The Usual Suspects at Gristmill, 07-31-23

I got up around 5:30 this morning, fed and pottied my dog Esteban, and then went over to the Gristmill Recreation Area for a walk. I got out early in an attempt to beat today’s forecasted heat. I was hoping to see some butterflies and dragonflies but didn’t see a single one. *Sad face emoji*

Most of the flowering trees and plants were near or at the end of their bloom period, so offering few options for pollinators. I did see a lot of bees all along the trail flying low to the ground. This is usually the behavior of ground-dwelling bees looking for a new nesting spot.

According to an article posted on the 8 Billion Trees website, “Ground-Nesting Bees Identification Chart: 77 Kinds of Bees Live in the Ground”, the wild Western Honey Bee is a ground dweller, although they can develop hives in a variety of places. The bees I saw didn’t seem to be “coordinated”; they weren’t swarming. They seemed to be flying independent of one another, but also seemed to be everywhere I looked.

One of the first places I went was down the boat ramp to the rocky bank of the American River. I wanted to check out the cottonwood and willows along there. It’s really hard for me to walk on such uneven ground, so I had to move very slowly, and kept as close to the trees and shrubs along the bank. The water in the river has gone down quite a lot, exposing more of the bank, but not so much that I could walk down the bank as far as I wanted to.

American River. You can see how the water cuts off the bank here,

I saw the ubiquitous Canada Geese and Mallard, but among them, on the rocks and “islands” in the river, were lots of Spotted Sandpipers in their breeding spots. They were fun to see. I also saw some Bushtits, and heard birds like Scrub Jays, Nuttall’s Woodpeckers, Spotted Towhees, and Oak Titmice.

On the cottonwood trees along the bank, I saw both the Bead-Like aphid galls along the edges of the leaves, and the more hefty Cottonwood Petiole Galls. I don’t usually see galls, other than the Oak Apples, on the oak trees in this area, but today I found quite a few Spined Turban Galls. On the willow trees were both the Willow Rose Galls (found on the terminal end of branches) and the similar Willow Rosette Gall (found on the stems of the plant), and some Willow Apple galls.

I don’t know if the “convulsive” weather we’ve had this year has been messing with the gall formers (resulting in fewer galls seen overall so far), or if the gall formers themselves are dying out (like other insect species are around the globe). It will be interesting to see what the gall numbers are like by the end of the year.

Among the mammals, I saw Black-Tailed Jackrabbits, California Ground Squirrels, and some Eastern Fox Squirrels (one with a mouthful of nesting material that it carried up a tree). And the reptiles were represented by the Western Fence Lizard.

I was out for about 2 ½ hours. This was hike #41 of my #52hikechallenge for 2023.

Species List:

  1. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Aceria fraxiniflora
  2. Ash Leafcurl Aphid, Prociphilus fraxinifolii
  3. Ash Petiole Gall Midge, Dasineura tumidosae
  4. Bead-Like Cottonwood Gall Aphid, Thecabius populimonilis [leaf edges]
  5. Bees, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  6. Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia
  7. Black Walnut, Northern California Black Walnut, Juglans hindsii
  8. Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [red canes, white flowers]
  9. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  10. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  11. California Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  12. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  14. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  15. Cottonwood Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus obesinympha
  16. Coyote Tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata
  17. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  18. Elm Tree, Field Elm, Ulmus minor
  19. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  20. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  21. Green Lacewing, Family: Chrysopidae
  22. Leaf-Miner Flies, Family: Agromyzidae
  23. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  24. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  25. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  26. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  27. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  28. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  29. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  30. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  31. Roses, California Wild Rose, Rosa californica [pink]
  32. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Cynips douglasii, unisexual, Summer generation [on leaf]
  33. Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularius
  34. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  35. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  36. Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Euura californica
  37. Willow Rose Gall Midge, Rabdophaga rosaria [on the terminal end]
  38. Willow Rosette Gall Midge, Rabdophaga salicisbrassicoides [on the stem]
  39. Willow, Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  40. Willow, Narrowleaf Willow, Sandbar Willow, Salix exigua

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