Category Archives: Firsts

And More Galls at the Cosumnes Preserve, 08-03-20

I got up around 5:30 this morning, and headed out the door with my friend Roxanne to check out the Cosumnes River Preserve.  It was 64° when we got there – already almost too hot to start a walk – and got up to 99° by the late afternoon. 

On our way to the preserve, we spotted a couple Red-Tailed Hawks and what we believe was a Swainson’s Hawk, and also saw a coyote loping across a field. When we got to Twin Cities Road, we took the route around Bruceville and Desmond Roads to see if we could spot anything in the fields around there.

Not a whole lot is happening out there right now because the cattle weren’t using the land, and there’s no water for the bird for the most part.  We did see a rather large covey of California Quails, several males and females all scurrying around. They’re such adorable chubby birds.

 We also saw an adult cottontail rabbit and a tiny baby one (on the other side of the road).  Along with them we saw some blackbirds, Mockingbirds, and a handful of sparrows and finches in the blackberries bushes but that was about it.  Still no concentrations of insects, and next to nothing when it came to dragonflies.  Along Desmond Road we did find a few Buckeye butterflies and some blue damselflies, but not as many as there should be during this time of year.

While we were going down the stretch of Desmond Road we saw a pair of White-Tailed Kites, but the birds wouldn’t sit long enough in the treetops for us to get any photos of them.  Of course, most of the wetland areas and even the fields were dry, dry, dry.  There was only one part of the wetlands that had water in it, and we saw about a dozen Great Egrets in there along with a few ibis, some Killdeer, and a couple of Greater Yellowlegs.  Not a lot, but at least it was something.

Great Egrets, Ardea alba

There are quite a few Valley Oaks along one side of Desmond Road, though, so we parked the car and checked them out for galls.  Oddly enough, we’d never actually looked at them before (except for as perches for the birds in the area).  We were able to find specimens of quite a few different galls including some fuzzy Club Galls, along with some Western Spotted Orb-Weaver Spiders and a handful of Paper Wasps.  I’ll have to go back there in a few weeks and see if anything new crops up.

Gall of the Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides

The gate to the boardwalk area was open, so when we got there Rox parked in the small parking lot there instead of on the street.  The slough and pond right by that entrance was nearly bone-dry and there were dead carp lying around stinking up the place. It’s just sad to see that.  Seems cruel to drain off the water and let the fish suffocate to death. [Sad-face emoji]

The carcasses of dead carp were lying in the nearly-emptied pond.

Rox and I walked to the outer edge of the pond where there are trees lined up near the road, and checked them out for galls as well.  It’s mostly Valley Oaks and White Ash trees along there, and we were able to find more wasp galls, including the “Woollybears”, and some really good specimens of ash leaf-curl (caused by aphids) and ash “flower galls” (caused by mites). 

Galls of the Woollybear Gall Wasp, Atrusca trimaculosa

Rox also got an incredible photo of a honeybee snacking on the drippings of a row of Flat-Topped Honeydew galls. Her photo is on the left below. The other two photos are by me.

I know I’ve told you this before, but it bears repeating when talking about gall wasps and the strategies their larvae use to defend themselves.  Some have thick skins of their galls, some of their galls have spines and prickly things, some pull tannins from the leaves which acts as a sort of insect repellent to keep predator insect species away from them while the larvae grow and develop inside their galls.  But the honeydew gall-wasps have a very interesting strategy.

They “pay” other insects to act as bodyguards for them.  Inside their gall, the larvae generate honeydew which is then exuded through the porous surface of the gall.  The honeydew attracts “aggressor species” like ants and Yellowjackets, who defend the cache of honeydew for themselves by driving off other insects.  The ants and Yellowjackets get the sugar that’s hard to find elsewhere in the summer months, and the gall-wasp larvae get protection.  I just think that’s so cool…

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

* Warning * Rant * Warning * Rant *

While we were gall hunting and taking photos, a gentleman came up to us to let us know that he was leaving and closing the gate behind him, but he wouldn’t lock it.  When we were done, we could open the gate to retrieve the car, but then needed to close the gate again when we left…so, we did that.  Apparently, we had unwittingly picked a date when the area around the boardwalk was closed because they were spraying Round-Up. 

Seriously?!  Round-Up?! I thought this was supposed to be a PRESERVE?

Science has proven that the stuff gives humans cancer and damages the environment.  “…Evidence is growing that glyphosate, the active ingredient of Roundup, [impacts] the metabolism, growth and reproduction of aquatic creatures and could be altering the essential gut bacteria of animals such as bees… The soil half-life of glyphosate is approximately 47 days (with a range of 2 to nearly 200 days depending on soil type and various environmental conditions)… Shifts in microbial community composition in soil, plants and animal guts resulted. Glyphosate may serve as one of the drivers for antibiotic resistance…” 

[[I also personally believe that Roundup also destroys the layer of mycelium under the surface of the soil, and some studies seem to support that contention.  It, like the neo-nics, is just plain BAD NEWS for the planet.]]

The Cosumnes preserve is a water-based river-front and wetland area.  And they’re dumping Roundup into it.  Unbelievable!  Who knows how much of that crap we were exposed to while we were there.

Okay, the Rant is Over Now. Continue Reading…

Rox and I left that area and went down the road next to the nature center.  There’s a long boat ramp there that cuts alongside an oak grove and field, and ends at the river.  We checked out the oak trees and looked for milkweed plants, and after some time there I just couldn’t walk anymore.  It was already 78°, too hot for me, so I sat on a bench in the shade while Rox went down to the water’s edge.  When she came back, she said there wasn’t a lot to see there – no dragonflies, no birds to speak of, but there was some invasive water hyacinth in the water.  We’d seen a LOT of that in drainage ditches along the highway.  She said there wasn’t a lot in the water by the boat launch – yet.  Give it a week; it’ll be covering everything. 

Photos I took of the water hyacinth in the Cosumnes River a few years ago.

Water hyacinth is a gorgeous plant that floats on the top of the water on its own air-filled bladder; its flowers are just beautiful.  But it’s totally invasive. It’s scientific name is Eichhornia crassipes, so a lot of people call it the “crappiest plant”. It was introduced to the US in the 1880’s as an ornamental water plant (for rich people’s gardens),but escaped as is now considered an invasive everywhere.  It got into California around 1904.  It can sprout from rhizomes (growing in the mud under the water) or from seed.  The seeds are sticky and cling to the feet and feather of waterbirds which then transport them to wherever the bird goes.  The plants grow really fast and can completely cover an clog ponds and waterways in just a matter of weeks. 

As it covers the water, it reduced the places where waterfowl can land, rest and feed, it blocks off sunlight so the water “dies” along with everything in it (oxygen levels drop, CO2 levels rise), and it also transpires a lot of water into the air (some calculations say it’s 8 times faster than normal evaporation)… so the water level in covered patches actually drops. Because the floating mats of the water hyacinth are so broad and dense, they force out native plants that wildlife needs for foraging purposes.  Most animals can’t eat the hyacinth because of its high tannin levels (and because the plants are about 95% water – so have no nutritional value. (So biodiversity plummets.) Standing water caught in and between the matted leaves of the plants become breeding pools for mosquitoes.  And when the hyacinth dies, it poisons the water so nothing can drink it.  Yikes!

How do you control the stuff?  Well, once it’s introduced there isn’t a lot you can do except rip it out, but you have to get every fragment of the plant and dredge up the rhizomes, which can be really labor-intensive and very expensive. You can’t use herbicides on it because the herbicides will poison the water the plants live in. Some places have tried using floating barriers to keep it contained, but that doesn’t stop the spread of the seeds… So, it’s tough.

            With so many “bad” attributes, Rox and I wondered if it had any useful properties at all.  There’s a report by United Diversity that says there are several different places trying to figure out what to do with the stuff.  It’s plant material, of course, and has fiber content, so most of the processes being tried are in the manufacture of paper, fiberboard, yarn, rope (basket-making) and charcoal briquettes. On a larger scale, it’s being tested out as a source of biomass fuel, and in some places is being tested as a first-step in water treatment (from sewage to fresh water).  Here is a PDF of that report.

When we were heading back home, I apologized to Rox for being such a “heat wuss” and cutting the walk short. But she pointed at the clock on the dashboard and said, “We’ve been out for four hours. We did our regular morning…”   I hadn’t realized I’d been walking for that long; no wonder I was tired!

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Ash Key Gall, Eriophyes fraxinivorus
  3. Ash Leaf-Curl Aphid, Prociphilus fraxinifolii
  4. Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis
  5. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  6. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  7. Chicory, Cichorium intybus
  8. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  9. Common Buckeye Butterfly, Junonia coenia
  10. Common Carp, Cyprinus carpio
  11. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea [eggs]
  12. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  13. Coyote, Canis latrans
  14. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  15. Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula [round flat, “spangle gall”]
  16. Familiar Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma civile
  17. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  18. Fuzzy Gall Wasp galls, Disholcaspis washingtonensi [round faintly fuzzy galls on stems]
  19. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  20. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  21. Gumweed, Curlycup Gumweed, Grindelia squarrosa
  22. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  23. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  24. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  25. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  26. Mediterranean Praying Mantis, Iris Mantis, Iris oratoria
  27. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  28. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  29. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  30. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  31. Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
  32. Pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium
  33. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  34. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  35. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  36. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  37. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii
  38. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
  39. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  40. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Conical Trashline Spider,  Cyclosa conica
  41. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  42. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  43. Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes
  44. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  45. White Ash Tree, Fraxinus americana
  46. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  47. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
  48. Woolly Oak Aphid, Stegophylla brevirostris (lots of white fluff & honeydew)
  49. Woollybear Gall Wasp, Atrusca trimaculosa
  50. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi

Two Spots in Woodland, 07-26-20

Up at 5:30 am and out the door with my friend Roxanne to head out to the city of Woodland by 6:00 am. It was about 61° already that early in the day, and it got up to 100° by the late afternoon.

We wanted to visit the East Regional Pond and Ibis Rookery in Woodland.  Both of them are just off Road 102, and pretty close to one another.  We’d let Greg Ira (the statewide director for the University of California’s Certified California Naturalist program) know we were coming, so he met us at the East Regional Pond after we stopped at Dutch Brothers for some much-needed coffee.  I’d never been to the pond before, so it was a fun first for me. 

The pond is a large water retention pond right across the street from the turn out to Farmer’s Central Road in the city of Woodland, CA. It’s surrounded on three sides by private property and protected nature areas. Because these areas are screened off by fences, you cannot walk all the way around the pond. There is a wide gravel trail, however, and three viewing platforms from which you can view and photograph wildlife. 

This time of year, there isn’t a lot of water in the pond, but I could definitely see the potential for future outings in the winter and spring when the rains come and the weather cools off. I really enjoyed being able to see the place.

We got to see Showy Egrets, Great Egrets, American Avocets, Black-Necked Stilts, Greater Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpipers, White-Faced Ibises, pelicans and other birds.  Many of them were in the far side of the pond, but as we walked from one viewing platform to another a handful of them sort of followed us around. 

There were little cottontail rabbits bounding all over the place.  Sometimes we’d see two or three together, running this way and that, chasing each other, stopping to munch a little bit on the vegetation. They were constant conversation interrupters.

Desert Cottontail Rabbits, Sylvilagus audubonii

We also saw about four or five Pacific Pond Turtles in the shallows of one part of the pond. They were all poking their heads up above the surface.  And when they moved around, they left a trail of mud floating behind them in the water.

Although there were gnats and midges in the air, we didn’t encounter many insects, and saw only one or two dragonflies. But we did find a large Paper Wasp nest. These wasps are usually pretty mellow, so I was able to tilt the nest up to get some better photos of it.

Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula

The queen builds all the first cells and rears all the first offspring by herself. After that, her daughters do all the work, and she just lays the eggs. In this nest, we could see that the larvae were developing in their cells at different stages, and that some of the cells had already been sealed off. Inside the sealed cells, the larvae pupate, and then emerge as adult wasps. Here is an article I wrote about them in 2017.

After about an hour or so, we headed over to the ibis rookery.  I was assuming there would be a lot of juveniles out there by now, and I was right. There were a handful of the ibises still sitting on eggs, but most of the nests had trilling, begging, head-bobbing youngsters in them.  With their striped bills, they’re very striking.            

We also saw some Coots paddling through the water with their own youngsters behind and around them.  I hope they won’t hate me for saying it, but I think their babies are the goofiest, funniest, ugliest little things I’ve ever seen.  “Ugly Baby Judges You.”  They’re partially bald with red faces and yellow pokey-out feathers are called “ornaments”. The more ornaments a baby has, the more attention and food she’ll get from the parents.  Bling matters, apparently. Here’s an article I wrote about them in 2018.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We were out for about 4 ½ hours round-trip.

Species List:

  1. Alkali Heliotrope, Chinese Parsley,  Heliotropium curassavicum
  2. American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana
  3. American Coot, Fulica americana
  4. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  5. Barn Swallow,  Hirundo rustica
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Black Saddlebags Dragonfly, Tramea lacerate
  8. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  9. Broad-leaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
  10. California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum
  11. California Fescue, Festuca californica
  12. California Fuchsia, Epilobium canum
  13. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  14. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  15. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  16. Carrot, American Wild Carrot, Daucus pusillus
  17. Common Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma cyathigerum
  18. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  19. Common Spikeweed, Centromadia pungens
  20. Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus
  21. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  22. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  23. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  24. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  25. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  26. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  27. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  28. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  29. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  30. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  31. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  32. Mediterranean Praying Mantis, Iris Mantis, Iris oratoria [very narrow ootheca]
  33. Naked Buckwheat, Eriogonum nudum
  34. Non-Biting Midge, Chironomus sp.
  35. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  36. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  37. Orbweavers, Family: Araneidae
  38. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  39. Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula [black & yellow]
  40. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  41. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  42. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus [nest]
  43. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  44. Saltbush, Big Saltbush, Atriplex lentiformis
  45. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  46. Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularius
  47. Steel-blue Cricket-hunter Wasp, Chlorion aerarium
  48. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
  49. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  50. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  51. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  52. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
  53. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi

Lots of Willow Galls and Cygnets, 07-21-20

I got up around 5:00 this morning so the dog and I could do our potty stuff…and then I stayed up, getting ready to go over to Mather Lake Regional Park for a walk with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne.  The weather was lovely today. It was about 59° when we got to the lake and then creeped up to about 88° by the late afternoon.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

When we got to the park, the first thing we noticed was that the Mute Swans seemed to be gathered in a corner near the walking trail on the far side of the lake. The cygnets are just about as large as their parents now, but they’re still making their baby peeping sounds, and they don’t have their full facial coloring yet.  We were sad to see one of the swans floating dead among the rushes. 

We met a fisherman later on during our walk, who said that he had seen another younger swan who looked dead on the shore, and when he went over to it, he found that was severely tangled in fishing line. Line remnants are a BIG problem on the banks.  Even today, while we were walking, my feet got tangled in the crap on two different occasions. Some of the lazier fishermen just don’t clean up after themselves and leave discarded line everywhere.  It’s such a hazard.

Anyway, one of the adult swans was chasing and nipping and trying to herd the younger swans into a corner, even as their parent tried to put its body between them and the aggressor.  The aggressor bird “busked” and chased after the parent and eventually drove it halfway across the pond before giving up its assault. While that was going on, the younger swans were peeping loudly at one another, trying to get to their mom who was being chased off, and obviously very distressed by the attack. 

The busking aggressor chases after one of the cygnets

Additionally, one of the other adult swans, who apparently wasn’t related to the youngsters, just didn’t want to get involved and stepped up onto the bank next to me.  You don’t realize how huge those birds are until they come up next to you.  They can get up to 5 ½ feet long and weigh around 30 pounds.

Mute Swan, Cygnus olor. Trying to get away from the aggressive bird, this one walked up onto the shore and stood next to me.

This one was quiet and polite, just a sort of “go with the flow” kind of bird, but further along the trail, we came across another parent and its youngsters, and it was very protective of them. It raised its head and hissed at me a couple of times to get me to back off.

My impression of the aggressive bird what that it was “being a jerk”, a bully. But then it occurred to me that the dead swan was in the same area where the aggressor was putting on its display, so I wonder if was trying to “protect” the dead bird or at least the area where the dead bird was located.

We also saw two color morphs among the juveniles, and I’d never seen/noticed that before. According to Cornell: “…Cygnets hatch as gray or white. Gray [Royal] cygnets become brownish as juveniles and begin molting to white by first winter. White [Polish] cygnets remain white as juveniles and adults. Gray juveniles usually retain some gray feathers  , especially on rump, until following molt. Legs and feet of cygnets and juveniles are either slate gray (gray morph) or pinkish tan (white morph). Bill color of juveniles  also varies between morphs: gray morph, slate; white morph, tan. Bills of both morphs become pinkish as they mature during winter. Basal knob is absent in cygnets and relatively small in juveniles. Lores of newly hatched cygnets are feathered, but during first winter, a juvenile’s lores become naked…”

As an additional aside, Cornell also says: “…Two views exist as to whether or not being a white morph (see Distinguishing Characteristics above) is advantageous. Several experiments using models determined that whiteness elicits aggressive response in adult Mute Swans and is therefore disadvantageous. These findings are consistent with the large amount of anecdotal evidence that suggests that white cygnets are at a disadvantage because they are perceived as threats to their parents’ territory. Another view is that being a white cygnet is advantageous because female cygnets that enter their first winter already in white plumage will be able to pair with older males and eventually gain breeding experience over their gray counterparts, therefore gaining reproductive advantage over gray morphs…”

The juveniles we saw being crowded and nipped at by the busking adult were all white ones… All of the gray morph youngsters we saw were in the water and pretty far away, so I wasn’t able to check them out too closely.  The gray ones looked to be the same age as the white ones, so I’m assuming they all hatched around the same time.

And another feature: the knob, that protuberance at the base of the top bill where it connects to the head.  According to Cornell: “…Males generally have larger knob than females. During breeding season (Jan–Jun), knob of adult males is enlarged, and breeding males have larger knob than nonbreeding males.”  Some of the guys we saw were pretty “knobby”.

This image show the knob at the base of the swan’s beak.

Among the birds, besides the swans, we saw Great-Tailed Grackles, Pied-Billed Grebes, tiny fast-moving Bushtits, Double-Crested Cormorants, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Canada Geese and a few others. The coolest sighting of the day, even though I wasn’t able to get any photos of it, was to see a White-Tailed Kite chasing and buzz-bombing a Red-Tailed Hawk that got too close to its territory. The birds moved pretty fast, and my camera doesn’t know what to focus on when I point it at the sky, so… no photos. Waaah!

We did get to see a Green Heron standing on a thin floating log in the water, and got to see it catch a tiny silvery fish.  Some of the swans swam right by the heron and either didn’t see it or weren’t interested in it.  When we first saw it, the heron was back-lit and just looked like a stick poking out of the water, but some close-up photos showed it was actually a bird.  We had to walk down the trail a bit to get the heron in better lighting so we could get a few better photos of it.

Green Heron, Butorides virescens

There weren’t anywhere near as many dragonflies as I thought there might be given all the water and the time of year, but we still have about month or so to go in the season.

I didn’t find a single example of dragonfly or damselfly exuvia along the water’s edge either, which was also an indicator of how disappointing spotting dragonflies was going to be.  Oddly enough, Roxanne did find the exuvia of some kind of cicada among the leaves of a coyote brush bush. 

Cicada exuvia

We also saw some stem galls on the coyote brush and four different kinds of galls on the willow trees along the water’s edge: pinecone galls, rosette galls and a couple of different blister galls.  Those are always cool to see.  On the side of the lake we were on there weren’t many oak trees, beyond the cork oaks, so we didn’t come across any oak wasp galls.  The next time I go out, I want to check out the opposite bank and see what, if anything, is on the trees there.  Among the cone galls, I was surprised to see some of them in clusters of six, eight and nine. I don’t remember seeing bunches that large before.

I was able to spot at least three different species of bee while I was out there, most of them feeding on the thistle flowers, and a couple of different kinds of wasps. 

The really nice treat was being able to see two very large Western Tiger Swallowtail butterflies feeding on the thistle nectar.  Roxanne had stopped to point out a dragonfly on the ground, and I alerted her to the “giant butterflies”. Hah!  Luckily, the dragonfly, a green female Pondhawk was still sitting on the ground when I stepped away from the butterflies to look for her.

Western Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio rutulus

We walked for about 3 ½ hours and then called it quits for the day.

Species List:

  1. American Bugleweed, Water Horehound, Lycopus americanus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Barn Swallow,  Hirundo rustica
  4. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [in flight, heard]
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax [in flight]
  7. Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis
  8. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  9. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  10. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare
  11. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  12. California Bulrush, Schoenoplectus californicus
  13. California Quail, Callipepla californica [glimpsed, heard]
  14. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  15. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  16. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  17. Cicada, Typical Cicadas, Subfamily: Tibicininae
  18. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  19. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange,on wood/trees]
  20. Common Vetch, Vicia sativa
  21. Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  22. Cottonwood Leaf Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populivenae
  23. Cottonwood Petiole Gall, Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
  24. Coyote Brush Stem Gall moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
  25. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  26. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  27. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  28. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  29. Familiar Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma civile
  30. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. peploides
  31. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  32. Goodding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii
  33. Great Black Wasp, Sphex pensylvanicus [saw it flying low to the ground]
  34. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  35. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  36. Harvester Ant, Pogonomyrmex sp. [black]
  37. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus  bifrons [white flowers]
  38. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  39. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  40. Muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus [got a glimpse of one]
  41. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  42. Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua
  43. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  44. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  45. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  46. Pacific Forktail Damselfly, Ischnura cervula [males blue, 4 dots on thorax]
  47. Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula [black & yellow]
  48. Pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium
  49. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  50. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  51. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  52. Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
  53. Spanish Clover, Acmispon americanus
  54. Squarestem Spikerush, Eleocharis quadrangulata
  55. Swamp Smartweed, Persicara hydropiperoides
  56. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  57. Tarweed, Fitch’s Tarweed, Centromadia fitchii
  58. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  59. Tripartite Sweat Bee, Halictus tripartitus [tiny, striped abdomen]
  60. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  61. Urbane Digger Bee, Anthophora urbana  [looks like a pale blond and white bumblebee]
  62. Waterweed, Common Waterweed, Elodea canadensis
  63. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
  64. Western Pondhawk Dragonfly, Erythemis collocata [males are blue; females are green]
  65. Western Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio rutulus
  66. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  67. Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Pontania californica
  68. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  69. Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides
  70. Willow Rose Gall Midge, Rabdophaga rosaria
  71. Yellow-faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii
  72. ?? Tiny pale jumping spider
  73. ?? Small unidentified grasshopper

Hunting Dragonflies, 07-19-20

I got up around 5 o’clock this morning, and was out the door around 5:30 am to head toward the North Davis Ponds, Northstar Pond Park, where I met with Greg Ira, statewide director of the UC’s Certified California Naturalist program, for a walk. We were hoping to see a lot of dragonflies and maybe some galls, too.

Greg said he’d never been to that park before, so he checked it out late yesterday afternoon when he was driving through town. He said there were a lot of dragonflies around the pond and manicured lawn area. He’s been trying to get “super-slow-motion” video of the dragonflies as they take off from their landing perches, and he tried several time while we were out there to get some footage.

Greg trying to capture super-slow-motion video of the dragonflies.

When we first got there it was around 61° F, so a bit too cool for the dragon flies to be up and flying. We didn’t see any at all at first, so we walked down the shaded walkway toward Covell Park. We went about 3 or four bocks before turning around and heading back toward the ponds.
Both Greg and I were wearing face masks, and I was happy to see about half of the people we encountered wearing them, too.

This was nice to see in the middle of the parkway.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Along the way, we stopped to take some photos of whatever we encountered. I got a few shots of the aphid galls on the leaves of a cottonwood tree, but also found a couple of first-of-the-season galls on Valley Oaks like the Convoluted Gall and the Red Cone Gall.

I was surprised to see a very “fresh-looking” specimen of Common Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria parietina, on a ginkgo tree in Davis yesterday. This time of year, most of the lichen are dried out and colorless.

Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina

We also found some Leaf-Footed Bugs at various instars (from nymphs to adults) on a pomegranate tree. The tree was near a fence that looked into a private back yard and a gentleman came out of the house to ask what we were looking at. I told him, “Leaf-Footed Bugs!” and said we were photographing some adults and babies. “Are they unusual?” he asked, and I told him, no, they’re fairly common. He wasn’t impressed, but told us to enjoy our day.

Western Leaf-Footed Bug, Leptoglossus zonatus

When we got back to the pond, the dragonflies were finally up and about and we saw some Pondhawks, Widow Skimmers, Flame Skimmers, and Blue Dasher Dragonflies.

I saw one of the Flame Skimmers turn around and snatch a tiny bee out of the air, then land on a cattail leaf to eat it. While I took some photos and video of it, Greg tried to get some super-slow-mo footage of it… but it wasn’t very cooperative with that. It was too interested in its meal to pay him any attention.

I also found some stink bug eggs (and a few nymphs) and Greg caught a couple of tiny Sierran Tree Frog froglets.  They looked mostly brown when they were boinging through the grass, but in close-up photos, you could see how beautifully and subtly colored they really are.

Sierran Tree Frog froglet, Pseudacris sierra

We saw quite a few birds in the area, but I wasn’t able to get photos of most of them because they were too far away or were in flight: a White-Tailed Kite, American Robins, Black Phoebes, Scrub Jays, and doves, among others.

American Robin, Turdus migratorius. Look at its beak!

We walked for about 3 hours, and by then it was 75° outside and I was starting to heat up (and sweat), so we called it a day.

I’d taken the walker with me on this trip and it did great on the paved paths throughout the park. I was probably actually walking faster than I normally might had I been by myself, because by the time I left I was exhausted.  When I got home, I had to crash for a few hours.

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis [eggs]
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis
  6. Blue Lily, Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus praecox
  7. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  8. Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, Halyomorpha halys [eggs and nymphs]
  9. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  12. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  13. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea [eggs]
  14. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
  15. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  16. Cottonwood Leaf Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populivenae
  17. Cottonwood Petiole Gall, Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
  18. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  19. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica
  20. Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturata
  21. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  22. Ginkgo Tree, Ginkgo biloba
  23. Golden Haired Inkcap, Parasol Inkcap, Parasola auricoma
  24. Goldenrain Tree, Koelreuteria paniculata
  25. Mealy Rim Lichen, Lecanora strobilina
  26. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  27. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  28. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  29. Pomegranate Tree, Punica granatum
  30. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  31. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  32. Sierran Tree Frog, Pseudacris sierra
  33. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  34. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  35. Velvetleaf, Abutilon theophrasti
  36. Western Leaf-Footed Bug, Leptoglossus zonatus
  37. Western Pondhawk Dragonfly, Erythemis collocata
  38. White Sweetclover, Melilotus albus
  39. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  40. Widow Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula luctuosa
  41. Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus [invasive]

More Jumping Galls and Scale, 07-17-20

Around 6:30 I headed over to William Land Park, again, to check on the jumping galls and iceplant scale.  I wanted to see if they’d increased or matured in any way since I last saw them on Monday when I went to the zoo.

There were only a few jumping galls out on Monday, but significantly more have dropped from the leaves of the trees and onto the ground now. There were long swaths of them in the gutters along the parking lot, and many more of them gathered under fallen leaves.  I was able to get a “pinch” of them into the palm of my hand so I could feel them moving, and vibrating and jumping. So cool!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and look for more videos at my YouTube site.

Nearby, on the iceplant, I checked out the Iceplant Scale again, hoping to see eggs this time. Well, I was too late for the eggs, but I did get to see quite a few of the babies and larger scale insects that didn’t have their scale “shells” yet. I’d never seen that before.

Because of the summer heat, there’s not a lot flowering in the garden right now, so not a lot to look at there.  The pond is still totally overgrown with Sacred Lotus, most of it going to seed. 

Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera

While I walked once around the pond, taking photos of the flowers, a pair of Asian ladies did a fast-walk around the same pond THREE TIMES. Hah!

Lot of geese and domestic ducks in the pond, but nothing unusual. I did see a light-morph female Mallard who had two ducklings with her. One of the babies wasn’t really ready to be awake yet, and kept snoodling down in against her feathers to sleep. They’re so cute.

Mama Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos, and her ducklings

I was at the park for about 90-minutes and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Aster, Pacific Aster, Symphyotrichum chilense [small purple-blue flowers with yellow center]
  2. Bear’s Breeches, Acanthus mollis
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  4. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare
  5. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  6. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  7. Common Toadflax, Linaria vulgaris [kind of looks like snapdragon]
  8. Cutleaf Teasel, Dipsacus laciniatus
  9. Dense-flowered Mullein, Verbascum densiflorum
  10. House Holly-Fern, Cyrtomium falcatum
  11. Iceplant, Pigface Iceplant, Highway Iceplant, Carpobrotus edulis
  12. Iceplant Scale, Pulvinariella mesembryanthem
  13. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  14. Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidi [on Valley Oak]
  15. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  16. Mission Prickly-Pear Cactus, Opuntia ficus-indica
  17. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  18. Nightshade, Kangaroo-Apple Nightshade, Solanum laciniatum
  19. Oceanblue Morning Glory, Ipomoea indica
  20. Pleated Ink Cap, Parasol Ink Cap, Parasola plicatilis
  21. Queen Anne’s Lace, Wild Carrot, Daucus carota
  22. Red Amaranth, Cock’s Comb, Amaranthus cruentus
  23. Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera
  24. Santa Cruz Island Wild Buckwheat, Eriogonum arborescens
  25. Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo
  26. Sweet Four-o’Clock, Mirabilis longiflora [white flower, long pink stamens]
  27. Wand Mullein, Verbascum virgatum
  28. Western Lily, Lilium occidentale
  29. Western Marsh Rosemary, Sea Lavender, Limonium californicum
  30. White Sage, Salvia apiana

The Galls Are Just Starting to Emerge, 06-07-20

I got up around 5:30 this morning, and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. It was 61° at the river, but warmed up fast as soon as the sun was up.

At the preserve, it’s still between seasons, so there’s not tons to see, but I did get to see some deer, squirrels, some Red-Shouldered Hawks, and  a Cottontail rabbit what was “hiding” among the yarrow plants in the garden by the nature center. 

The plum trees are heavy with fruit and the blue elderberry bushes still have berries on them. The wild grapevines and blackberries are starting to show their fruit now, too.

Among the deer, I saw a couple of does and a skinny buck in his velvet. No babies yet.  The fawns should start showing up later this month.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The fox squirrels are up in the trees snacking on black walnuts.  You can hear the scritch-scritch-scritch of their teeth on the nuts as they gnaw through the husk and try to crack the hard shells.

            Among the birds I saw, there was a mockingbird that was really putting on a display in the top of one of the oak trees. He had an exceptional repertoire mimicking Acorn Woodpeckers, Towhees, hawks, Scrub Jays, Killdeer, Titmice… while jumping up and down to attract the females. I got a little bit of video of him, but it doesn’t do him justice.

I was surprised not to see much of anything on the milkweed plants – no butterfly eggs or any other insects except for a handful of planthoppers. Some of the plants have been chopped down, and a sign indicated that the preserve was trying that to see if they could attract Monarchs to the plants with fresher leaves later in the season. If that works, it’ll be great.

The only really fun thing was finding the season’s first Spiny Turban galls forming on the Valley Oak trees, along with a LOT of new acorns. Some trees are heavy with acorns this year… I’ll have to keep an eye on that to see if that “gravid” condition is true across the region.

Galls of the Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii,on the leaves of a Valley Oak, Quercus lobata

I only walked for bout 2 hours before heading back home. This was the first time I’d left my dog Esteban home in over a week.  I’d asked my sister Melissa to leave him in the bedroom unless he had to go potty to keep him confined in a space with flat floors so he couldn’t aggravate his back issues.  She said he did pretty well, but barked and whined all the while I was gone.  Poor bubby.

Esteban recovering from a back injury in the bedroom.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  4. Black Walnut Erineum Mite galls, Eriophyes erinea
  5. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  6. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  7. Blue Penstemon, Penstemon azureus
  8. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  11. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  12. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  13. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  14. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
  15. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa
  16. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  17. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  18. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  19. Himalayan Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  20. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  21. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  22. Large-flowered Evening-Primrose, Oenothera glazioviana
  23. Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidi [on Valley Oak]
  24. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  25. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  26. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  27. Plum, Prunus cerasifera
  28. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  29. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  30. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii
  31. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  32. Sunflower, Common Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum
  33. Tobacco, Tree Tobacco, Nicotiana glauca
  34. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  35. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  36. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  37. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium