Category Archives: Firsts

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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A Walk at Sailor Bar, 06-14-22

I got up around 5:00 AM, got the dogs fed and pottied, and then headed out with my friend Roxanne to check out Sailor Bar. I hadn’t been there for quite a while and, in fact, forgot how rocky and uneven most of the trails are. Walking over the rocky, uneven ground really did a number on my hip joint.

The first thing we found when we got to the park (down by the boat ramp), were some pinecone galls on the willow trees. We also found what looked like Erineum mite activity on the Coyote Brush…It’s the same mite that affects Mule Fat plants.  I’d never seen the effect on Coyote Brush before.    Once again, we didn’t see any sign of galls on the oak trees.

The live oak trees were overflowing with new acorns; the kind of “panic” seed-making. One theory suggests the trees are frantically trying to reproduce before something bad happens, like an extended drought or other natural disaster. 

Another theory says: “…[T]hat there is an evolutionary advantage to producing an unreliable number of acorns each year. If it were too reliable, the theory goes, surrounding wildlife populations like that of squirrels, deer and birds would adjust and learn to eat the entire yearly crop. Mast years stop this from happening. In these years, oak trees flood the ecosystem and produce too many acorns for local wildlife to consume, meaning more will have the chance to grow into saplings come spring…”

Likewise, it looked like there was a bumper crop of berries on the blackberry vines. We also saw some parts of the vines where the edges of the leaves had curled inward. I don’t know if that was a reaction of heat stress, or some sort of fungus or insect infestation.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There was hillocks covered with Common Madia flowers, some with a red flush in the center but most without. The plants, related to tarweeds, are covered in sticky glands that exude a lemony-resiny smell.  “…The ray flowers curl up during the daytime, opening in the late afternoon and staying open all night until mid-morning…” [Calscape] We saw a few with curling petals, but didn’t realize that was part of the flowers’ nature.  

There was also quite a bit of the mini-flowered Long-Stemmed Buckwheat plants. They grew along the edges of the trail. “…Flowers occur in knob-like clusters distantly spaced along the long, leafless stems. Flowers are radially symmetrical, bisexual and about 1/10 inch (3-4 mm) across, extending beyond the cluster on short pedicels and drooping downward with age…” (https://thenaturecollective.org).

The “lifer” of the day for me was finding a River Cooter Turtle among the other turtles sunning on branches in the water. Cooters are native to the eastern and central US. They don’t belong in California, but just a week or so ago a friend of mine in Rocklin found one that was very similar.

“…The species P. concinna is highly omnivorous and will eat anything, plant or animal, dead or alive. Diet seems to be determined by available food items. While some writers feel that this species of turtle will not eat meat, predatory behavior has been observed. Although it can’t swallow out of water, it will leave the water to retrieve a tasty bug or worm, returning to the water to swallow. It will also enthusiastically chase, kill and eat small fish. It has also been observed eating carrion found along the river’s edge. The river cooter has tooth-like cusps in the upper jaw, probably an adaptation to aid in eating leaves and fibrous vegetation. Its primary diet includes a wide variety of aquatic plants, and some terrestrial plants that grow near the water’s edge. It will happily take fallen fruits as well. In captivity, any kind of plant will be eaten, and some “meats”, too. Turtles will also take calcium in a separate form, such as a cuttlebone, so that the turtle can self-regulate calcium intake…” [Wikipedia]

According to iNaturalist: “…Introduced in American River Parkway, CA, US: arrived in the region via anthropogenic means…” That’s a polite way of saying humans dumped them in the river.

We walked for about 3 hours before heading home. This was hike #34 of my #52hikechallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Ash Leaf Curl Aphid, Prociphilus fraxinifolii
  2. Ash, Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  3. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  4. Black Locust Tree, Robinia pseudoacacia
  5. Black Walnut, Northern California Black Walnut, Juglans hindsii
  6. Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [red canes]
  7. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
  8. Bumblebee, Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee, Bombus vosnesenskii
  9. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
  10. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  11. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  12. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  13. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  14. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  15. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  16. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  17. Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica
  18. Common Madia, Madia elegans elegans
  19. Coyote Brush Blister Mite, Aceria baccharices
  20. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
    Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  21. Deerweed, Acmispon glaber
  22. Downy Thornapple, Jimsonweed, Datura innoxia
  23. Earwig, European Earwig, Forficula auricularia
  24. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  25. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata
  26. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  27. Gossamer-Winged Butterfly, Family: Lycaenidae
  28. Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
  29. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  30. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  31. Long-Stemmed Buckwheat, Eriogonum elongatum
  32. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  33. Mountain Blue Penstemon, Penstemon laetus
  34. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  35. Muscovy Duck, Cairina moschata
  36. Non-Biting Midges, Family: Chironomidae
  37. Oak, Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  38. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  39. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  40. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  41. Orange-Crowned Warbler, Leiothlypis celata
  42. Orb-Weaver Spider, Family: Araneidae
  43. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  44. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  45. Purpletop Vervain, Verbena incompta
  46. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  47. River Cooter Turtle, Pseudemys concinna
  48. Soft-Winged Flower Beetle, Listrus sp.
  49. Solitary Oak Leafminer Moth, Cameraria hamadryadella [form whole-leaf blisters on oak]
  50. Spanish Clover, Acmispon americanus [looks like tiny lotus]
  51. Swallow, Northern Rough-Winged Swallow, Stelgidopteryx serripennis
  52. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  53. Tree-of-Heaven, Ailanthus altissima
  54. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  55. Willow Beaked-Gall Midge, Rabdophaga rigidae
  56. Willow Pinecone Gall Midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides
  57. Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii
  58. Willow, Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  59. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa [fly by over the water]
  60. Yellow Star-Thistle, Centaurea solstitialis
  61. ?? unidentified gall on thin leaves

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Ask and You Shall Receive, 06-12-22

I got up around 5:00 AM, got the dogs all fed and pottied, and got myself ready for a walk at William B. Pond Park. It was overcast when I first went out, and in the high 60’s. As I walked, there were a couple of light downpours of rain, and then the clouds started to shift and split apart. Got a lot of cloud photos. The wind also started to pick up and was really blowing by the time I headed back to the car.

As I was driving into the park and heading for my favorite parking space, I saw a small flock of Yellow-Billed Magpies gabbing at one another. I realized it was a group of adults and newly fledged youngsters that, although they were full grown, were begging for food. One jumped up on top of a fence post to beg from there. So noisy. The magpies are a favorite, though, because they’re a species that’s endemic to the Central Valley of California, which means they live and breed here and nowhere else on earth.

Among the bird species, I also saw a few California Quail, including a handsome male who jumped up on top of a stand of blackberry vines and posed for a little while. And a “lifer” bird for me: a Cassin’s Kingbird. I see the Western Kingbirds often, but this is the first time I’ve seen a Cassin’s.  Cassin’s have a darker breast than the Westerns, and have a white tip on their tail feathers.

The initial thing that struck me as I walked into the river side of the park (as opposed to the manicured part) was the dense overgrowth of Yellow Star Thistle. This is fragile riparian habitat; it shouldn’t be allowed to be overrun by star thistle. Where are the “stewards” who are supposed to be taking care of this place?

Yellow Star-Thistle, Centaurea solstitialis

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I was looking for the tarweed species and some Vinegar Weed, but either they’re not awake yet, or they had been dug up and turned away.  I did find some lovely pink centaury flowers along the river, some Yerba Santa that was just starting to bud, Queen Anne’s Lace, California Wild Rose, and some Manyflower Marshpennywort.

On the eucalyptus trees, I found a lot of fresh lerps made by Lerp Psyllids, and two kinds of galls. I also found galls on some of the willow trees, including those of two different species of midges. Nothing on the oak trees yet.

I’m still not seeing enough insects, though. There were a few that made themselves visible, but during this time of the year, they should be “annoying”. I did see a few species, but still… The lack of “bugs” really worries me.

I was hoping to see dragonflies along the riverside, but I didn’t see any. I knew the overcast and wind would affect the dragonflies’ ability to fly and there were no real sunny places for them to perch, nevertheless, I said to the Universe: “Seriously? Just show me one Widow Skimmer. How hard would that be?”  And, in truth, not 20 minutes later a Widow Skimmer flew into view and landed on some blackberry vines right in front of me. How cool is that?!

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back home. This was hike #33 of my #52hikechallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Ash Leaf Curl Aphid, Prociphilus fraxinifolii
  3. Blackberry Orange Rust, Gymnoconia peckiana
  4. Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [red canes]
  5. Bumblebee, Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee, Bombus vosnesenskii
  6. Caddisfly, Black Dancer Caddisfly, Mystacides sepulchralis
  7. Caddisfly, White Miller Caddisfly, Nectopsyche sp.
  8. California Bordered Plant Bug, Largus californicus
  9. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  11. Cassin’s Kingbird, Tyrannus vociferans
  12. Catalpa, Northern Catalpa, Catalpa speciosa
  13. Clustered Dock, Rumex conglomeratus
  14. Common St. John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum
  15. Coyote Brush Bud Gall Midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  16. Coyote Brush Stem Gall Moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
  17. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  18. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  19. Damselfly, Tule Bluet, Enallagma carunculatum
  20. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  21. Eucalyptus Gall Wasp, Ophelimus maskelli [speckled; flat galls all over the leaf surface]
  22. Eucalyptus Stemgall Wasp, Leptocybe invasa [galls can also appear on the midvein]
  23. Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  24. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. peploides
  25. Fly, Common Flesh Fly, Sarcophaga sp.
  26. Forget-Me-Not, Bay Forget-Me-Not, Myosotis laxa [tiny pale blue flowers]
  27. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  28. Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia
  29. Grasses, Bermuda Grass, Cynodon dactylon
  30. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  31. Horsetail, Smooth Horsetail, Equisetum laevigatum
  32. Iris, Yellow Iris, Iris pseudacorus
  33. Jumping Spider, Arboreal Jumping Spider, Colonus hesperus
  34. Ladybeetle, Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis [lots of variation]
  35. Live Oak Leafminer Moth, Stigmella variella 
  36. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  37. Mantis, Arizona Mantis, Stagmomantis limbata [large ootheca]
  38. Manyflower Marshpennywort, Hydrocotyle umbellate [round leaves, small white flowers on stalk]
  39. Mealy Plum Aphid, Hyalopterus pruni         
  40. Mullein, Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria [thin stick, white or yellow]
  41. Muscoid Fly, Superfamily: Muscoidea [red eyes, wings have black dot]
  42. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  43. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  44. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  45. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  46. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  47. Oleander, Nerium oleander
  48. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  49. Persian Silk Tree, Mimosa Tree, Albizia julibrissin
  50. Plantain, Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata
  51. Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
  52. Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota
  53. Red Gum Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei [on eucalyptus]
  54. Rose, Woods’ Rose, Rosa woodsia [dark pink]
  55. Rosilla, Sneezeweed, Helenium puberulum
  56. Rush, Canada Rush, Juncus canadensis [small flowering heads at the top of the stem]
  57. Rush, Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
  58. Slender Centaury, Centaurium tenuiflorum [pink flowers]
  59. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  60. Tick, American Dog Tick, Dermacentor variabilis
  61. Tobacco, Tree Tobacco, Nicotiana glauca
  62. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  63. Treehopper, Green Treehopper, Tortistilus pacificus
  64. Trefoil, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
  65. Turkey Tangle Frogfruit, Phyla nodiflora
  66. Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica
  67. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  68. Widow Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula luctuosa
  69. Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Euura californica
  70. Willow Rose Gall Midge, Rabdophaga rosaria [on terminal bud point]
  71. Willow Rosette Gall Midge, Rabdophaga salicisbrassicoides [on stem]
  72. Yellow Starthistle Flower Weevil, Larinus curtus
  73. Yellow Star-Thistle, Centaurea solstitialis
  74. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli
  75. Yerba Santa, California Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum

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