Category Archives: Firsts

Disappointed at Lake Solano Park, 09-10-22

I was supposed to go gall hunting with my friend Roxanna up Drum Powerhouse Road, but the Mosquito Fire thwarted us. Smoke from the wild fire was making conditions hazardous, and emergency and fire-vehicles were blocking some of the roads. The galls don’t migrate so they will still be there when the danger has passed, just not in time for Gall Week, which ends tomorrow. I’m still looking forward to be able to go up there again.  In Sacramento, the temperature got up to a smoky and very humid 87º, but the air quality was bad: 484 AQI (Hazardous)  .

Since Drum Powerhouse was off the table, we decided instead to try Lake Solano Park. We hadn’t been there for a while, and it was further away from the wildfire than we were in Sacramento. Last year we found some galls, and also saw an osprey with a fish and a family of otters in the lake. CLICK HERE for last year’s photo album. We were hoping for a lot, but got very little.

In the parking lot, kitty corner from the Putah Creek Café, we knew there was a nonnative Southern Live Oak tree hat had galls on it in the years before, so we went looking for it. I had remembered it being closer to the edge of the parking lot, but it was more toward the middle. We were able to find the galls, so I was happy about that and hoped it bode well for our day’s excursion. The galls were of the Wool-Bearing Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuslanigera, another nonnative.

According to cecidologist Joyce Gross: “…This oak is not native in California but is sometimes planted in parks and other locations in the state. The galls on this oak are made by wasps also not native to California. Both the oak and wasp are native to the eastern U.S…” I think that is sooooo cool!

We knew the park didn’t open until 8:00 AM, so we decided to go to the café for some breakfast. Roxanne treated. So nice!  Oddly enough, it didn’t open until 8:00 AM either, so we had to sit and wait anyway. *Sigh* I was impatient to get moving.

When we finally got inside the café, we noticed that their menu had shrunk significantly since the last time we were there. Roxanne and I both had biscuits and gravy, with two over-medium eggs, and a side of bacon. Their food is really good there, and the portions are generous. I wasn’t able to eat everything on my plate.

Certified California Naturalist Roxanne at the Putah Creek Café.

A little before 9:00 AM, we headed over to Lake Solano Park, and pulled into Parking Lot E where we usually park and then walk along the edge of the lake. The whole lot was taken over by a group of exceeding rude people who hogged the parking spaces with big-ass trucks and SUVs, and had their inflatable boards and kayaks spread out all over the open bits of asphalt. 

I had forgotten my handicapped placard, so we couldn’t park in the only two spaces available. It was so frustrating. As we turned around and drove out of the lot, the fat male who was at the center of the group gave us an overly dramatic crooked smirk, made a big show of waving bye-bye, and made some rude remark under his breath. It was like dealing with a bunch of ill-mannered five-year-olds. That kind of ruined our whole experience at the park. We didn’t feel like we could walk where we wanted to, or see what we wanted to see because those horrible people cut off our access on land and then occupied the water.

It seemed to me that most of the oak trees I would normally visit had been removed or so devastated by last year’s fires that they hadn’t recovered enough to put out sufficient leaves for the gall wasps to lay their eggs on.

We saw petiole galls on the cottonwood trees, and were surprised that they had a pink blush on them.  We also found some Oak Apple that looked pink. I wondered if the pigment was related to last year’s wildfires; if the ground had been contaminated by the fire and the lack of a lot of clean water (rain) in the area. I also found what looked like a petiole gall on the BRANCH of a tree instead of on the petiole of the leaf.

Roxanne came across a very large, beautiful spider sitting on a live oak leaf, and near the same area I found a small colorful jumping spider. On any other day, those finds would have lifted my spirits, but I had been so knocked down by the mob of rude people, that I just couldn’t enjoy the moments of discovery.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Galls were few and far between, but Roxanne found what looked like a Crystalline Gall on the leaf of a Valley Oak. Usually, those are on Blue Oaks, not Valley.  But the Blue and the Valley are both in the “white oak” lineage, and the galls can occasionally cross from one white oak to another. The same wasp galls that lay eggs on white oaks, won’t cross the line to lay their eggs on red or intermediate oaks, however. Here’s a simple graph of the oak lineages of California oaks.

There are 18 oak trees that are native to California. Here you see them broken down by “lineage”.
Lineage is defined by the color of the wood of the trees and the kind of acorns they carry.
White oaks may cross breed between other white oaks, but they won’t cross breed with Red or Intermediate oaks.

The birdwatching aspect of our walk was pretty unproductive; I think it just gets too hot and muggy for them to be out much. We did see some Turkey Vultures hanging out on a burned up tree; black on black, it was kind of eerie. We also caught a glimpse of a peahen with one little poult before they ran off down a slope – that was right where the rude people were, so we missed seeing the mama and baby again. *Sigh*

We saw the ubiquitous Acorn Woodpeckers, some Bushtits and White-Breasted Nuthatches, a few Lesser Goldfinches, and a new-to-me Willow Flycatcher. In the water were some Double-Crested Cormorants, Canada Geese, and a small flock of female Mergansers who seemed to be catch a lot of little fish as they swam along. 

The big surprise, though, was seeing a trio of American White Pelicans drifting through the water.

We walked for about 2½ hours, by which time it was getting way too hot and humid for me, so we headed home. This was hike #49 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

All the while we were on our walk, and for hours after I got home, I didn’t open my new little Hydro Cell thermos. Around 4:00 PM, I finally opened it with the intention of cleaning it out, and was VERY surprised to find that the ice I had put into it around 5:30 this morning was still there! Wow! I’ve never had a thermos work this well before. It’s a keeper. [[Mine is the wide mouth version. Sooooo impressed!]]

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Arabesque Orbweaver, Neoscona arabesca [related to Spotted Orbweaver]
  5. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  6. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  7. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  8. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  9. California Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  10. Cattail, Broad-Leaved Cattail, Typha latifolia
  11. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  12. Common Merganser, American Common Merganser, Mergus merganser americanus
  13. Cottonwood Stem Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populiramulor
  14. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus [on Valley Oak!]
  15. Damselfly, Familiar Bluet, Enallagma civile
  16. Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula [round flat, “spangle gall”]
  17. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  18. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  19. Goldenrod, Western Goldenrod, Euthamia occidentalis
  20. Gray Buckeye Butterfly, Junonia grisea
  21. Johnson’s Jumping Spider, Phidippus johnsoni
  22. Jumping Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  23. Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii [eggs]
  24. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  25. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  26. Mistletoe, Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron macrophyllum
  27. Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
  28. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  29. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  30. Oak, Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  31. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  32. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  33. Oak, Southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana [endemic to the southeastern U.S.]
  34. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  35. Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis [scat]
  36. Peahen, Peafowl, Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus
  37. Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus [on cottonwoo
  38. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  39. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Cynips douglasii [summer, asexual generation, pink, spiky top]
  40. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  41. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  42. Willow Flycatcher, Empidonax traillii
  43. Willow, Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  44. Wool-Bearing Gall Wasp, Druon quercuslanigerum

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Back Up Ice House Road Again, 08-27-22

I got up around 5:00 AM to get ready to head out to Ice House Road with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne. It was cool and breezy all morning; got up to about 88º in the late afternoon. I like weather like that.

I had been looking forward to this excursion all week.  I was hoping to see different galls on the oak trees, willows, and other plants up there. In 2021, we saw Fireweed in bloom and gooseberries fruiting around the end of July. CLICK HERE to see last year’s album.

Although the galls were few and far between (not a lot of oak trees up there; it’s mostly a conifer forest), we ended up finding quit a few things I had never seen before, so that was fun! The only oak trees we found were Black Oaks, and the only gall I saw on the oak was a Ruptured Twig Gall.

One super-cool find on a Black Oak was a little family of Oak Treehoppers. Mom was the “spotted” version of the species. (There’s also a turquoise striped version. Some of the stuff I read about the species is that the spotted may morph into the turquoise version later in the season.) The babies looked like tiny African masks painted red, black and white with black “horns” sticking out of them.

The mom we saw refused to leave the branch her babies were on, even though she was winged and could have fled if she wanted to. She also stuck close to her kids, and some of the photos we got seemed to show her “kissing” her babies.

According to the University of Florida: “…Beamer (1930) even observed maternal instinct in females of Platycotis vittata on oak in California. Females were observed to ‘stand sentinel’ between their respective colonies of nymphs and the body of the tree. A female would allow herself to be picked up rather than fly away from her perch. Beamer watched one female repel a small vespid wasp approximately a dozen times from her colony of nymphs. After the vespid apparently grew discouraged and flew away, ‘…the membracid flew to her young, crawled over the spot where the vespid had alighted, apparently examined to see that they were uninjured; then making sure all was well again flew to the twig just below the nest, turned her head toward her young and stood immobile.’…” Awwww!

According to the North Carolina State University: “…Females mate more than once, but only the sperm of her last suitor is used to fertilize her 40 or so eggs. This insect overwinters as females in leaf litter. They emerge and lay their eggs the following spring. When the eggs hatch, the new nymphs gather around a slit in the bark made by the female. The Nymphs apparently feed at the slit and the female broods over them. Females definitely protect their nymphs by bumping predators. Second generation eggs are laid in August and these hatch and develop into the overwintering forms. Nymphs have two tiny ‘spikes’ on their backs and they tend to be contrastingly marked with white, black, and red…”

AmericanInsects.com reaffirmed the information from the NCSU but offered some more clarifying details: “…Wood, et al. (1984) noted that many females of this species mate more than once, with the first mating often taking place even before the female’s ovaries are mature. The sperm of the last male to mate with a female, however, is the sperm that is used to fertilize the eggs. Wood and his colleagues reasoned that the early matings were ‘insurance,’ with the sperm stored for possible use after the ovaries have matured. This ‘insurance mating’ is necessary because males tend not to live as long as females, and females may not be able to find a mate after the ovaries are mature. However, if the late season mating does take place, it is with a male that presumably has superior genes for longevity, and these are the sperm used to fertilize the eggs. Mating may last up to 24 hours, with the males apparently dragging out the process to prevent another male from mating with the female. Platycotis vittata also has an unusually long ‘waiting period’ between mating and oviposition, ranging from an average of 29 days for females who mated more than once, to 39 days for females who mated just once. Females lay about 40 eggs each…The Spring-hatched treehopper females oviposit in August and the nymphs hatch out in September, in time to feed as the tree sends nutrients from the canopy to the roots…”

That the second season would happen when the sap was flowing DOWN the tree to the roots for the winter, is sooooo interesting to me. Nature thinks of everything and wastes nothing.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Other new-to-me species included some small, pouty, yellow Keckiella flowers; some spidery, white White-Topped Aster flowers; a striped Sierra Dome Spider; a bristly yellow-footed Tachina fly; some different Manzanita galls (apparently there’s one species of aphid that makes three kinds of galls of those trees); some frilly, purple Sierra Lessingia flowers; and many, many Bush Chinquapin trees with their hedgehog-like-covered nuts on them. And I think I spotted some flower galls on the drying-up male flowers. So cool! It’s always fun to come across surprises like that.

Among the other insects we saw were some California Sister butterflies (which I get mixed up with the Lorquin’s Admirals all the time), a few Acmon Blue butterflies, an Urbane Digger Bee, and a Weevil Wasp (feeding on buckwheat flowers).

Another surprise was to see several bright green examples of the “witches broom” phenomenon on what we thought might have been bitter cherry or chokecherry trees and twigs.  Rox spotted a tree covered with them, so we pulled off to the side of the road to get a closer look.

“…Witches’ broom is a common affliction of many trees and shrubs. It can be caused by several different vectors. Witches’ broom earns its name by producing a plethora of small, distorted branches that grow very close together, giving these clumps of branches the appearance of a witches’ broom… Though witches’ broom on a cherry can develop from any damage, it can also be caused by a fungal pathogen known as Taphrina, specifically T. cerasi or T. wiesneri. This fungal disease causes close bunches of quick growing, small branches to form on other cherry tree branches. If left alone, these new branches usually bloom and drop their leaves earlier than other branches of the tree…” [GardeningKnowhow.com]

Although we didn’t see many birds or mammals around, we did get to see a couple of chipmunks. We don’t have those down here on the valley floor. Cute little buggers.

We were out for about 8 hours, but that included travel time and a stop for an in-the-car picnic lunch.  It was a long day, but I learned a lot and saw a lot of things I wasn’t expecting to see. Fun!

Species List:

  1. Acmon Blue Butterfly, Icaricia acmon
  2. Bare-Bottom Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza weberi
  3. Bee, Urbane Digger Bee, Anthophora urbana [gray and black, bluish eyes]
  4. Bigleaf Maple Tree, Acer macrophyllum
  5. Bitter Cherry, Prunus emarginata
  6. Bitter Lettuce, Lactuca virosa
  7. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  8. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
  9. Bristle Fly, Ptilodexia sp.
  10. Broad-Leaved Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium
  11. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare
  12. Bumblebee, Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee, Bombus vosnesenskii
  13. Bush Chinquapin, Chrysolepis sempervirens
  14. California Fuchsia, Epilobium canum
  15. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  16. California Sister Butterfly, Adelpha californica
  17. California Turret Spider, Atypoides riversi
  18. Cherry Tree Witches Broom, Taphrina wiesneri [on Prunus sp. trees]
  19. Chipmunk, Long-Eared Chipmunk, Neotamias quadrimaculatus
  20. Cinder Lichen, Aspicilia cinerea [gray on rocks]
  21. Columbine, Western Columbine, Aquilegia formosa
  22. Devil’s Beggarticks, Bidens frondosa
  23. Dog Pelt Lichen, Peltigera canina
  24. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  25. Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii
  26. Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
  27. Fern, Hairy Brackenfern, Pteridium aquilinum var. pubescens [variation of Common Bracken]
  28. Flower Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus castanopsidis [ n the male flowers of chinquapin]
  29. Fly, Bristle Fly, Ptilodexia sp.
  30. Goldenrod, Velvety Goldenrod, Solidago velutina
  31. Grass, Squirreltail Grass, Elymus elymoides
  32. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  33. Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis [eggs]
  34. Hooded Tube Lichen, Hypogymnia physodes
  35. Incense Cedar, California Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
  36. Leafhopper, Momoria sp. [pink and green]
  37. Lupine, Dwarf Lupine, Lupinus lepidus
  38. Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Flower version, Tamalia coweni
  39. Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Leaf curl version, Tamalia coweni
  40. Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Midvien version, Tamalia coweni
  41. Manzanita, Greenleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos patula
  42. Mistletoe, Western Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum
  43. Monkeyflower, Seep Monkeyflower, Erythranthe guttata [yellow]
  44. Morning-Glory Leafminer Moth, Bedellia somnulentella
  45. Mortar Rim Lichen, Myriolecis dispersa [black/grey]
  46. Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
  47. Naked Buckwheat, Eriogonum nudum
  48. Oak Anthracnose Fungus, Apiognomonia errabunda [spots on Chinquapin leaves]
  49. Oak Ribbed Casemaker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella
  50. Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittate [looks like a thorn; mother and babies]
  51. Oak, California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  52. Pacific Aster, Symphyotrichum chilense
  53. Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea
  54. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa [three needles]
  55. Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota
  56. Rock Greenshield Lichen, Flavoparmelia baltimorensis
  57. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens [on live oaks, black oaks]
  58. Sierra Dome Spider, Neriene litigiosa [black and white stripes]
  59. Sierra Lessingia, Lessingia leptoclada [purple fringy-looking flowers in flocculent coverings]
  60. Single-Spored Map Lichen, Rhizocarpon disporum [black/gray on rocks]
  61. Spring King Bolete Mushroom, Boletus rex-veris
  62. Stilt Bug, Family: Berytidae
  63. Sugar Pine Tree, Pinus lambertiana
  64. Treehopper, Gyponana sp. [pink head, yellowish body]
  65. Trembling Aspen, Populus tremuloides [white bark]
  66. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  67. Variable Wrinkle-Lichen, Tuckermanopsis orbata [green or brown]
  68. Weevil Wasp, Cerceris sp. [small, yellow and black, amber wings]
  69. Western Morning Glory, Calystegia occidentalis [seed pods have 4-5 black seeds in them]
  70. Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica
  71. White Fir, Abies concolor
  72. White-Topped Aster, Sericocarpus sp.
  73. Witch’s Hair Lichen, Alectoria sarmentosa [on fir trees]
  74. Wolf Lichen, Letharia vulpine [bright yellow-green]
  75. Woodland Woollythreads, Monolopia gracilens
  76. Yarrow, Fern-leaf Yarrow, Achillea filipendulina [yellow]
  77. Yellow Keckiella Flower, Keckiella sp.
  78. Yellow Salsify, Tragopogon dubius
  79. Yellow-Footed Tachinid Fly, Tachina sp.
  80. ?? flower head gall on goldenrod
  81. ?? tiny cocoon on manzanita leaf

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More Galls at J-S Park, 08-01-22

I got up around 5:00 AM to get the dogs fed and pottied, and then got myself ready to go to Johnson-Springview Park in Rocklin with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne, by 6:00 AM. It was mostly cloudy and very humid all day thanks to once-was-a-hurricane Frank. The humidity really got to me, especially as the morning warmed up. Nevertheless, we still managed to stay out for about 4 hours. 

The park has a nice mix of heritage blue oaks, valley oaks, and live oaks, along with a few different species of willows and other plants along Antelope Creek. We were focused pretty much on just the galls we could find in the front park of the park, along the same route as the disk-golf range. We didn’t go into the back of the park on this trip where there are more valley oaks than anything else; maybe next time.

Among the many, many galls we found were some Round Honeydew galls which I hadn’t found anywhere else yet. They were even oozing honeydew!

There were quite a few Gray Midrib galls which were still in their green phase and hadn’t gone gray yet. That told me we were a little early checking out all of the gall there. Some, like the Coral Galls hadn’t erupted yet. We also didn’t find the Disc, Convoluted and Peach galls I was hoping to see.

On the other hand, as in other places this year, the Crystalline galls here were in profusion. I don’t remember ever seeing this many in a single season before. We also found quite a few Hair Stalk galls.(Usually we’ll maybe fine ONE per outing; today we found about a dozen!)

We also found the Blue Oak Erineum mite galls I was hoping to find. I’ve never found them anywhere except on one specific tree in this park. According to Russo: “…The concave depressions [on the back of the leaves] are covered with whitish hairs, among which the mites feed…” I took a few photos of the hairs, but even with the macro lens, they were hair to capture.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

A couple of fun finds for me: there were a number of the old spring generation galls of the Striped Volcano gall wasp. Like the tiny volcano galls we see in the summer, the spring generation galls are on the margins of the leaf on blue oak, but rather than being volcano-shaped, the spring galls are round and kind of papery with a blue-black interior. And, as is the case with two generation galls wasps, this one has a bisexual generation (spring, males and females) and an asexual generation (summer, females only). So cool!

We also found just one specimen of the Flange Gall Wasp gall. It looks like a fat little button with a ring of protruding triangular flanges coming out of the bottom of it. Fellow naturalist Karlyn Lewis had found some of these on her excursions in Rockville. [See her website.]

We came across a pale orange-pink caterpillar on one of the trees. I think it’s the caterpillar of a Dagger Moth. I was able to get a few close ups of it, including its little fat face, mouth parts and eyes.

“…Most Caterpillars have six very simple eyes on each side of the head (making 12 in all), although some species have five or seven each side. These light sensitive structures are called ocelli or stemmata. These probably only sense light and dark, and do not distinguish shapes or color…”

“…A caterpillar’s maxillae (small mouth parts that are under the mandibles) have taste cells; these chemical detectors tell the caterpillar to eat when the food is appropriate, and not to eat when the food is not appropriate. The tiny antennae, which are near the mouth parts, sense smells…”

I took over 380 photos with just my cellphone! Good thing I brought my charger pack with me. When we were “galled out” we looked for other critters like birds and squirrels and came across a male Nuttall’s Woodpecker who let us take some photos and video of him.

We also watched the antics of the ground squirrels who have a whole colony-thing going in the middle lawn of the park.

And we pulled some of the discolored and deformed acorns from the oaks so I could take a look at what was happening inside of them when I got home. [I really need Xacto blades for work like that. The house-knives are too big and just mess up a lot of what’s inside the acorn or gall or whatever.]

Like I said, we were out for about 4 hours and by then it was too hot and humid to do any more walking. This was hike #46 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

We then drove over to the Granite Rock Grille for brunch. I had a large plate of biscuits and gravy (the biscuits were sooooo light and fluffy), a fruit bowl on the side, and a spicy Bacon Bloody Mary to drink. They use jalapeño salt around the rim of the glass, which adds an extra kick to the drink. (I only like spicy Bloody Mary’s; the plain ones are just… yuck.)

Species List:

  1. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  2. Blue Oak Erineum Mite, Aceria trichophila
  3. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  4. Catalpa, Northern Catalpa, Catalpa speciosa
  5. Cattail, Narrowleaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  6. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  7. Clustered Gall Wasp, Andricus brunneus
  8. Coral Gall Wasp, Burnettweldia corallina
  9. Corn, Zea mays
  10. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus
  11. Cucumber, Cucumis sativus
  12. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  13. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto [heard]
  14. Fimbriate Gall Wasp, Andricus opertus
  15. Fuzzy-Gall Wasp, Cynips conspicuus [round mealy bumpy; on Valley oak]
  16. Gouty Stem Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercussuttoni
  17. Grasses, Dallis Grass, Paspalum dilatatum
  18. Gray Midrib Gall Wasp, Cynips multipunctata
  19. Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
  20. Hair Stalk Gall Wasp, Andricus pedicellatus [thread gall on blue oak]
  21. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  22. Marbled Oak Dagger Moth, Acronicta marmorata [pinkish-orange caterpillar, sparse fine hairs]
  23. Mayfly, Speckled Dun, Callibaetis pictus [small, tan or brownish]
  24. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  25. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  26. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  27. Oak Powdery Mildew, Erysiphe alphitoides
  28. Oak, Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  29. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  30. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  31. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  32. Plate Gall Wasp, Andricus pattersonae
  33. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  34. Rosette Gall Wasp, Andricus wiltzae [on Valley Oak]
  35. Round Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis canescens
  36. Round-Gall Wasp, Fuzzy Gall, Burnettweldia washingtonensis [round, fuzzy, on twigs]
  37. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas
  38. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Cynips douglasii [summer, asexual generation, pink, spiky top]
  39. Striped Volcano Gall Wasp, Andricus atrimentus, asexual, summer generation [looks like a tiny volcano]
  40. Striped Volcano Gall Wasp, Andricus atrimentus, bisexual spring generation [looks like a papery ball with a black interior]
  41. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  42. Tarweed,  Common Tarweed, Spikeweed, Centromadia pungens [prickly]
  43. Tarweed, Fitch’s Tarweed, Centromadia fitchii
  44. Urchin Gall Wasp, Cynips quercusechinus
  45. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  46. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  47. Willow, Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  48. Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii
  49. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli
  50. Zinnia, Elegant Zinnia, Zinnia elegans

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A Day in Yolo County, 06-22-22

I got up around 5:00 AM this morning and got the dogs fed and pottied before getting myself ready to go out on outing with my friend Roxanne. We ended up going up to Woodland with stops at County Road 22 and the Ibis Rookery, and then circling around to Davis afterward. So it was a Yolo County day.

It was another hot day (got up to 100º), so we knew that wherever we went, we’d have to cut our outing a little short to beat the heat. When we got to Woodland, we went down Road 22 which parallels the freeway. There’s a slough there that usually has some water in it, and I knew there were rose bushes, buttonbush, tules, willows and other shrubs long there that I hoped would present us with some insects, galls and spiders.

What originally caught my attention, though, were spiny clusters of sort of prickly burs on plants all along part of the road. I at first thought the clusters were a kind of gall I’d never seen before and I was super-excited about that. Then Rox calmed me down and we studied the plant more closely; no thorns, burs were like cocklebur but in bunches, compound leaves,  the leaves and stalks were slightly sticky (glandular)… I took some photos and posted them to iNaturalist. The plants were Wild Licorice! I’d never seen that plant before, so even though it wasn’t a new kind gall, it was a new plant I could add to my species list for the year.

We saw cities of Spotted Orb-Weaver Spiders, but none of the spiders were very big yet. Give them a few weeks; they’ll bulk up. I also found one crab spider. But overall the showing wasn’t as impressive as I thought it might be.

We did see galls on some of the willows (which I think were Interior Sandbar Willows because that’s the species most often associated with ag land in that area): a few pinecone galls and some stem galls.

On the rose bushes we found a few Spiny Leaf Galls and some fat Leafy Bract Galls. I also found a few midvein galls on the leaves of some of the bushes. I don’t know if they were “aborted” spiny galls or something else. I found them on several different bushes, but they were all the same: brown, hard, on the midvein, and about the same size.

There was one other rose bush that looked all but dead, but with a few leaves at the very top of the otherwise gray leafless canes, and some green canes sticking out of the bottom of it. At the base of that were tufts of “witch’s broom”: tough but pliable filaments in clusters attached to the stem. This is evidence of Rose Rosette Virus (RRV). Very cool. I was hoping to find some Mossy Rose Galls on the bushes, but I didn’t see any.  Definitely worth going back in a week or so to see how things have developed.

“…Rose Rosette Disease (RRD) is a devastating disease of roses. It makes the rose unsightly because of abnormal growth of the rose plant tissue. Symptoms such as witches’ brooms, excessive thorniness, enlarged canes, malformed leaves and flowers are associated with this disease. This disease has been reported since the early 1940s but only in 2011 did research demonstrate that it is caused by a virus, aptly named the Rose Rosette Virus (RRV). Diagnosis of RRD prior to 2011 was primarily done based on observed symptoms and the presence of the eriophyid mite that is believed to be the vector of RRV…” (https://roserosette.org/

There was a small stand of Showy Milkweed plants in another spot on the roadway, but we didn’t see any Monarch eggs or caterpillars. In fact, the plants were pretty much devoid of all insects – which freaks me out.[READ THIS article about the collapse of insect populations in California.]

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa

There were two dead animals on either side of the road at one spot: a raccoon and a deer. The raccoon carcass was pretty well gone-over, but there was a lot left for the vultures and other critters on the deer carcass. I know some folks think its gruesome that I take photos of the dead things, but death is all part of the cycle…and it’s interesting to me to see how the carcasses are broken down by the scavenging cleanup crews.

We then drove over to the former Ibis Rookery to see what might be there. There were may three or four Ibises sitting on nests in the main settling pond, but they were so far away, there was no way I could get photos of them. That is sooooo disappointing.

There were a few Barn Swallows flitting around the fence lines, and a flock of American White Pelicans fishing together very near the edge of the pond. I think they were actually scooping up frogs along with little fish. In the video snippets I took, I thought I could see frogs jumping away from them.

Along another side of the pond there were some Black-Necked Stilts, some of them wading, some of them swimming, and some of them screaming loudly and doing this odd repetitive wing-flapping thing.  I also saw one fly up onto the road and sit down, like it was sitting on a nest, then got up and flew off in another directions.

I looked up these behaviors in Cornell, and found the following: “…During Wing-flagging Display, calls resemble a warble… Distraction displays include Wing-flagging Display (while both sitting and standing), [and] False Incubation Display… In Wing-flagging Display, wings are partly extended and raised up and down; often only one wing at a time is extended, and the individual may sit, stand, or alternate between sitting and standing while performing the display. In False Incubating Display, individuals crouch on the ground as if incubating eggs, then rise and move to another spot and sit again…”

There were several different species of dragonflies buzzing around, but no one stopped long enough for me to get a photo of them. Dangit! I did get to capture some photos of a pair of damselflies “in wheel”, though, and that’s always cool.

We saw quite a few cottontail rabbits and one young jackrabbit while we were heading out. 

A drive past the smaller settling ponds yielded little because all of the birds were outside the range of my camera. (Sooooo frustrating!) I did manage to spot and get some VERY blurry images of a Redhead Duck, some Rudy Ducks, and a pair of grebes. The only fairly good photo I got from that side of the road was of some Black-Crowned Night Herons standing on the rocks along the edge of the pond.

After that, we drove into Davis for some brunch at the Crepeville restaurant. On the way, we passed fields of safflower and stopped at a sunflower field to get some photos. Oddly, only every third row or so of the sunflowers were in bloom. We wondered if those were a different species than the others.

By the time we got back to the house, it was100º F outside – and completely overcast. So weird. I think we were getting the edge of a passing monsoon. We were out for about 6 hours.

Species List:

  1. Alkali Heliotrope, Heliotropium curassavicum
  2. Alkali Mallow, Malvella leprosa
  3. American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana
  4. American Coot, Fulica americana
  5. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  6. Ant, Immigrant Pavement Ant, Tetramorium immigrans
  7. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  8. Bisnaga, Visnaga daucoides
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [red canes]
  11. Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
  12. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  13. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  14. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  15. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  16. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
  17. Case-Bearing Leaf Beetle, Cryptocephalus castaneus
  18. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus [road kill]
  19. Crab Spider, Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia
  20. Damselfly, Familiar Bluet, Enallagma civile
  21. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii
  22. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  23. Grebe, Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  24. Grebe, Western Grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis [black below the eye]
  25. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  26. Hoverfly, Margined Calligrapher, Toxomerus marginatus
  27. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  28. Leafhopper, Tribe: Empoascini
  29. Leaf-Mining Trumpet Moth, Tischeria sp.
  30. Leafy Bract Gall Wasp, Diplolepis californica [hard rosette gall on rose bush]
  31. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  32. Mantis, Arizona Mantis, Stagmomantis limbata [large ootheca]
  33. Milkweed, Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  34. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  35. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  36. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  37. Raccoon, Common Raccoon, Procyon lotor [road kill]
  38. Redhead Duck, Aythya americana
  39. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  40. Rose Rosette Disease, Rose rosette emaravirus [carried by mites]
  41. Rose, California Wild Rose, Rosa californica [pink]
  42. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  43. Safflower, Carthamus tinctorius
  44. Slough Sedge, Carex obnupta
  45. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  46. Spiny Leaf Gall Wasp, Diplolepis polita [on rose leaves]
  47. Sunflower, Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus [agricultural]
  48. Swallow, Barn Swallow, American Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica erythrogaster
  49. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  50. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
  51. Western Spotted Orbweaver, Neoscona oaxacensis
  52. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
  53. Wild Licorice, Glycyrrhiza lepidota
  54. Willow Beaked-Gall Midge, Rabdophaga rigidae
  55. Willow Pinecone Gall Midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides
  56. Willow Stem Sawfly, Euura exiguae
  57. Willow, Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  58. ?? Hard gall on the midvein of rose leaves

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