I was supposed to go gall hunting with my friend Roxanna up Drum Powerhouse Road, but the Mosquito Fire thwarted us. Smoke from the wild fire was making conditions hazardous, and emergency and fire-vehicles were blocking some of the roads. The galls don’t migrate so they will still be there when the danger has passed, just not in time for Gall Week, which ends tomorrow. I’m still looking forward to be able to go up there again. In Sacramento, the temperature got up to a smoky and very humid 87º, but the air quality was bad: 484 AQI (Hazardous) .
Since Drum Powerhouse was off the table, we decided instead to try Lake Solano Park. We hadn’t been there for a while, and it was further away from the wildfire than we were in Sacramento. Last year we found some galls, and also saw an osprey with a fish and a family of otters in the lake. CLICK HERE for last year’s photo album. We were hoping for a lot, but got very little.
In the parking lot, kitty corner from the Putah Creek Café, we knew there was a nonnative Southern Live Oak tree hat had galls on it in the years before, so we went looking for it. I had remembered it being closer to the edge of the parking lot, but it was more toward the middle. We were able to find the galls, so I was happy about that and hoped it bode well for our day’s excursion. The galls were of the Wool-Bearing Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuslanigera, another nonnative.
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…” I think that is sooooo cool!
We knew the park didn’t open until 8:00 AM, so we decided to go to the café for some breakfast. Roxanne treated. So nice! Oddly enough, it didn’t open until 8:00 AM either, so we had to sit and wait anyway. *Sigh* I was impatient to get moving.
When we finally got inside the café, we noticed that their menu had shrunk significantly since the last time we were there. Roxanne and I both had biscuits and gravy, with two over-medium eggs, and a side of bacon. Their food is really good there, and the portions are generous. I wasn’t able to eat everything on my plate.
A little before 9:00 AM, we headed over to Lake Solano Park, and pulled into Parking Lot E where we usually park and then walk along the edge of the lake. The whole lot was taken over by a group of exceeding rude people who hogged the parking spaces with big-ass trucks and SUVs, and had their inflatable boards and kayaks spread out all over the open bits of asphalt.
I had forgotten my handicapped placard, so we couldn’t park in the only two spaces available. It was so frustrating. As we turned around and drove out of the lot, the fat male who was at the center of the group gave us an overly dramatic crooked smirk, made a big show of waving bye-bye, and made some rude remark under his breath. It was like dealing with a bunch of ill-mannered five-year-olds. That kind of ruined our whole experience at the park. We didn’t feel like we could walk where we wanted to, or see what we wanted to see because those horrible people cut off our access on land and then occupied the water.
It seemed to me that most of the oak trees I would normally visit had been removed or so devastated by last year’s fires that they hadn’t recovered enough to put out sufficient leaves for the gall wasps to lay their eggs on.
We saw petiole galls on the cottonwood trees, and were surprised that they had a pink blush on them. We also found some Oak Apple that looked pink. I wondered if the pigment was related to last year’s wildfires; if the ground had been contaminated by the fire and the lack of a lot of clean water (rain) in the area. I also found what looked like a petiole gall on the BRANCH of a tree instead of on the petiole of the leaf.
Roxanne came across a very large, beautiful spider sitting on a live oak leaf, and near the same area I found a small colorful jumping spider. On any other day, those finds would have lifted my spirits, but I had been so knocked down by the mob of rude people, that I just couldn’t enjoy the moments of discovery.
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
Galls were few and far between, but Roxanne found what looked like a Crystalline Gall on the leaf of a Valley Oak. Usually, those are on Blue Oaks, not Valley. But the Blue and the Valley are both in the “white oak” lineage, and the galls can occasionally cross from one white oak to another. The same wasp galls that lay eggs on white oaks, won’t cross the line to lay their eggs on red or intermediate oaks, however. Here’s a simple graph of the oak lineages of California oaks.
The birdwatching aspect of our walk was pretty unproductive; I think it just gets too hot and muggy for them to be out much. We did see some Turkey Vultures hanging out on a burned up tree; black on black, it was kind of eerie. We also caught a glimpse of a peahen with one little poult before they ran off down a slope – that was right where the rude people were, so we missed seeing the mama and baby again. *Sigh*
We saw the ubiquitous Acorn Woodpeckers, some Bushtits and White-Breasted Nuthatches, a few Lesser Goldfinches, and a new-to-me Willow Flycatcher. In the water were some Double-Crested Cormorants, Canada Geese, and a small flock of female Mergansers who seemed to be catch a lot of little fish as they swam along.
The big surprise, though, was seeing a trio of American White Pelicans drifting through the water.
We walked for about 2½ hours, by which time it was getting way too hot and humid for me, so we headed home. This was hike #49 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.
All the while we were on our walk, and for hours after I got home, I didn’t open my new little Hydro Cell thermos. Around 4:00 PM, I finally opened it with the intention of cleaning it out, and was VERY surprised to find that the ice I had put into it around 5:30 this morning was still there! Wow! I’ve never had a thermos work this well before. It’s a keeper. [[Mine is the wide mouth version. Sooooo impressed!]]
- Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
- American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
- Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
- Arabesque Orbweaver, Neoscona arabesca [related to Spotted Orbweaver]
- Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
- Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
- California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
- California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
- California Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
- Cattail, Broad-Leaved Cattail, Typha latifolia
- Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
- Common Merganser, American Common Merganser, Mergus merganser americanus
- Cottonwood Stem Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populiramulor
- Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus [on Valley Oak!]
- Damselfly, Familiar Bluet, Enallagma civile
- Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula [round flat, “spangle gall”]
- Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
- Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
- Goldenrod, Western Goldenrod, Euthamia occidentalis
- Gray Buckeye Butterfly, Junonia grisea
- Johnson’s Jumping Spider, Phidippus johnsoni
- Jumping Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
- Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii [eggs]
- Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
- Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
- Mistletoe, Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron macrophyllum
- Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
- Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
- Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
- Oak, Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
- Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
- Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
- Oak, Southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana [endemic to the southeastern U.S.]
- Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis [scat]
- Peahen, Peafowl, Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus
- Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus [on cottonwoo
- Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
- Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Cynips douglasii [summer, asexual generation, pink, spiky top]
- Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
- White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
- Willow Flycatcher, Empidonax traillii
- Willow, Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
- Wool-Bearing Gall Wasp, Druon quercuslanigerum
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