And More Spring Galls, 04-19-23

I got up around 6:30 AM, gave Esteban his breakfast, let him out for potty a couple of times, and then headed out to Mather Lake Regional Park for a walk with my friend Mary Messenger. It was clear and kind of chilly, around 40º F.

When I got to the park, Mary was already there. I had first met Mary when we were volunteers at the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. I was “Mary” and she was “the Other Mary”. Hah! I had seen her in quite a while, but she looked just the same.

Mary Messenger, “the Other Mary”

We walked for about two hours, going at a slow pace so I could check the trees for galls and she could enjoy the lovely morning and getting a little exercise. She said she doesn’t get out much anymore, so even short walks have a really positive impact on her and lifts her spirits.

Scattered throughout the grasses in the park we found a lot of Erodium [Stork’s Bill], Rusty Popcorn Flowers, Shining Pepperweed, and lots of Valley Tassels just coming up. In another week or so, they should be dominating the ground in places.

As far as the galls went, I actually found quite a few on the Valley Oaks which both pleased and surprised me. Two of them were new-to-me. I found the regular Oak Apples, of course, but also found several leaf-on-leaf galls, petiole galls and something I wasn’t quite sure about when I first saw it. It was shaped vaguely like an egg, translucent, pale green with little bumps on it. Doing some research, I discovered it was the  Spring (bisexual) generation gall of Cynips douglasii, the Spined Turban Gall. I’d never seen one of these before. Very exciting!

I found a couple of older galls on the oaks, and also found a really nice-looking stem gall on one of the Coyote Brush bushes.

We also came across several different bird species while we were out. The ubiquitous Canada Geese were tending to little flocks of goslings. For some reason, it seems too early for the goslings to me. We also saw Killdeer, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Northern Mockingbirds, Robins, Western Blue Birds, House Finches (and their nests) and a Great-Tailed Grackle, among others.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

At the restroom facility, we saw Barn Swallows flying in and out through the ventilation openings near the roofline. Last year, the birds had built nests in the restroom, but today we couldn’t see any evidence of nest building. Mary suggested the birds may have been on recon duty, and I think she was right. I’ll try to check back there in another week or so to see if they’ve progressed on any nests,

While we were looking for the swallows nests, we found some very large nests made by mud-dauber wasps, some large than I’d ever seen before.

After our walk Mary and I said our goodbyes, and I continued on toward home, going past the Mather Field Vernal Pool area on the way. On the side of the road, I saw a young young coyote loping along. It was kind of scruffy looking, still shedding its winter coat. And it looked like there was a big tick on one of its shoulders. The coyote ran in front of my car for a while, then veered off to the right and went into the fields.

Most of what I could see from the car of the vernal pool area was lots and lots of Erodium, Frying Pan Poppies, and Ribbed Fringe Pod. I also saw a few pink Common Flower Moth, Schinia pulchripennis.

I was too tired to walk any distance into the vernal pools so I didn’t see anything else. Altogether I was out for about 3 hours. This was hike #19 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  3. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  4. Bur Clover, Medicago polymorpha [tiny yellow flowers, burs]
  5. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  6. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  7. Common Flower Moth, Schinia pulchripennis [pink]
  8. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  9. Coyote Brush Stem Gall Moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
  10. Coyote, Canis latrans
  11. Erodium, Mediterranean Stork’s-Bill, Erodium botrys
  12. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  13. Flies, Muscoid Flies, Superfamily: Muscoidea
  14. Fringepod, Ribbed Fringepod, Thysanocarpus radians [pink rim]
  15. Grasses, Silver Hairgrass, Aira caryophyllea
  16. Grasses, Wall Barley, Hordeum murinum
  17. Grasses, Wild Oat, Avena fatua
  18. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  19. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  20. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
  21. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  22. Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
  23. Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidea [on Valley Oak]
  24. Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Summer, asexual generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  25. Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
  26. Live Oak Folded Leaf Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  27. Mud-Dauber Wasp, Tribe: Sceliphrini
  28. Non-Biting Midges, Cricotopus sp.
  29. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  30. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  31. Oak, Black Oak, Quercus velutina
  32. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  33. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  34. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  35. Pineappleweed, Chamomilla suaveolens
  36. Popcorn Flower, Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus
  37. Poppy, Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii
  38. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  39. Sheep’s Sorrel, Rumex acetosella
  40. Shining Pepperweed, Lepidium nitidum
  41. Spined Turban Wasp Gall, Spring, bisexual generation, Cynips douglasii
  42. Swallow, Barn Swallow, American Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica erythrogaster
  43. Valley Oak Petiole Gall Wasp, Neuroterus fragilis
  44. Valley Tassels, Castilleja attenuata
  45. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana

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