CNC Gristmill, 04-30-23

This was the third day of the four-day City Nature Challenge and I’m wondering why the challenge is only four days long. Why not a week? People could get out more, go to different places, and collect more data. Four days doesn’t seem long enough for collection. They give you a week to post your data to iNaturalist, but not to the collection of data itself. Weird.

I went out to the Gristmill Recreations Area on the American River today. I was looking for galls, and found quite a few insects and a few birds along the way. The favorite insect sighting was that of a female Snakefly. I don’t get to see them very often, so it’s always a treat when they cross my path.

“…Several [snakefly] species live in the west. They are one of only two groups of insects than can run backwards at full speed (the only other insects that can do this are Webspinners, Order Embioptera)…” University of California.

“…Larvae feed on wood-boring insects, small insects such as aphids and caterpillars, and various insect eggs. Snakefly adults feed on aphids or other small, weak prey. In pear orchards, they are important predators of pear psylla, especially in the early season…” Washington State University

I was also stoked to come across two butterflies: first sightings for me of the season, a Lorquin’s Admiral and a Tiger Swallowtail. I had to chase the Admiral in a circle before it finally settled onto a spot where I could get its photo.

The Lorquins are interesting in that they have several flights in California and often use willows as their host plants. They feed off a variety of flowers, but also get nutrients from dung and bird droppings.

“…Males perch in valley bottoms all day to watch for females. Eggs are laid on the upperside of host plant leaf tips. Caterpillars feed on leaves and partially-grown caterpillars overwinter in rolled leaf shelters…” Butterflies and Moths of North America.

As far as the Tigers go, the five instars of their caterpillars are astounding; they go from looking like bird poop to looking like large caterpillars with huge eyespots on the back.

“…The adult females lay up to a hundred eggs in total. The eggs are deep green, shiny, and spherical. They are laid singly, on the undersides of leaves… The chrysalis is green in summer and dark brown in winter, and looks like a piece of wood…” Wikipedia

I found a few galls, but not as many as I thought I would. The favorite of the gall sightings was of the pouch galls on the elm trees along the trail. The galls are generated by aphids interacting with the elm tree.

“…The fundatrix (founding or stem mother) lays eggs in a leaf of the primary host, which are trees in the genus Ulmus. This stimulates production of galls where offspring of the fundatrix develop by feeding on host sap. These mature into winged adult alates, which complete the life cycle on the secondary host…”Wikipedia

Among the plants and trees, there were the usual suspects: willows, Black Walnut, Elm, Black Locust (in bloom), Elderberry and Boxelder. The wild grapevines are getting grapes already. They usually wait until the Manroot is done for the year. I also found some horsetail, some charlock in bloom, and end-of-the-season Fiddleneck.

I saw a few birds including Canada Geese and a California Quail, but the one who posed for me was a tiny House Wren. These little birds have such bright, loud songs, they’re hard to miss when you hear them. Seeing them, on the other hand, can be tricky because they blend so well into their environment.

I walked for about three hours and then headed back to the car. On my way there, I missed the regular turn off for the trail, so I cut through the high grass to get to the main trail again. The grass kept wrapping around my shoes, threatening to make me fall. [Luckily, I didn’t.]

I came to an area where there was a lot of downed, dried tree bark and branches. As I worked to step over the mess, I could hear the hissing rattle of a rattlesnake. It rattled twice… and that was enough to make me use a different route even though I never saw the snake itself.

“…Rattlesnakes are typically described as poisonous, but they are actually venomous. A poisonous snake is one that is harmful to touch or eat. A venomous snake injects dangerous venom into its victim… Rattlesnakes do not always rattle a warning. Sometimes they rattle loudly to warn potential enemies of their presence, but other times they remain silent when they sense a threat, choosing to remain still to rely on their cryptic color and pattern to let them blend into their surroundings to hide from the threat…” — California Herps.

 This was hike #23 in my#52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. American Square-Headed Snakefly, Negha sp.
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Ash Petiole Gall Midge, Dasineura tumidosae
  4. Ash Tree, Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  5. Bedstraw, Catchweed Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Galium aparine
  6. Bees, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  7. Bees, Leaf-Cutter Bees, Sharptail Bees, Coelioxys sp.
  8. Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia
  9. Black Walnut, Northern California Black Walnut, Juglans hindsii
  10. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  11. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  12. Bumpy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora hybocarpa
  13. Bur Parsley, Anthriscus caucalis
  14. California Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  15. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  16. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  17. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  18. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  19. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  20. Clover, White Clover, Trifolium repens
  21. Common Stretch Spider, Tetragnatha extensa
  22. Copper Underwing Moth, Amphipyra pyramidoides [green caterpillar with white pinstripes]
  23. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  24. Crane Fly, Subgenus: Hesperotipula
  25. Creeping Snowberry, Symphoricarpos mollis
  26. Cricket, Arboreal Camel Cricket, Gammarotettix bilobatus
  27. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  28. Dragonfly, Eight-Spotted Skimmer, Libellula forensic
  29. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  30. Elm Leaf Pouch Gall Aphid, Rice Root Aphid, Tetraneura nigriabdominalis
  31. Elm Tree, Field Elm, Ulmus minor
  32. False Black Widow Spider, Steatoda grossa
  33. Fan Palms, Washingtonia sp.
  34. Fiddleneck, Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  35. Flies, Cluster Flies, Pollenia sp.
  36. Flies, Muscoid Flies, Superfamily: Muscoidea
  37. Flies, Sawflies, Suborder: Symphyta
  38. Grasses, Common Soft Brome, Bromus hordeaceus
  39. Grasses, Ripgut Brome, Bromus diandrus
  40. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  41. Horsetail, Rough Horsetail, Equisetum hyemale
  42. Italian Cypress, Mediterranean Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens
  43. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
  44. Lady Beetle, Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  45. Large-Tailed Aphideater, Eupeodes volucris [hoverfly]
  46. Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
  47. Lorquin’s Admiral Butterfly, Limenitis lorquini
  48. Lupine, Sky Lupine, Lupinus nanus
  49. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  50. Mirid Bug, Irbisia sp.
  51. Mistletoe Gall, Mistletoes, Tribe: Visceae
  52. Mistletoe, Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron macrophyllum
  53. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  54. Non-Biting Midges, Cricotopus sp.
  55. Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus oreganus
  56. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  57. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  58. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  59. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  60. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  61. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  62. Pin-Cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa [bright orange, apothecia, close, piled]
  63. Pineappleweed, Chamomilla suaveolens
  64. Stonecrop, Moss Pygmy Weed, Crassula connata [tiny, red]
  65. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  66. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  67. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  68. Western Boxelder Bug, Boisea rubrolineata
  69. Western Lynx Spider, Oxyopes scalaris
  70. Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio rutulus
  71. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  72. White Mulberry, Morus alba
  73. White-Winged March Fly, Bibio albipennis
  74. Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Euura californica
  75. Willow Leaf tiers, bundles:
  76. Willow Rosette Gall Midge, Rabdophaga salicisbrassicoides
  77. Willow, Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  78. Willow Fold Gall Sawfly, Euura sp. [Phyllocolpa sp.]
  79. Willow, Narrowleaf Willow, Sandbar Willow, Salix exigua
  80. Willow, Scouler’s Willow, Salix scouleriana
  81. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  82. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli

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