Category Archives: fungi

Another Walk at the River Bend Park, 05-11-23

I woke up with a bit of a headache and a touch of high blood pressure, but I decided to go for a walk at the American River Bend Park anyway. The weather was very cooperative, around 56º F and clear. I took a trail that I don’t normally take there and did a little exploring.

I was looking for a specific kind of gall — the gall of the Round Leaf Gall Wasp, Heteroecus flavens — but I couldn’t remember if it was a springtime or summer gall. Here are some photos of that one taken in April of 2021:

I did find some clusters of the galls of the Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Bisexual, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis, and some twig galls [including one that was wearing a fallen catkin like a wig, among others.

I found some Saint John’s Wort Beetles — small beetles with a lightly pitted, coppery carapace — on what looked like a Goldwire plant, and also found a new-to-me plant: Narrowleaf Cottonrose. Apparently, that one’s pretty common along the American River Parkway, but I’d never found it before. Around this area I also came across a patch of Gilled Polypore fungus on the stump of an oak tree.

I saw pipevine plants climbing some of the trees, and there were some Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars crawling on some of them. I found several different instars and some of their frass. I was looking for the eggs but I only found one small cluster on a stalk of grass. The butterfly that laid them just missed hitting the pipevine next to the grass.

I came across several bird species along the trail including some Ash-Throated Flycatchers, but they all seemed insistent on staying in the shadows or avoid being photographed.

The best bird photos I got, such as they were, were in the equestrian parking area. I often go there when I’m in the park, and park beside the water trough in the shade to look for the birds who drink water from it. Today I saw a female Lesser Goldfinch, three male California Quails, and a pair of Wild Turkeys. There was also a European Starling hanging around, and after not getting the drink of water that she wanted, she ended up collecting dried grass and feathers for her nest.

As I was leaving the park, I saw a Wild Turkey “dust bathing” on the side of the road.

“… It might look like a messy business, but bathing in dust and dirt actually helps turkeys get cleaner. Dusting removes pests and parasites and keeps the birds’ skin healthy and feathers from getting matted, which could impede flight… To sufficiently coat themselves in dust, turkeys flap their wings, sometimes turning over on their back and wriggling in the dirt. By extending their wings, they make sure no feathers go undusted. After thoroughly covering themselves in dust, turkeys preen their feathers with their beaks, which helps clean the features and realign the interlocking feather barbules…” The Smithsonian

I saw a couple of deer and a few squirrels, but not very many– which kind of surprised me. I expected to see more.

I was out for about 3 hours. This was hike #27 of my #52hikechallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  3. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  4. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  5. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  6. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  7. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  8. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  10. Clover, Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
  11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  12. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  13. Effervescent Tarpaper Lichen, Collema furfuraceum [like brown camouflage lichen]
  14. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  15. Gilled Polypore, Trametes betulina [lookslike mazegill]
  16. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  17. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum
  18. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia
  19. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  20. Lady Beetle, Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  21. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  22. Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Bisexual, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  23. Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Summer, asexual generation, , Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  24. Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
  25. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  26. Narrowleaf Cottonrose, Logfia gallica
  27. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  28. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  29. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  30. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  31. Purple Salsify, Tragopogon porrifolius
  32. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  33. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens [on live oaks, black oaks]
  34. Saint John’s Wort Beetle,Chrysolina hyperici
  35. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  36. Speckled Greenshield Lichen, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  37. Towhee, California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  38. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  39. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  40. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  41. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  42. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  43. Yerba Santa, California Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum

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CNC In the Yard, 04-29-23

This was the second day of the four-day City Nature Challenge for this year, so, once again I’m letting you know that I’m going to be waaaaay behind in my posts and photo albums while I rest up from my excursions, get everything posted to iNaturalist, sort through my photos and write my blog posts.

When I first went out into the backyard, I saw two of the neighbor’s semi-feral cats sitting in a chair on our back porch. I couldn’t get photos of them; they ran off too quickly.

Today I focused on species in the yard at home, so I didn’t have to travel again. First, I focused on the flowering stuff. Click on the image to see what it is.

And then I focused on the different leaf types. Click on the image to see what it is.

The most interesting thing I found was evidence of a lot of Leaf Curl Fungus on our nectarine tree. It had had this disease previously, but last year and the year before (when the weather was hotter) it hadn’t shown much sign of it.

“…Peach leaf curl, also known as leaf curl, is a disease caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans. Peach leaf curl affects the blossoms, fruit, leaves, and shoots of peaches, ornamental flowering peaches, and nectarines, and is one of the most common disease problems for backyard gardeners growing these trees. The distorted, reddened foliage that it causes is easily seen in spring. When severe, the disease can reduce fruit production substantially… The fungus grows between leaf cells and stimulates them to divide and grow larger than normal, causing swelling and distortion of the leaf. Red plant pigments accumulate in the distorted cells. Cells of the fungus break through the cuticle of distorted leaves and produce elongated, sac-like structures called asci that produce sexual spores called ascospores, which give the leaf a grayish white, powdery or velvetlike appearance. The ascospores are released into the air, carried to new tissues, and bud (divide) to form bud-conidia….” University of California.

I didn’t go far today, but I still ended up with over 20 observations to add to my total for the City Nature Challenge.

Species List:

  1. Aloe Yucca, Yucca aloifolia
  2. Azalea, Tsutsusi Azalea, Rhododendron indicum
  3. Broom, French Broom, Genista monspessulana
  4. Cat, Felis catus
  5. Chinese Photinia, Photinia serratifolia
  6. Clover, White Clover, Trifolium repens
  7. Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
  8. Common Lilac, Syringa vulgaris
  9. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica
  10. Geranium, Cut-Leaved Crane’s-Bill, Geranium dissectum
  11. Iris, Western Blue Flag, Iris missouriensis
  12. Ivy, Common Ivy, Hedera helix
  13. Lemon Tree, Citrus limen
  14. Nectarine Tree, Prunus persica var. nucipersica [with leaf curl]
  15. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  16. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  17. Peach Leaf Curl Fungus, Taphrina deformans
  18. Persimmon, Japanese Persimmon, Fuyu, Diospyros kaki
  19. Podocarpus, Kusamaki, Podocarpus macrophyllus
  20. Privet, Glossy Privet, Ligustrum lucidum
  21. Red Mulberry, Morus rubra
  22. Roses, Rosa sp.
  23. Sago Palm, Sago Cycad, Cycas revoluta
  24. Spearmint, Mentha spicata
  25. White Mulberry, Morus alba

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Gall Week Continues, 04-16-23

Gall Week Spring 2023 continues, so I got up around 6:30 AM and got myself ready to head out to Sailor Bar Community Park with my friend Roxanne to check the trees and other plants and shrubs there for galls. There are fewer galls in the spring than in the summer, so you really need to search for them. This is the first time a SPRING gall week had been scheduled through iNaturalist.

I was checking all of the oak trees with catkins for the bisexual galls of the Two-Horned galls wasps, but I didn’t see any of those. On the new leaves of the Interior Live Oak trees, however, we were able to find lots of examples of the galls of the Folded Leaf aphid and the bisexual galls of the Live Oak gall wasp. We also found Erineum Mite galls, and one of the Petiole Gall wasp galls. On the Blue Oaks, I found only one Hair Stalk gall. Those are really hard to see, so I was happy to have spotted one.

We also saw a couple of galls of the Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp. These already had exit holes on them, so we assumed they had been formed last year.

On the coyote brush bushes we found a few of the galls of the Bud Gall and Leaf Gall midges. The leaf galls were new to me. A few folks on iNaturalist said the swelling on the leaf looked “too big” to be made by mites, but they couldn’t offer any alternative identifications. [Besides, other photos online showed the swellings were of a variety of sizes.] We’ve also seen mite-galls on other trees, like willows, that were accumulatively VERY large. So, I’m not changing my ID for now. There were also a few specimens of the Rust Galls on some of the bushes.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

As we continued looking around, we were surprised to find a couple of specimens of the Oak-Loving Elfin Saddle mushroom, a Helvella. I think those are such interesting-looking things, but this is a little late in the season for them here. Climate Change has confused everything in Nature.

We were kind of surprised to find quite a few wildflowers in the area, some of them seemingly stunted by growth in degraded and infertile soil, like that in a spot where there were also short oak trees and chamise bushes. There, we found lots and lots of fluffy-headed Q-Tips, some Johnnytuck, Dot-Seed Plantain, Silver Hairgrass, yellow-headed look-alike Smooth Cat’s Ear, Cretanweed, and Hairy Hawkbit flowers. I also found one old dried-out gall of the Lily Stem Midge.

Among the other flowers we saw were: Valley Tassels, Ithuriel’s Spears, Barestem Biscuitroot, Sand Fringepod, Sky -, Silver Bush-, and what we think was Chick Lupine, and a cascade of purple Chinese Houses, among others.

In one spot ,where we pulled off the road to look at the chamise, there were about50 to 100 “sandflies” flying back and forth, and back and forth, low to the ground. I think they’re a kind of .

We heard more birds than we saw, but we did get glimpses of some wrens, Oak Titmice, Northern Mockingbirds, Crows, Red-Shouldered Hawks, and others. I got a photo of an obliging Western Kingbird, along with photos of some very docile Canada Geese, Red-Winged Blackbirds, and Mallards and Mallard hybrids like the white Pekin Ducks.

We walked for about 3 hours and then I needed to quit. This was hike #18 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Afterward, we stopped at a Chipotle’s for lunch. I had a steak bowl and a large berry Agua Fresca. The drink was so good, I had two. Roxanne and I used the time to go through the photos we had taken and worked up the day’s species list together.

When it was time to leave, I couldn’t get up from my chair. It was made of wood and iron, and ha a low seat that tipped back… and I couldn’t get out of it. Why do restaurants have furniture like that? Why can’t they make chairs that senior citizens can actually use? Grump, grump, grump. Lucky for me, Roxanne was there and she helped me up. I gave her a hug; she’s such a good, empathetic friend. [I was so tired and hungry, though, that I forgot to take our obligatory lunchtime photo.]

Species List:

  1. Ant, American Winter Ant, Prenolepis imparis
  2. Azola, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  3. Baccharis Leaf Blister Mite, Aceria baccharipha [on coyote brush]
  4. Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis [sign on tree]
  5. Bedstraw, Catchweed Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Galium aparine
  6. Bedstraw, Graceful Bedstraw, Galium porrigens [very smal]
  7. Bee, Panurginus Bee, Panurginus sp. [fly low over the ground like sandflies]
  8. Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [red canes]
  9. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  10. Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. capitatus
  11. Butter-and-Eggs, Johnnytuck, Triphysaria eriantha
  12. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  13. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  14. Cattail, Broad-Leaved Cattail, Typha latifolia
  15. Chamise, Adenostoma fasciculatum
  16. Chinese Houses, Purple Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla
  17. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  18. Coyote Brush Rust, Puccinia evadens
  19. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  20. Cretanweed, Hedypnois rhagadioloides [yellow]
  21. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  22. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata
  23. Cutworms and Dart Moths, Subfamily: Noctuinae
  24. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail, Ischnura cervula
  25. Erodium, Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
  26. Fiddleneck, Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  27. Fringepod, Sand Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  28. Grasses, Silver Hairgrass, Aira caryophyllea
  29. Hair Stalk Gall Wasp, Andricus pedicellatus [thread gall on blue oak]
  30. Hairy Hawkbit, Leontodon saxatilis [yellow]
  31. Helvella, Oak-Loving Elfin Saddle, Helvella dryophila
  32. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  33. Ithuriel’s Spear, Triteleia laxa
  34. Johnnytuck, Butter-and-Eggs, Triphysaria eriantha
  35. Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
  36. Lady Beetle, Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  37. Lily Stem Gall Midge, Lasioptera sp. [on Itherial’s Spears in the spring]
  38. Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
  39. Live Oak Folded Leaf Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  40. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Bisexual, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  41. Live Oak Petiole Gall Wasp, Melikaiella flora [can also show up in the midvein
  42. Lomatium, Barestem Biscuitroot, Lomatium nudicaule
  43. Lupine, Bush Lupine, Silver Lupine, Lupinus albifrons var. albifrons
  44. Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus [yellow, white]
  45. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  46. Lupine, Sky Lupine, Lupinus nanus
  47. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  48. Mallard, Domestic Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus
  49. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  50. Non-Biting Midges, Cricotopus sp.
  51. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  52. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  53. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  54. Oak, Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  55. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  56. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  57. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  58. Omnivorous Leafroller Moth, Platynota stultana
  59. Pekin Duck, Domestic Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  60. Pineapple-Weed, Matricaria discoidea
  61. Plantain, Dot-Seed Plantain, Plantago erecta
  62. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  63. Poppy, California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  64. Q-Tips, Micropus californicus
  65. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  66. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  67. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  68. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens [on live oaks, black oaks]
  69. Shortpod Mustard, Hirschfeldia incana
  70. Smooth Cat’s Ear, Hypochaeris glabra [yellow]
  71. Snout Beetle, Smicronyx sp.
  72. Sulphur Tubic Moth, Esperia sulphurella [small, black with white band down each side] [Rox saw this one]
  73. True Babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor [Rox saw this one]
  74. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  75. Valley Tassels, Castilleja attenuata
  76. Vetch, Common Vetch, Vicia sativa
  77. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  78. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  79. White-Winged March Fly, Bibio albipennis
  80. Willow Pinecone Gall Midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides
  81. Willow, Sandbar Willow, Salix exigua
  82. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  83. Yellow Water Iris, Iris pseudacorus

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Back to River Bend, 03-26-23

Around 9:30 AM, I decided to get out for a walk while I could, and went again to the American River Bend Park. I go there often because it’s close to home. I was more focused on just getting outdoors and moving around, so I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I was surprised, then, when I came across some things I wasn’t expecting; early season galls, late season fungi, and some new-to-me plants.

I was happy to hear a lot of birdsong in the forest, and to see some birds gathering twigs, leaves and feathers for their nests. Getting photos of that process, of course, was difficult. The birds move so quickly.

There weren’t many birds in the river, but I did see Great Egrets along the banks, some Mallards, a pair of Common Goldeneyes, and a female Common Merganser. They were few and far between. The river was running so high that it covered the “basking rocks” normally used by the waterfowl.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

At one point, I saw a large Red-Eared Slider Turtle trying to get itself out of the water and up onto a piece of a broken log on the bank so it could warm up in the morning sunshine.

The giant Redbud tree, which I watch for and photograph every year, was just starting to bloom, along with some of the smaller Redbuds throughout the forest. There seemed to be Miner’s Lettuce, Pipevine, and Manroot plants all over the place.

The oak trees were just starting to drop their catkins. I looked for some galls on those, but didn’t find any.

I did find some new Ruptured Twig galls on the live oak trees, and some bud galls on the Coyote Brush. One of those galls still had the exoskeletons of the midges that emerged from the gall sticking out of it. I also looked for stem galls and rust galls on the Coyote Brush, but didn’t see any.

A new-to-me plant was the Common Sandweed, which looked like a tiny, fuzzy version of Fringepod to me.

The surprising find, for me, was seeing large black and gray Elfin Saddles fungus on the forest floor. It seemed late in the fungus season to see those. The saddles look like mushrooms made of crumpled, burned paper and feel like rubber. I found some of these in areas where I’d never seen them before.

“…Species of Helvella have irregular caps that are saddle-shaped, lobed, cuplike, or downright irregular. The caps are not brightly colored, and are usually white, cream, buff, brown, gray, black, or tan…” Mushroom Expert.

I also found a large polypore fungus, some Brittlestem mushrooms, and some Funnel mushrooms… all of these late in the season.

I took a short side trail I’d never walked before and came across a small herd of Columbian Black-Tailed Deer and a few Black-Tailed Jackrabbits there. The deer looked like they were all bucks. A few still had their antlers, but should be dropping them soon. The majority had their pedicles showing, from which their new antlers would grow over the summer.

READ MORE about deer and their antlers in an article I wrote in 2019 as published in the Winters Express newspaper.

The jackrabbits were running all over the place, usually following parts of the trails rather than bounding through the high grass. I could see them popping up and down as they moved along, sometimes sitting up on their hind legs so they could keep their eyes on me. Hah!