Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle, Coccinella septempunctata
  25. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  26. Mantis, Mediterranean Mantis, Iris oratoria [thin ootheca]
  27. Milkweed, Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  28. Mud-Dauber Wasp, Sceliphron sp. [black and yellow]
  29. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  30. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  31. Paper Wasp, Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
  32. Prickly Lettuce, Lactuca serriola
  33. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  34. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus [several hunting along the road]
  35. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus [heard]
  36. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia [along the road]
  37. Rose Rosette Disease (RRD), Rose rosette emaravirus [carried by mites]
  38. Rose, California Wild Rose, Rosa californica [pink]
  39. Round Gall Wasp, Burnettweldia washingtonensis [on valley oak]
  40. Skeletonizing Leaf and Flea Beetles, Subfamily: Galerucinae
  41. Small Milkweed Bug, Lygaeus kalmii
  42. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  43. Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia [heard]
  44. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Cynips douglasii [summer gall, pink, spikey top]
  45. Sunflower, Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus
  46. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  47. Tick, American Dog Tick, Dermacentor variabilis
  48. Tricolored Blackbird, Agelaius tricolor
  49. Virginia Opossum, Didelphis virginiana
  50. Vole, California Vole, Microtus californicus eximus 
  51. Western Black Widow Spider, Latrodectus hesperus
  52. Western Spotted Orbweaver, Neoscona oaxacensis
  53. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Druon fullawayi

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