Back Up Ice House Road Again, 08-27-22

I got up around 5:00 AM to get ready to head out to Ice House Road with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne. It was cool and breezy all morning; got up to about 88º in the late afternoon. I like weather like that.

I had been looking forward to this excursion all week.  I was hoping to see different galls on the oak trees, willows, and other plants up there. In 2021, we saw Fireweed in bloom and gooseberries fruiting around the end of July. CLICK HERE to see last year’s album.

Although the galls were few and far between (not a lot of oak trees up there; it’s mostly a conifer forest), we ended up finding quit a few things I had never seen before, so that was fun! The only oak trees we found were Black Oaks, and the only gall I saw on the oak was a Ruptured Twig Gall.

One super-cool find on a Black Oak was a little family of Oak Treehoppers. Mom was the “spotted” version of the species. (There’s also a turquoise striped version. Some of the stuff I read about the species is that the spotted may morph into the turquoise version later in the season.) The babies looked like tiny African masks painted red, black and white with black “horns” sticking out of them.

The mom we saw refused to leave the branch her babies were on, even though she was winged and could have fled if she wanted to. She also stuck close to her kids, and some of the photos we got seemed to show her “kissing” her babies.

According to the University of Florida: “…Beamer (1930) even observed maternal instinct in females of Platycotis vittata on oak in California. Females were observed to ‘stand sentinel’ between their respective colonies of nymphs and the body of the tree. A female would allow herself to be picked up rather than fly away from her perch. Beamer watched one female repel a small vespid wasp approximately a dozen times from her colony of nymphs. After the vespid apparently grew discouraged and flew away, ‘…the membracid flew to her young, crawled over the spot where the vespid had alighted, apparently examined to see that they were uninjured; then making sure all was well again flew to the twig just below the nest, turned her head toward her young and stood immobile.’…” Awwww!

According to the North Carolina State University: “…Females mate more than once, but only the sperm of her last suitor is used to fertilize her 40 or so eggs. This insect overwinters as females in leaf litter. They emerge and lay their eggs the following spring. When the eggs hatch, the new nymphs gather around a slit in the bark made by the female. The Nymphs apparently feed at the slit and the female broods over them. Females definitely protect their nymphs by bumping predators. Second generation eggs are laid in August and these hatch and develop into the overwintering forms. Nymphs have two tiny ‘spikes’ on their backs and they tend to be contrastingly marked with white, black, and red…”

AmericanInsects.com reaffirmed the information from the NCSU but offered some more clarifying details: “…Wood, et al. (1984) noted that many females of this species mate more than once, with the first mating often taking place even before the female’s ovaries are mature. The sperm of the last male to mate with a female, however, is the sperm that is used to fertilize the eggs. Wood and his colleagues reasoned that the early matings were ‘insurance,’ with the sperm stored for possible use after the ovaries have matured. This ‘insurance mating’ is necessary because males tend not to live as long as females, and females may not be able to find a mate after the ovaries are mature. However, if the late season mating does take place, it is with a male that presumably has superior genes for longevity, and these are the sperm used to fertilize the eggs. Mating may last up to 24 hours, with the males apparently dragging out the process to prevent another male from mating with the female. Platycotis vittata also has an unusually long ‘waiting period’ between mating and oviposition, ranging from an average of 29 days for females who mated more than once, to 39 days for females who mated just once. Females lay about 40 eggs each…The Spring-hatched treehopper females oviposit in August and the nymphs hatch out in September, in time to feed as the tree sends nutrients from the canopy to the roots…”

That the second season would happen when the sap was flowing DOWN the tree to the roots for the winter, is sooooo interesting to me. Nature thinks of everything and wastes nothing.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Other new-to-me species included some small, pouty, yellow Keckiella flowers; some spidery, white White-Topped Aster flowers; a striped Sierra Dome Spider; a bristly yellow-footed Tachina fly; some different Manzanita galls (apparently there’s one species of aphid that makes three kinds of galls of those trees); some frilly, purple Sierra Lessingia flowers; and many, many Bush Chinquapin trees with their hedgehog-like-covered nuts on them. And I think I spotted some flower galls on the drying-up male flowers. So cool! It’s always fun to come across surprises like that.

Among the other insects we saw were some California Sister butterflies (which I get mixed up with the Lorquin’s Admirals all the time), a few Acmon Blue butterflies, an Urbane Digger Bee, and a Weevil Wasp (feeding on buckwheat flowers).

Another surprise was to see several bright green examples of the “witches broom” phenomenon on what we thought might have been bitter cherry or chokecherry trees and twigs.  Rox spotted a tree covered with them, so we pulled off to the side of the road to get a closer look.

“…Witches’ broom is a common affliction of many trees and shrubs. It can be caused by several different vectors. Witches’ broom earns its name by producing a plethora of small, distorted branches that grow very close together, giving these clumps of branches the appearance of a witches’ broom… Though witches’ broom on a cherry can develop from any damage, it can also be caused by a fungal pathogen known as Taphrina, specifically T. cerasi or T. wiesneri. This fungal disease causes close bunches of quick growing, small branches to form on other cherry tree branches. If left alone, these new branches usually bloom and drop their leaves earlier than other branches of the tree…” [GardeningKnowhow.com]

Although we didn’t see many birds or mammals around, we did get to see a couple of chipmunks. We don’t have those down here on the valley floor. Cute little buggers.

We were out for about 8 hours, but that included travel time and a stop for an in-the-car picnic lunch.  It was a long day, but I learned a lot and saw a lot of things I wasn’t expecting to see. Fun!

Species List:

  1. Acmon Blue Butterfly, Icaricia acmon
  2. Bare-Bottom Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza weberi
  3. Bee, Urbane Digger Bee, Anthophora urbana [gray and black, bluish eyes]
  4. Bigleaf Maple Tree, Acer macrophyllum
  5. Bitter Cherry, Prunus emarginata
  6. Bitter Lettuce, Lactuca virosa
  7. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  8. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
  9. Bristle Fly, Ptilodexia sp.
  10. Broad-Leaved Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium
  11. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare
  12. Bumblebee, Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee, Bombus vosnesenskii
  13. Bush Chinquapin, Chrysolepis sempervirens
  14. California Fuchsia, Epilobium canum
  15. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  16. California Sister Butterfly, Adelpha californica
  17. California Turret Spider, Atypoides riversi
  18. Cherry Tree Witches Broom, Taphrina wiesneri [on Prunus sp. trees]
  19. Chipmunk, Long-Eared Chipmunk, Neotamias quadrimaculatus
  20. Cinder Lichen, Aspicilia cinerea [gray on rocks]
  21. Columbine, Western Columbine, Aquilegia formosa
  22. Devil’s Beggarticks, Bidens frondosa
  23. Dog Pelt Lichen, Peltigera canina
  24. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  25. Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii
  26. Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
  27. Fern, Hairy Brackenfern, Pteridium aquilinum var. pubescens [variation of Common Bracken]
  28. Flower Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus castanopsidis [ n the male flowers of chinquapin]
  29. Fly, Bristle Fly, Ptilodexia sp.
  30. Goldenrod, Velvety Goldenrod, Solidago velutina
  31. Grass, Squirreltail Grass, Elymus elymoides
  32. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  33. Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis [eggs]
  34. Hooded Tube Lichen, Hypogymnia physodes
  35. Incense Cedar, California Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
  36. Leafhopper, Momoria sp. [pink and green]
  37. Lupine, Dwarf Lupine, Lupinus lepidus
  38. Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Flower version, Tamalia coweni
  39. Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Leaf curl version, Tamalia coweni
  40. Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Midvien version, Tamalia coweni
  41. Manzanita, Greenleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos patula
  42. Mistletoe, Western Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum
  43. Monkeyflower, Seep Monkeyflower, Erythranthe guttata [yellow]
  44. Morning-Glory Leafminer Moth, Bedellia somnulentella
  45. Mortar Rim Lichen, Myriolecis dispersa [black/grey]
  46. Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
  47. Naked Buckwheat, Eriogonum nudum
  48. Oak Anthracnose Fungus, Apiognomonia errabunda [spots on Chinquapin leaves]
  49. Oak Ribbed Casemaker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella
  50. Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittate [looks like a thorn; mother and babies]
  51. Oak, California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  52. Pacific Aster, Symphyotrichum chilense
  53. Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea
  54. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa [three needles]
  55. Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota
  56. Rock Greenshield Lichen, Flavoparmelia baltimorensis
  57. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens [on live oaks, black oaks]
  58. Sierra Dome Spider, Neriene litigiosa [black and white stripes]
  59. Sierra Lessingia, Lessingia leptoclada [purple fringy-looking flowers in flocculent coverings]
  60. Single-Spored Map Lichen, Rhizocarpon disporum [black/gray on rocks]
  61. Spring King Bolete Mushroom, Boletus rex-veris
  62. Stilt Bug, Family: Berytidae
  63. Sugar Pine Tree, Pinus lambertiana
  64. Treehopper, Gyponana sp. [pink head, yellowish body]
  65. Trembling Aspen, Populus tremuloides [white bark]
  66. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  67. Variable Wrinkle-Lichen, Tuckermanopsis orbata [green or brown]
  68. Weevil Wasp, Cerceris sp. [small, yellow and black, amber wings]
  69. Western Morning Glory, Calystegia occidentalis [seed pods have 4-5 black seeds in them]
  70. Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica
  71. White Fir, Abies concolor
  72. White-Topped Aster, Sericocarpus sp.
  73. Witch’s Hair Lichen, Alectoria sarmentosa [on fir trees]
  74. Wolf Lichen, Letharia vulpine [bright yellow-green]
  75. Woodland Woollythreads, Monolopia gracilens
  76. Yarrow, Fern-leaf Yarrow, Achillea filipendulina [yellow]
  77. Yellow Keckiella Flower, Keckiella sp.
  78. Yellow Salsify, Tragopogon dubius
  79. Yellow-Footed Tachinid Fly, Tachina sp.
  80. ?? flower head gall on goldenrod
  81. ?? tiny cocoon on manzanita leaf

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Lace Bugs were the Standout, 08-19-22

The temperature rose up to 102º today. Plah! I got up around 5:30 AM so I could get the dogs fed and pottied before I got myself ready to head to the River Bend Park with my friend Roxanne while it was still relatively cool outside.

I was hoping to see some new-ish galls on the oak trees, but the Live Oaks seemed to be covered with little more than tiny Pumpkin galls and a handful of Live Oak galls. We did find a few more, mostly on the Valley Oaks: Red Cones, Ruptured Twigs, Spined Turban, and some Rosettes, among others.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The highlight was being able to show Roxanne some Lace Bugs on coyote brush and telegraph weed. She’d seen photos of them, but never saw them live before. A “lifer” species for her. I was so happy that she got to see them.

According to Wikipedia: “…Lace bugs are usually host-specific and can be very destructive to plants… Each individual usually completes its entire lifecycle on the same plant, if not the same part of the plant… Most species have one to two generations per year, but some species have multiple generations. Most overwinter as adults, but some species overwinter as eggs or nymphs. This group has incomplete metamorphosis in that the immature stages resemble the adults, except that the immatures are smaller and do not have wings. However, wing pads appear in the second and third instars and increase in size as the nymph matures. Depending on the species, lace bugs have four or five instars…”

On the telegraph weed, we were able to see about four instars. Very cool. You can see many of them in the video below.

We walked for about 4 hours, until it got too hot for us to stay out anymore. This was hike #48 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Amaranth, Family: Amaranthaceae
  3. Black Walnut, Northern California Black Walnut, Juglans hindsii
  4. California Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  5. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  7. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  8. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  9. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  10. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata
  11. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  12. Lace Bug, Chrysanthemum Lace Bug, Corythucha marmorata
  13. Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidea [on Valley Oak]
  14. Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Spring, sexual generation, Amphibolips quercuspomiformis [upside down volcano on the edge of the leaf, green or brown]
  15. Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Summer, asexual generation, Amphibolips quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  16. Mullein, Turkey Mullein, Doveweed, Croton setiger
  17. Non-Biting Midge, Cricotopus sp.
  18. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  19. Oak Leaf Blister, Taphrina caerulescens [fungus, may present as discoloration on leaves]
  20. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  21. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  22. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  23. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa [three needles]
  24. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  25. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  26. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  27. Rosette Gall Wasp, Andricus wiltzae [on Valley Oak]
  28. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens [on live oaks]
  29. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Cynips douglasii [summer, asexual generation, pink, spiky top]
  30. Telegraphweed, Heterotheca grandiflora
  31. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  32. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, unisexual , summer generation,  Dryocosmus dubiosus [small, green or mottled, on back of leaf along the midvein]
  33. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  34. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  35. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  36. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  37. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Druon fullawayi

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CalNat Con in October

Hi all,

Are you going to the 2022 Statewide Conference from Oct 7-9 in Tahoe City?  If you’ve never been to a conference, I think you’ll be surprised by how much you can get out of one… even if all you do is meet other naturalists and check out the landscapes surrounding Tahoe City. I can’t go because of costs and my health issues, so I’d love it if you could go and then share what you learned and saw.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Well known Obi Kaufmann, Author, Artist, Naturalist and EcoPhilosopher, will be one of the speakers!

Books by Obi

“…Since the program was established by University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2011, more than 160 instructors from 83 partner organizations across the state have trained over 6,000 Naturalists and Stewards. We are excited to have this chance to reconnect, re-engage, and renew our relationships with you – or to introduce our work and mission to new members of our community. We hope you will join us in this unique setting as we strengthen our capacity for stewardship as individuals an in community…”

Zoo Day, 08-12-22

I got up a little before 7:00 AM, got the dogs pottied and fed and had some breakfast. Then I took a shower before heading over to the Sacramento Zoo for a zoo day. Yay! It was 68º F when I got there and 80º when I left two hours later. Guh! I don’t do well in the heat.

A lot of the birds in the zoo were off exhibit and the flamingo pond had been drained in response to avian flu.  According to the zoo: “…The Sacramento Zoo is committed to the health and safety of every animal in our care. As a part of our ongoing efforts to keep our animals safe, we carefully monitor and track the occurrence of disease outbreaks, like avian influenza (or the “bird flu”), that may be a safety concern for the zoo’s animals. Avian influenza is a viral infection that occurs naturally in wild birds. Some species of birds can carry and spread the disease without becoming ill while others can develop severe illness or even die when infected by certain strains of the virus. Avian influenza is not considered a significant public health threat to people, although individuals that work closely with sick birds can sometimes become infected.

Avian influenza outbreaks began to occur on the east coast of the United States earlier this year and the disease has continued to spread west. On July 13th, the USDA confirmed the first cases of a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza from wild birds in several Northern California counties. The zoo’s veterinary medicine program is directed by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and we are working with our veterinary partners to implement safety protocols for the birds under our care. Due to the potential risk to birds at the zoo, we are taking a variety of precautionary measures and have activated a comprehensive disease prevention plan.

The zoo has already implemented many prevention measures including strict biosecurity procedures, increased monitoring of flock health, and staff training related to avian influenza response. As risk for an outbreak in our area increases, the zoo will implement additional measures as needed to help keep its animals safe. Future steps include use of enhanced biosecurity protocols, placement of tarp covers or netting over some aviaries, and movement of some birds to more protected areas of the zoo.

In some cases, birds – like the flamingos and others who live on the zoo’s open-air lake habitat – will be temporarily relocated to safer housing off exhibit. Some of the larger birds – ostrich and emu – are currently remaining in their habitats under the watch of the animal care and veterinary teams but may be moved into shelters…”

Seems kind of like a knee-jerk reaction to me, but I guess they’re going with the better safe than sorry tactic – especially with migration season starting.

Oddly, the Thick Billed Parrots and some of the other caged birds were still out in the open. And although the flamingo pond was drained, the alligator pond right next to the flamingo still had water – and alligators – in it. I guess they’re not affected by avian flu…but their water DOES attract wild birds, so… I don’t get it, I guess.

It did attract quite a few dragonflies, too, and I saw a male Common Green Darner and lots of Flame Skimmers dashing around the gators.

Anyway, I was there mostly to see the new baby Mongoose Lemur, and, man, was it CUTE.  I was surprised by how little it was, no bigger than my palm, and I was captivated by its antics. It wasn’t really ready to go exploring on its own, so it clung to its mom with one tiny hand and reached out with the rest of its body to check out what was around it. It also jumped from mom to dad and back again so it could get a look at everything. The photos I got of it don’t do the little thing justice. It was beyond adorable.

The Snow Leopards weren’t out (I’m assuming that was because of the heat),but I did get to see the jaguar, the tips of the Cheetahs’ ears, and the lions (Cleo and Kamau). Cleo was hanging out in the glassed-in hallway between the segments of their exhibit while the male paced back and forth. You don’t get a sense of how big these cats are until you see them, literally, just a few inches away from you. Magnificent. The cheetahs Rowdy and Zig Zag, are twins, and they have a birthday on Sunday; they’ll be 5 years old.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The kangaroos were just lounging around their enclosure, resting in the shade. One of them did move enough for me to get some profile photos of it. Next door to them was the Kookaburra on one side, and the Galapagos tortoises on the other. I’d never seen the tortoises there before so that was a first. The larger of the two came closest to the edge of the enclosure, so I could get some semi-closeup photos of him. According to the zoo he weighs in at 285 pounds and is 28 years old.

I saw the chimps, but the baboons weren’t out. The Meercats were doing their meercattery thing, and apparently some of the female giraffes are going into season again. The big male followed them around and drank their pee (to test it for hormones) – much to the chagrin of nearby mothers and evoking, “eeeeeeeww!” responses from their children.

As I said, I as there for about 2 hours before it got too warm for me to do any more walking. Outside the zoo there are several oak trees (including live oaks, cork oaks and valley oaks). I looked for jumping galls but didn’t find any sign of them. I’ll go again after the upcoming heatwave to see if that will wake them up.

I did find some Iceplant Scale, Pulvinariella mesembryanthemi, on some of the iceplant growing near the valley oak. [It’s other common name is “Cottony Pigface Scale”. Hah!]

Classified as insects, the scales are unlike any other. This species originated in southern Africa, but it was apparently inadvertently imported into California on the plants. It’s the brown sculptured bit you see in the photos.

Females are green when they’re hatched (and called “crawlers”), but turn brown as they mature and grow larger. In some of the photos, you can see some of the youngsters around the base of the ovisac, the white cottony-looking formation at the rear of the mother that can be twice as long as the mother’s body is wide. Around 800 eggs are laid inside the sac. Males are armored and are winged in their adult form. Males, which are short-lived and do not feed, die within 3 to 7 days of emergence. CLICK HERE for a great PDF on the iceplant scale.

Species List:

  1. Aardvark, Orycteropus afer
  2. African Cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus jubatus
  3. African Lion, Panthera leo
  4. American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis
  5. Bee, Western Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa californica
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  8. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  9. Cattail, Narrowleaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  10. Cherry Laurel, Prunus laurocerasus
  11. Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes
  12. Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
  13. Common Squirrel Monkey, Saimiri sciureus
  14. Creeping Lantana, Lantana montevidensis [pink flowers]
  15. Dragonfly, Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturata
  16. Eastern Bongo, Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci
  17. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica
  18. Galápagos Giant Tortoise, Chelonoidis niger
  19. Grevy’s Zebra, Equus grevyi
  20. Iceplant Scale, Pulvinariella mesembryanthem
  21. Iceplant, Pigface Iceplant, Highway Iceplant, Carpobrotus edulis
  22. Jaguar, Panthera onca
  23. Laughing Kookaburra, Dacelo novaeguineae
  24. Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidea [on Valley Oak]
  25. Masai Giraffe, Giraffa tippelskirchi
  26. Meerkat, Suricata suricatta
  27. Mongoose Lemur, Eulemur mongo
  28. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  29. Oak, Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  30. Okapi, Okapia johnstoni
  31. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  32. Red Kangaroo, Macropus rufus
  33. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  34. Sage, Salvia sp.
  35. Siberian Crabapple, Malus baccata
  36. Thick-Billed Parrot, Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha
  37. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  38. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  39. Wolf’s Guenon Monkey, Cercopithecus wolfi

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