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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