Dr. Seuss-Like Seed Heads at Folsom Lake!, 05-31-23

I was up around 6:00 AM so I could feed and potty my dog, Esteban, and then get myself ready to head out to Rocklin and Johnson-Springview Park with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne. We were looking for springtime galls.

There aren’t a whole lot of spring galls (most of the galls appear in the summer months), so the pickings were kind of slim. We did find a few, however, including a few Hair Stalk Galls, a Fimbriate Gall, the bisexual spring generation gall of the Stripe Volcano Wasp, and Oak Apples in the BLUE oak trees. Yes, in blue oaks; you usually only see them on Valley Oak trees. But the Blue Oaks and the Valley Oaks are both in the white oak lineage, so there can be crossover between those trees. Here’s how those lineages look on the oaks native to California:

The Blue and Valley Oaks in this park also grow very close to one another, and some, I’m sure have been hybridized.

We saw a few, but not very many, insects, and I’m going to raise the alarm again about the fact that we’re losing insect species every year; even I can see that.

“…The world has lost 5% to 10% of all insect species in the last 150 years — or between 250,000 and 500,000 species, according to a February 2020 study in the journal Biological Conservation. Those losses are continuing, though estimates vary due to patchy data as well as uncertainty over how many insects exist…One April 2020 analysis in the journal Science suggested the planet is losing about 9% of its land-dwelling insect population each decade. Another January 2021 paper tried to paint a clearer picture by synthesizing more than 80 insect studies and found that insect abundance is declining around 1% to2% per year. For comparison, the human population is growing at slightly less than 1% per year…The demise of insects can’t be attributed to any single cause. Populations are facing simultaneous threats, from habitat loss and industrial farming to climate change. Nitrogen overloading from sewage and fertilizers has turned wetlands into dead zones; artificial light is flooding out nighttime skies; and the growth of urban areas has led to concrete sprawl…” –The Collapse of Insects

Among the insects we did see were aphids, Mirid bugs, a lacewing larva (commonly called an “aphid lion”), and ladybeetles. We found one lady beetle that had just emerged from its pupal case and was sitting on top of it while it “colored up”. Closer inspection of the pupal cases showed two silk threads anchoring the cases to their leaves. I had never seen that before. I wonder if it’s truly unusual or maybe species-specific.

At the park we also saw a few bird species including House Sparrows, Robins, Yellow-Billed Magpies, Scrub Jays, Lesser Gold Finches and House Finches, a few Killdeer, and Acorn Woodpeckers. One of the magpies was harassing a Fox Squirrel that was in IT’S tree. So much noise! The Goldfinches were eat seeds among a stand of thistles and oat grass.

There were stands of Harvest Brodiaea among the tall grasses on the ground. That was a little bit of a surprise as neither Roxanne nor I could remember seeing them in the park before. There was also more color in the small citizens’ garden there: snapdragons, sunflowers, sweet peas, marigolds, garlic and artichoke thistles.

On our way out of the park we got to see a California Ground Squirrel among the rocks. There was another ground squirrel giving off a loud and piercing alarm call. Here’s a 2019 video I took of a ground squirrel giving off that call.

After we were done in the park — having seen just about all we were going to see there today — we made a plan to go to brunch and then head off toward Folsom to see what we could see there. We decided to go to the Granite Rock Grill, one of our favorite haunts, for brunch. Their servings are always large, and the food is flavorful. What’s not to like?

Then we headed over to the Folsom Lake State Recreational Area and drove a few miles around the perimeter of the lake. The lake is actually a man-made reservoir, and is currently at about 85% capacity thanks to the intense winter rains and the current snow-melt.

I had actually never been to the lake myself, so it was all new to me. I was surprised by how many wildflowers were still in bloom around it. There were huge swaths of bright pink Elegant Clarkia, and Tiling’s and Bush Monkeyflowers, in some areas as far as the eye could see, That was true of the blooming Buckeye trees, too. They were all over the place.

We also found young Wild Carrots, Mule’s Ears, Spider Lupine, some Willowherbs, Rabbitfoot Clover, flowering Coffeeberry, Madia, and Harvest Brodiaea, and others.

Among some of the Harvest Brodiaea, we found several of them with galls in their stems. We’d seen old, dried out versions of these at Sailor Bar on the American River and thought they were associated with Ithuriel’s Spears. It didn’t occur to me that they were in the Harvest Brodiaea. The galls are caused by midges.

Another sweet find was seeing a collection of pink Twining Snakelilies along the side of the road winding their way through grasses and over fallen trees. And around the same area, the Pipestem Clematis was going into its seed form with Dr. Seuss-like heads on long tendrils. The clematis “… can climb to 20 feet and can take light shade or full sun…”

Beyond a single Great Egret, some Turkey Vultures, and some Canada Geese we really didn’t see much in the way of bird life. As far as I could tell from the views of the lake I got, the lake was pretty much devoid of water fowl.

Altogether, we saw a lot more than I thought we might! This was hike #31 of my #52hikechallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  3. American Wild Carrot, Daucus pusillus
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna [fly by]
  5. Aphid Lion, Carnea-Group Green Lacewings, Chrysoperla carnea
  6. Aphids, Family: Aphididae
  7. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  8. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  11. Chaparral Honeysuckle, Lonicera interrupta
  12. Clover, Rabbitfoot Clover, Trifolium arvense
  13. Clover, Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
  14. Coffeeberry, Frangula californica
  15. Common Madia, Madia elegans
  16. Common Saint John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum
  17. Cudweed, California Cudweed, Pseudognaphalium californicum
  18. Deerweed, Acmispon glaber
  19. Denseflower Willowherb, Epilobium densiflorum [fuzzy all over]
  20. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  21. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata
  22. Fimbriate Gall Wasp, Andricus opertus [on Valley or Blue Oak leaf]
  23. Foxglove, Purple Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea
  24. Garlic, Allium sativum
  25. Gladioli, Gladiolus sp.
  26. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  27. Hair Stalk Gall Wasp, Andricus pedicellatus [thread gall on blue oak]
  28. Harvest Brodiaea, Brodiaea elegans
  29. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  30. Ithuriel’s Spears, Triteleia laxa
  31. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
  32. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  33. Korean Mulberry, Morus indica [leaves aren’t lobed]
  34. Lady Beetle, Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  35. Leaf-Hopper, Zyginama sp. [pale with yellow markings]
  36. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  37. Lily Stem Gall Midge, Lasioptera sp. [on Itherial’s Spears and Harvest Brodiaea in the stem under the flowering head]
  38. Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, asexual summer generation, Amphibolips quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  39. Live Oak Erineum Mite, Aceria mackiei
  40. Love-in-a-Mclemist. Nigella damascena
  41. Lupine, Spider Lupine, Lupinus benthamii
  42. Mirid Bug, Plant Bug, Dichrooscytus sp.
  43. Mistletoe, Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron macrophyllum
  44. Monkeyflower, Orange Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  45. Monkeyflower, Tiling’s Monkeyflower, Erythranthe tilingii [yellow]
  46. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  47. Mule’s Ears, Narrowleaf Mule-Ears, Wyethia angustifolia [orange]
  48. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  49. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus [several on BLUE oaks]
  50. Oak Leaf Blister Fungus, Taphrina caerulescens
  51. Oak, Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  52. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  53. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  54. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  55. Ookow, Round-Tooth Ookow, Dichelostemma multiflorum
  56. Pea, Sweet Pea, Lathyrus odoratus
  57. Pipestem Clematis, Old Man’s Beard, Clematis lasiantha
  58. Pot Marigold, Calendula officinalis
  59. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus [fly over]
  60. Snapdragon, Antirrhinum majus
  61. Sparrow, House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  62. Striped Volcano Gall Wasp, Andricus atrimentus, bisexual spring generation [looks like a papery ball with a black interior]
  63. Sunflower, Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus
  64. Thistle, Artichoke Thistle, Cynara cardunculus
  65. Thistle, Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  66. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus [heard]
  67. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  68. Twining Snakelily, Dichelostemma volubile
  69. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana [fly by]
  70. Wild Oat, Avena fatua
  71. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  72. Willow, Salix sp.
  73. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
  74. Yellow Salsify, Tragopogon dubius
  75. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli

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