The Sulphur Shelf have been Activated, 09-29-22

I got up around 6:00 this morning and, after feeding Esteban his breakfast, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. It had been a while since I’d been there and I was hoping to see some deer. I walked down the main trail to the Meadow Trail and then around to the Pond Trail and back toward the nature center. It was a cool and breezy morning; perfect for a walk.

I saw some deer when I first got into the preserve – mostly does and yearlings; none of the big boys. And I saw one young spike buck, but after that it was slim pickings as far as the deer went.

I was surprised about halfway through my hike, though, by a pretty female fawn who stepped briefly out from the cover of the forest to get a look at me. She even tentatively stomped her tiny hoof at me. OMG, she was sooooo darling. I was able to get a short video snippet and a few still shots of her before she ran off back into the brush.

How beautiful is she? Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

Another nice surprise was to see how many of the larger Sulphur Shelf fungi had sprouted out since the rain of last week. The Sulphur Shelf don’t need a lot of rain to get them “activated”; in fact, they don’t like it when it’s real wet outside. They are the harbingers of the fungus season, though; usually the first fungi we see each year. I saw quite a few very large, very brightly colored specimens (along with a few that were already fading). I’d come around a bend in the trail, and there would be another specimen. When they’re new and young, as most of these were, they’re absolutely gorgeous: brilliant orange and yellow. 

California has two species of Sulphur Shelf: Laetiporus gilbertsonii, which grows on hardwood trees and stumps including oaks and eucalyptus trees, and Laetiporus conifericola which grows on conifer trees. Laetiporus gilbertsonii, also called “Chicken of the Forest” is edible when it’s young, but Laetiporus conifericola really isn’t because it pulls in the pine tar taste from the trees.

According to Mykoweb: “…Edible with caution. Prized by many, this species is also known to occasionally cause gastrointestinal upsets. This appears to be caused by eating old and/or insufficiently cooked specimens. If you decide to try it, eat only the young, fresh, growing margins, in small quantities, and cook it thoroughly…”

On some of the specimens, I could see examples of “guttation”, droplets of moisture exuded from the fungus as it grows. The droplets on Sulphur Shelf are clear, like tears, but on other fungi they can be orange, red or even black.

An example of “guttation” of the Sulphur Shelf Fungus.

“…Transpiration and guttation are the two important process of removal of excess water from the plants. However, the two processes are different from each other. Transpiration is the removal of water from the stomata [minute pores in the surface of the epidermis] present on the leaves. On the contrary, guttation is the process of removal of water from the hydathodes [pores along the margins]…” 

I was also happy to see a lot of bee activity in the “bee tree”.  This is one of two natural bee hives in the preserve.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back home.

This was hike #52 (!)in my #52HikeChallenge for the year. Woot! I got the 52 hikes done in 39 weeks. Go me!

Species List:

  1. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  3. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  4. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  5. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  6. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  7. Dragonfly, Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  8. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  9. Fly. Flower-Loving Fly, Apiocera sp.
  10. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  11. Moss, Crisped Pincushion, Ulota crispa
  12. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  13. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  14. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  15. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  16. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  17. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  18. Primrose, Tall Evening Primrose, Oenothera elata
  19. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  20. Snowberry, Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  21. Towhee, California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  22. Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  23. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  24. Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  25. ?? Spider egg case

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A Short Wet Walk at River Bend, 09-21-22

I got up around 6:00 this morning to head out to the American River Bend Park with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne.  It was RAINING, but we thought the storm was pretty much finished and wouldn’t cause a problem. Sunshine was pouring through holes in the cloud cover.

Early morning sunlight peaking through the clouds and trees.

I was hoping to see puddles, and slime molds, and migrating birds, but we found none of that. Surprisingly, all of the rain that had fallen had already been sucked up by the perched ground and there wasn’t a puddle to see anywhere. [Puddles sometimes hold hairworms, which a super cool to finds]

In the horse corral area, we saw a Black Phoebe who posed for us, but just slightly out of my camera’s range. As we walked in one direction along the trail that follows the river, we got glimpses of White-Breasted Nuthatches, Acorn Woodpeckers, and Western Bluebirds but nobody really stopped to let us get a good at them. Even the Starlings, who were making themselves conspicuous everywhere, calling from the tops of the trees were, once more slightly out of range.

We could hear California Quail somewhere in the shrubbery below the trail, and the crackling call of Sandhill Cranes overhead, but we didn’t see either of them.

We came across some fishermen who were making a lot of noise. Two in their group had caught huge salmon in the river. One had managed to pull his catch to shore, and his friends were telling him to sit and rest for a bit. He’d earned it.

[I used to go fishing with my mom – not so much to catch fish, but just to sit in nature, in each other’s company. We would have died if we’d ever caught anything that big on our little bamboo poles. The biggest thing I ever pulled out of the water on my fishing line was a moray eel from the ocean along the rocks at Dana Point.]

Anyway, there was another fisherman, up in the parking area, putting his catch in a bag. It too was a huge salmon. Roxanne talked to him for a bit, and he told her that he fished as often as he could and filled up his freezer with the meat. Then when the freezer was full, he’d take the fish up to Franklin Street, I think he said, and cooked them up for the homeless. He said it felt like a reciprocal thing: if he shared the fish, the river would be generous and let him catch more. Awwww.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos [such as it is].

By then it had started to rain hard enough that it was soaking through our clothes, and we worried about keeping our cameras dry.  [I need to get some of those disposable rain ponchos to carry in my backpack. They’d be easier to use than an umbrella in the field.] So, we headed back to the car. Then the rain let up a bit and just as it did, Roxanne spotted a Red-Shouldered Hawk we had seen along the trail earlier. We “stalked” it and found it sitting on a branch of a tree, so well camouflaged by the dappled colors on its back that it was actually difficult to see at first. It sat still long enough for us to get some photos of it before it took off through the woods.

Then, it started raining harder again, so we decided to cut the walk short and head home. We didn’t walk far enough for this to count toward my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

You can tell it’s a rough walk when the species list is THIS short.

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  3. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  4. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  5. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  6. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  7. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  8. Chinook Salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
  9. Cytospora Canker, Cytospora chrysosperma
  10. English Walnut, Juglans regia
  11. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  12. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  13. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  14. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  15. Tobacco, Coyote Tobacco, Flowering Tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata
  16. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  17. Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  18. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  19. Whiteflies, Family: Aleyrodidae
  20. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon

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At Sailor Bar, 09-15-22

I got up around 6:00 AM and went out to Sailor Bar Community Park along the American River for a walk. I was hoping to see some coral galls, but… nothing. I did find quite a few Live Oak galls and some of the usual suspects on the Blue Oaks.

Nature played keep-away for much of my walk. At one point, I saw a pair of gorgeous coyotes walking out from the pond area across to the hillocks, but by the time I got the camera focused on them and was ready to video their walk the battery in my camera fell dead, so I got nothing.

This was all I was able to get of a pair of coyotes that loped past me… as the camera battery failed.

Likewise, I saw some quail eating berries off of an elderberry tree and wanted to get some photos and video of them, but they were often obscured by branches or otherwise out of range. Frustrating. 

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I took a new-to-me trail and headed out toward the river, but never got that far. The trail was “boring”; not a lot to see. Most of trees along the way trimmed up to where I couldn’t reach the leaves, and most of the shrubs were down in little deep hollows which made them hard to get to. Like I said, frustrating.

The only interesting find was a pair of Turkey Vultures sitting on top of a telephone pole. An adult and a juvenile, side by side. I wondered if the adult was teaching the youngster how to fly, or how to spot breakfast along the trail.

This was hike #51 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Gall Wasp, Andricus chrysobalani [stunted growth, acorn may look pushed in or sideways]
  2. Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [red canes]
  3. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  4. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  5. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  6. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  7. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  8. Clustered Gall Wasp, Andricus brunneus
  9. Coyote, Canis latrans
  10. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus
  11. Drippy Nut Disease, Lonsdalea quercina [Proteobacteria]
  12. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  13. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  14. Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Summer, asexual generation, Amphibolips quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  15. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  16. Oak, Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  17. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  18. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  19. Plate Gall Wasp, Andricus pattersonae
  20. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  21. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens [on live oaks, black oaks]
  22. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas
  23. Striped Volcano Gall Wasp, Andricus atrimentus, asexual, summer generation [looks like a tiny volcano]
  24. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  25. Urchin Gall Wasp, Cynips quercusechinus
  26. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  27. Willow Pinecone Gall Midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides
  28. Willow, Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  29. ?? empty egg cases; maybe stink bug

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Back to the Reverend Mother, 09-12-22

I got up about 5:30 AM and got myself ready to go to the William B. Pond Park with my friend Roxanne. It was warm and very humid all the while we were out, and the air quality is still bad at  434 AQI (Hazardous)  Ick!

At the park, I wanted to see the Reverend Mother tree, and find out if she had any new galls on her since the last time I visited her. The Reverend Mother is a huge Valley Oak that stands by herself at the intersection of several trails. Every year she gets a wide variety of wasp galls on her. I’d last seen her around mid-July.

Roxanne suggested that, because of my cancer and the pain my left leg – and the heat/humidity – that we go find her first, and then look around elsewhere if we still have strength left. So, on toward the Reverend Mother we went. Of course, we got waylaid by nature along the way.

We found some wasps that looked like Yellowjackets but seemed unusually small. They were clustering around a tuft of grass, and we wondered if maybe they were going to set up a winter burrow there or something. But then it occurred to me… usually these wasps all die out in the winter, and only the queen survives to find somewhere to overwinter until the spring. Could have been a bunch of fertilized females from the same nest all looking for overwintering spots, but it seemed weird that they were all grouped together. So, I don’t know what they were doing. We also found quite a few sleepy honeybees resting on dried plant stems, and some vinegarweed plants that were blooming. [Doesn’t take much to get our attention. Hah!]

Among the galls we found were Red Cones, Spined Turbans, Yellow Wigs, a few Club galls, Round galls, Flat-Topped Honeydew galls [I followed the wasps to find out where the ones that were seeping honeydew were], just a couple of Disc galls, plenty of Oak Apples [some trees were covered in them]. The Reverend Mother had a lot of galls, but far fewer than in previous years, and without the variety of species I normally find on her.

On other oak trees we found a Rosette gall, Gouty Twig galls, Pumpkin galls, Folded Leaf galls, Erineum Mite galls, worn down Two-Horned galls [which had lost their horns], and some aphid galls on the nearby Fremont’s Cottonwood.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos

On some of the trees we were inundated with whiteflies and lacewings. Green lacewing eggs seemed to be sprouting from everywhere. I also found a cluster of assassin bug eggs with some kind of midge stuck to it; and there was a pale little skipper chilling out on a leaf.

As we were heading back to the car, Rox spotted a hawk in a distant tree, and it was surrounded by squawking magpies. After a few minutes, the hawk flew off with the magpies flying after it, continuing to harass it.

Red-Tailed Hawk taking a break from being harassed by Yellow-Billed Magpies. Photo by Roxanne Moger.

Speaking of the magpies, I got some photos and a video snippet f one of the magpies walking with its tail straight up in the air behind it as it walked through the grass. According to Cornell, “…Tail-up Display often included in the Parallel Walk; this display, which does not occur in Eastern Hemisphere magpies (and probably not in North American Black-billed Magpies), consists of holding the long tail almost vertical for many seconds…” and is part of a territory-marking display.

We also found some nice firm specimens of the Shaggy Parasol mushroom. This was hike #50 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

We walked for about 3½ hours and then headed down Arden Way to have some breakfast at Bella Bru. We haven’t eaten there in ages. I was loving my mocha freezo a lot!

Species List:

  1. American Black Nightshade, Solanum americanum
  2. American Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana
  3. Ant, Fusca-Group Field Ants, Formica fusca
  4. Assassin Bug, Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii [eggs]
  5. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  6. Brazilian Vervain, Verbena brasiliensis
  7. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  8. California Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  9. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  10. Chinese Hackberry Tree, Celtis sinensis
  11. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  12. Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula [round flat, “spangle gall”]
  13. Downy Woodpecker, Dryobates pubescens
  14. Drippy Nut Disease, Lonsdalea quercina [Proteobacteria]
  15. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  16. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  17. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  18. Fuzzy-Gall Wasp, Cynips conspicuus [round mealy bumpy; on Valley oak]
  19. Gouty Stem Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercussuttoni
  20. Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
  21. Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
  22. Live Oak Folded Leaf Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  23. Meshweaver Spider, Family: Dictynidae
  24. Non-Biting Midges, Family: Chironomidae
  25. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  26. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  27. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  28. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  29. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  30. Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus [on cottonwood]
  31. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  32. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  33. Rosette Gall Wasp, Andricus wiltzae [on Valley Oak]
  34. Round-Gall Wasp, Burnettweldia washingtonensis [round, fuzzy, on twigs]
  35. Shaggy Parasol Mushroom, Chlorophyllum brunneum [common lawn mushroom]
  36. Silver Wattle, Acacia dealbata
  37. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Cynips douglasii [summer, asexual generation, pink, spiky top]
  38. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, unisexual , summer generation,  Dryocosmus dubiosus [small, green or mottled, on back of leaf along the midvein]
  39. Vinegar Weed, Trichostema lanceolatum
  40. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  41. Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica
  42. Woodland Skipper, Ochlodes sylvanoides
  43. Yellow Star-Thistle, Centaurea solstitialis
  44. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Druon fullawayi
  45. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli

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