Category Archives: galls

Duck Face, 07-28-21

I got up around 6:00 this morning, and headed over to William Land Park in search of jumping galls. Someone on Facebook had posted a video of the galls jumping around on the trail at the Cosumnes River Preserve, so I wanted to see if they were active here, too. I found some of them under the Valley Oak tree at the edge of the parking lot. There weren’t a lot, but you could see them jumping.

As I’m sure I’ve told you before, each gall is formed on the underside of the leaves of Valley Oaks and holds a single larva. When the time is right, the tree releases all of the galls at the same time (over a period of a day or two), so the ground is covered with them. Inside the fallen galls, the tiny larvae twist and flex, causing their gall to jump in the hopes that the gall will land on the earth and nestle safely under leaflitter.

Although it’s fun to see the galls jumping on the cement, it’s kind of sad, too. The problem with this particular oak tree, is that half of the galls are dumped onto the asphalt parking lot where the larvae just bake in the summer sun. They can’t jump high enough to get over the curb and into the dirt.

Galls of the Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius

I didn’t see any other galls on the tree; everything seems so late this year. And I’m still astonished by the overall lack of insects I’m seeing when I’m out. I was hoping to see some sleepy longhorn bees or some caterpillars or some mantids…but nothing.  

While I was walking through the WPA Rock Garden to get to the middle pond, they turned the sprinklers on. I wouldn’t mind if the sprinklers “sprinkled”, but they’re massive units that dump water on the plants like a firehose. The drops of water actually hurt when they hit me. The water also mucked up the dirt paths, turning them into slippery mud trenches.

Once I got to the pond, I was sad to see that the Sacred Lotus has now covered almost the entire surface of it, leaving little room for the ducks and geese.

I was worried that maybe the lotus seeds were toxic — and could poison the water — but that’s a problem, I guess, with the Blue Lotus, not the Sacred Lotus.  I did see birds and a squirrel drinking from the water, so I guess it’s okay.

Speaking of the seeds, “…[They] can remain dormant for an extensive period of time as the pond silts in and dries out. During flood conditions, sediments containing these seeds are broken open, and the dormant seeds rehydrate and begin a new lotus colony. Under favorable circumstances, the seeds of this aquatic perennial may remain viable for many years, with the oldest recorded lotus germination being from seeds 1,300 years old recovered from a dry lakebed in northeastern China. Therefore, the Chinese regard the plant as a symbol of longevity…”

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There were quite a few domesticated ducks lounging around the edges of the pond, so I decided to try to get photos of their faces. I was more successful with some than with others. There were also a few Wood Ducks in the water; males and females. None of the males were in their adult breeding plumage.

I walked around for about 2½ hours, and I headed home. It got up to a scotching 104° today, and the air was full of smoke from the surrounding wildfires. It was hard to take a full breath outdoors.

This was hike #66 of my annual hike challenge.

Species List:

  1. Absinthe Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium [silvery leaves]
  2. Amaranth, Red Amaranth, Amaranthus cruentus [what I call “Cock’s Comb”]
  3. Boquillas Silverleaf, Leucophyllum candidum [loaded with pale purple flowers]
  4. Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa interior [yellow-orange milkweed]
  5. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  6. Caper Bush, Capparis spinosa
  7. Cayuga Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. cayuga
  8. Cherokee Rose, Rosa laevigata [cream colored rose with bright yellow stamens]
  9. Crested Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Crested
  10. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  11. Deodar Cedar, Cedrus deodara
  12. Indian Runner Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Runner
  13. Italian Cypress, Mediterranean Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens
  14. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  15. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  16. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  17. Pig’s Ear, Cotyledon orbiculata [drooping orange bell flowers with curled lips]
  18. Prickly Pear Cactus, Indian Fig Opuntia, Opuntia ficus-indica
  19. Redwhisker Clammyweed, Polanisia dodecandra
  20. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia [tracks]
  21. Ruellia, Ruellia sp. [wrinkled purple flower]
  22. Saint Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum giganteum [a kind of buckwheat]
  23. Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera
  24. Salvia Summer Jewel White Tropical Sage, Salvia sp. [white sage]
  25. Sea Squill, Drimia aphylla [tall spikes of white flowers]
  26. Silver Sotol, Dasylirion cedrosanum [Century Plant]
  27. Stargazer Lily, True Lilies, Lilium ‘Stargazer’ [large pink-and-white lily]
  28. Stinking Madder, Plocama calabrica
  29. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  30. Violet Tubeflower, Iochroma cyaneum [purplish tube-shaped flowers in bunches]
  31. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  32. Yellow Cosmos, Cosmos sulphureus
  33. ?? gall on the flowering head of the Absinthe Wormwood

Visiting the Reverend Mother Tree, 07-26-21

I got up around 5:30 this morning and headed out to William Pond Park for a walk.  There was a weird overcast in the morning and it was a humid 64°, but heated up fast. The water in the river was very low; I could have walked across it in some spots if I was willing to.

The American River

When I first got into the park, I could hear quail chipping and squeaking to another in the overgrowth by the trail. Then a couple of young females jumped up into the lower branches of an elderberry and started pigging out on the berries. One found a perfect spot where a large bunch of berries held her weight, but the other youngster kept trying to go out on the ends of the limbs… which subsequently bent under her weight, making it hard for her to stay on much less eat.

In the fennel and Yellow Starthistle there were Lesser Goldfinches eating the seeds. It’s always cool to me how each species has its own feeding niche.

I had gone to the park in part to look for the tarweeds and vinegarweed that should be showing themselves this time of year, and was happy to find them out and doing their thing. There was Pit-Gland Tarweed with its spikey thorny flowers bracts and Fitch’s Tarweed, all soft with smaller flowers.  The Pit-Gland has sticky dew-exuding glands all over it, whereas the Fitch’s seems to only have them on the flower heads. They grow in the same area as one another and both have yellow flowers.  The Vinegarweed was in bloom in some places… and smelled strongly of its turpentine smell.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

On one of the tarweeds, I found a single Lace Bug. According to the University of California: “…Over a dozen species of lace bugs (family Tingidae) occur in California. Each feed on one or a few closely related plant species. Hosts include alder, ash, avocado, coyote brush, birch, ceanothus, photinia, poplar, sycamore, toyon, and willow…” There are about six of those host plants along this part of the river.

Lace Bug, Corythucha sp.

“…Adult lace bugs [have] an elaborately sculptured dorsal (upper) surface. The expanded surfaces of their thorax and forewings have numerous, semitransparent cells that give the body a lacelike appearance, hence the name ‘lace bugs.’ The wingless nymphs are smaller, oval, and usually dark colored with spines…” There was a nymph on the tarweed, too, but I was so focused on the adult that I didn’t get any clear shots of the nymph. Keep in mind, though, that the adults are 1/8 of an inch long. I think they’re such fascinating tiny things.

“…Lace bugs develop through three life stages: egg, nymph, and adult and have several generations a year. Females insert tiny, oblong eggs in leaf tissue and cover them with dark excrement. Nymphs (immatures) develop through about five, increasingly larger, instars (growth stages) over a period of weeks before maturing into adults…  [They] feed on the underside of leaves by sucking fluids from plants’ photosynthetic tissues. This causes pale stippling and bleaching that can become very obvious on the upper leaf surface by mid to late summer. Adults and nymphs also foul leaves with specks of dark, varnishlike excrement; and this excrement sometimes drips onto pavement and other surfaces beneath infested plants…”

I had gone to the park, too, to visit what I call the “Reverend Mother Tree”, a huge Valley Oak that usually has a wide variety of galls on it.

The “Reverend Mother Tree”, a large Valley Oak, Quercus lobata. Note her size compared to the trail to the right.

Although I could see the beginnings of some galls, there weren’t many aside from some Spiny Turbans, Round Galls (fuzzy, on the twigs) and some Jumping Galls that hadn’t jumped yet. Of course, the large Oak Apple galls were here as well on some other Valley Oaks. On some of the live oak trees I found a few Two-Horned galls.  Not a lot exploding here, yet. They’re all going to be “late” this summer, I guess.

There were still some lerps (and eggs) on the leaves of the eucalyptus trees, but they’re starting to “tarnish” and fall off, making a mess on the plants beneath them.

Lerps of the Red Gum Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei, at various stages of development

I also found a cocoon of the Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella. Apparently, depending on what instar they’re in in their development, the cocoon can be round (first instar) or elongated and ribbed like this (third instar). The caterpillar builds a little fence around itself before building the ribbed cocoon, and you can see that in the photo.

I haven’t found any definitive purpose for the fence anywhere in my research yet, but some have suggested it helps to protect the caterpillar while it’s building its cocoon, maybe acting as a distraction to wouldbe predators.

Coccoon and fence of the Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Oak Ribbed Skeletonizer, Bucculatrix albertiella

oI walked for about three hours and then headed home. By then it was already 72°,nd the humidity made it feel hotter.  This was hike #65 of my annual hike challenge.

When I got home I was tired and sore, so I changed out of my clothes and put my nightgown on for the rest of the day.

Species List:

  1. American Dog Tick, Dermacentor variabilis
  2. Arizona Mantis, Stagmomantis limbata [large ootheca]
  3. Assassin Bug, Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii
  4. Banded Bee Fly, Villa lateralis
  5. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  7. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  9. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  11. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  12. Chicory, Cichorium intybus
  13. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  14. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus [scat]
  15. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setiger
  16. Eucalyptus Gall Wasp, Ophelimus maskelli [speckled; flat galls all over the leaf surface]
  17. Eucalyptus Mid-Rib Gall Wasp, Leptocybe invasa
  18. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  19. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  20. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremon
  21. Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia
  22. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  23. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla rufilabris
  24. Himalayan Blackberry, European Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  25. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  26. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  27. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  28. Lace Bug, Corythucha sp.
  29. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  30. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  31. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  32. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  33. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  34. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  35. Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota
  36. Red Gum Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  37. Red Gum Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei
  38. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Oak Ribbed Skeletonizer,  Bucculatrix albertiella
  39. Round-Gall Wasp, Fuzzy Gall, Burnettweldia washingtonensis [round, fuzzy, on twigs]
  40. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  41. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii [summer gall, pink, spikey top]
  42. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus [heard, caught a glimpse of]
  43. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  44. Tarweed, Fitch’s Tarweed, Centromadia fitchii [yellow, no thorns]
  45. Tarweed, Pit-Gland Tarweed, Holocarpha virgata [thorny]
  46. Telegraphweed, Heterotheca grandiflora
  47. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura [flying overhead]
  48. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, unisexual gall, summer generation,  Dryocosmus dubiosus [small, green or mottled, on back of leaf along the midvein]
  49. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  50. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  51. Vinegarweed, Trichostema lanceolatum
  52. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  53. Western Pondhawk Dragonfly, Erythemis collocata [glimpsed a green female]
  54. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis
  55. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi 

Emerging Aphids, 07-21-21

I got up around 6:00 this morning and it was 61° outside and a little breezy — nice — so I decided to try going out to the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge off of Hood-Franklin Road. I’ve never been impressed with the place because although they tout their “Blue Heron Trails”, they’re basically just sidewalks around a field and a manmade pond.  But I thought I’d give it a try and then go to the We Heal Community Flower Garden at Stone Lake Farms afterwards,

Oh my gosh, the refuge is SUCH a mess. The whole of it was massively unkempt and obviously neglected. The pollinator garden, for example, was all dead except for some buckwheat plants and either naked of any kind of plant life, or messy with dried weeds and grasses. The wild bee condos were also in disarray, with many of the tubs pulled out, thrown on the ground or missing. Not a very good example of how the refuge cares for wildlife.

This is the current state of the “pollinator garden”. Disgraceful.

There’s a sign touting the “Little Green Heron Playscape”, but work hasn’t started on it.

Right now, the playscape looks like this:

The “Little Green Heron Playscape”

The pond, likewise, was surrounded by overgrown rose bushes, California and Himalayan blackberry vines, tules and cattails. In some spots, the water was completely covered by azolla (water fern).

Plants around the pond are so overgrown, you can barely see the water.

Around the pond I saw only two damselflies, both looked like Northern Forktails, and a couple of dragonflies, including a Black Saddlebags and a Variegated Meadowhawk. I didn’t see many butterflies besides a handful of Cabbage Whites.

Black Saddlebags Dragonfly, Tramea lacerata

I know it’s summer, and I wasn’t expecting a lot of birds, but, wow, there were so few it was shocking. The majority of the birdsong I heard was from a very active, very loud mockingbird.

The vast majority  of the trees on the plot had been planted there, so there was a big variety in a very small space including Valley Oaks, California Sycamores, Boxelder, Ash, Cottonwoods, willows, Buttonbush, and Coyote Brush.

Although there was signage inside the pollinator garden marking milkweed plants (that no longer existed there), I was glad to see that wild narrowleaf milkweed plants had established themselves in some of the open spaces around the pond. I didn’t see any Monarch caterpillars on any of them, but I did see Milkweed Bugs and Oleander Aphids.

Besides the big Oak Apple galls, there weren’t any galls showing on the Valley Oaks yet.  While I was looking at and taking photos of the galls on the leaves of one of the cottonwood trees, however, I noticed little white specks moving on one of the petiole galls, so I got out my macro lens to see if I could figure out what the specks were. They were the woolly-butt Cottonwood Petiole Gall Aphids, Pemphigus populitransversus, and they were just starting to emerge from the gall! 

The mother aphid chews on the petiole of the Cottonwood leaf until it swells up, and she climbs inside the swelling and seals it shut. Then she lays her eggs, and lets the babies hatch and grow… and when they’re all big enough, they open the gall and climb out of it. Sometimes, if the gall is too small and can’t accommodate all of the youngsters growing inside it, they zip it open early and some of them leave then close the gall shut behind them… They’re such fascinating little things.

“…The ‘wool’ on a woolly aphid is wax, produced by abdominal glands in order to make the aphid look less like a Happy Meal to its predators…” Hah!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

On one of the elderberry trees, I found reddish-tan forms that I think were a kind of scale insect — the late instars of the insects themselves and some of their pupal cases. I took lots of photos and posted some of them to iNaturalist to try to get a better ID or alternative identification. Elderberries are potentially bothered by the European lecanium soft scale, but all of the photos I’ve seen of them, they’re brown, not the reddish and tan color I was seeing here. Need to do more research…

I walked for about three hours around the site, then headed out, intending to stop by the We Heal Community Flower Garden to pick some flowers, but I made a wrong turn coming out of the refuge and ended up on Highway 160. Yikes! After getting lost for a while on my own, I had Google just take me home. I’ll try the farm on another day.

This was walk #64 of my annual hike challenge.

When I got to the house, I went online to check out the Stone Lakes NWR’s, to see if there were other trails around the main site where I could walk.  But I found that the website was as badly neglected as the refuge itself. There’s very little information, and most of the links on their webpage are bad, leading to pages that don’t exist anymore. Your tax dollars at work. *Sigh* 

There is a “friends group” site, but I’m not sure how much good, if any, they’re doing for the place. 

“…There are occasional docent led walks (fall through spring) and staff led kayak trips on the lakes (summer).  These events take place in areas that are not normally open to the public…” But COVID put an end to that, so we’ll see if they start up again next spring. Still, in all, the place isn’t one I’d recommend visiting, at least not until they clean up their act — and the site .

Species List:

  1. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  2. Armored Scale Insects, Family: Diaspididae
  3. Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  4. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  5. Black Saddlebags Dragonfly, Tramea lacerata
  6. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  7. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  8. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  9. Broadleaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
  10. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
  11. Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
  12. California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum
  13. California Bulrush, Schoenoplectus californicus
  14. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  15. California Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  16. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  17. Cottonwood Leaf Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populivenae
  18. Cottonwood Petiole Gall, Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
  19. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  20. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  21. Curlycup Gumweed, Grindelia squarrosa
  22. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setiger
  23. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  24. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  25. Himalayan Blackberry, European Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  26. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  27. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  28. Leafy Bract Gall Wasp, Diplolepis californica [hard rosette gall on rose bush]
  29. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  30. Narrowleaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  31. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Mexican Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  32. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  33. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  34. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  35. Orbweaver Spider, Subfamily: Araneinae
  36. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  37. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis [scat, old]
  38. Saltbush, Big Saltbush, Atriplex lentiformis
  39. Sunflower, Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus
  40. Trailing Blackberry, California Blackberry, Rubus ursinus
  41. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  42. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  43. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  44. Velvety Goldenrod, Solidago velutina
  45. Western Small Milkweed Bug, Lygaeus kalmii kalmii
  46. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  47. Woolly Rosemallow, Hibiscus lasiocarpos

Two Hours at Gristmill, 07-14-21

I got up around 5:45 this morning and headed out to the Gristmill Recreation Area for a walk. It was 56° at the river when I got there. Again, I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, so I was open to whatever I came across. I walked along the shore of the American River for a while then climbed up onto the trail to walk back to where the car was parked.

I found quite a few little toadlets in one area. There must be a nursery of them in there somewhere, but the riverside plants were too overgrown for me to see exactly where they coming from.

I also found a melanistic Bull Frog. It was a young one and kind of skinny, and because it was still a little chilly outside, the frog was torpid. That made it easy for me to catch him and get some photos of him.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There were lots of galls on the willow trees, but nothing much, really, showing on the oaks there yet.

I saw a Great Blue Heron on the edge of the water, slumming with some Canada Geese. It let me get pretty close before it flew off, croaking at me. A male Belted Kingfisher was also cooperative, sitting on a snag by the water drying off from fishing. And a young Red-Shouldered Hawk flew into a tree right near the trail, and let me get some photos of it before it also took off across the river.

I walked for about 2 hours and then headed home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. African Cluster Bug, Agonoscelis puberula
  3. American Bull Frog, Lithobates catesbeianus
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  5. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flower]
  6. Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  7. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  8. Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  9. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  10. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  11. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  12. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  13. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  14. California Gull, Larus californicus [yellow legs; dark eye; red spot]
  15. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  16. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  17. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  18. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  19. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  20. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  21. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  22. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setiger
  23. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  24. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  25. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  26. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  27. Hairy Woodpecker, Dryobates villosus [long bill]
  28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  29. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  30. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  31. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  32. Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
  33. Mullein, Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria [thin stick, white or yellow]
  34. Muscovy Duck, Cairina moschata
  35. Northern Catalpa, Indian Bean Tree, Catalpa speciosa
  36. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  37. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  38. Silver Maple, Acer saccharinum
  39. Smooth Horsetail, Equisetum laevigatum
  40. Spanish Clover, Acmispon americanus
  41. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  42. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  43. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  44. Western Boxelder Bug, Boisea rubrolineata
  45. Western Toad, Anaxyrus boreas
  46. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  47. Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Pontania californica
  48. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  49. Willow Beaked Twig Gall Midge, Rahdophaga rigidae
  50. Willow Mid-Rib Sawfly, Unknown species [per Russo, pg.219]
  51. Willow Rosette Gall Midge, Rabdophaga salicisbrassicoides
  52. Willow Stem Sawfly, Euura exiguae

Still Between Seasons, 07-12-21

Yesterday it was 102°. Today, it’s only supposed to get up to 95°.  I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk, and it was 59° at the river when I got there. Such a relief!

Today’s walk was more about getting some exercise today than anything else, so I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. When I drove down the road toward the preserve, I saw several female Wild Turkeys with their poults; it looked like one or to babies per mother. I wanted to stop to take photos of them, but there was a car tailgating me…

When I got to the turnout for the preserve, there was a Western Bluebird sitting on top of the sign, but again, I couldn’t stop to get a photo because of the tailgater… Sometimes, I wish I were less careful; just let the tailgaters hit me. But people are insane these days, and you never know what little thing my escalate into road rage.

Inside the preserve, the Red-Shouldered Hawks were talking to each other, very loudly, again. I think one of the youngsters isn’t able to fly like it should. It’s still jumping from branch to branch and not getting far when it does try to fly. It was crying when its sibling found something to eat and was on a branch it couldn’t reach. I couldn’t tell what the other one was eating, but it look like it might have been a bird of some sort.

A juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I was hoping, again, to see some fawns, but only saw a few lone does and a couple of bucks in their velvet. The moms must still be off somewhere with the young ones.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, buck in his velvet.

I couldn’t find any galls on the Valley Oaks there, yet, but some galls are staring to emerge on the Blue Oaks — even the Frankenstein tree (a Blue/Valley cross). I found Saucer galls, a Hair Stalk galls, and some Crystalline galls.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed home. By then it was 76° outside.  This was hike #61 of my annual hike challenge.  And all the fresh air and exercise made me sleepy. When I got home all I wanted to do was have some breakfast and take a nap.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  3. Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  4. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  5. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  6. Buffalo Treehopper, Stictocephala alta [exuvia]
  7. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  8. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  9. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  10. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  11. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  12. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  13. Clustered Gall Wasp, Andricus brunneus
  14. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  15. Common Madia, Madia elegans [sticky, smells like lemon]
  16. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata
  17. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus
  18. Cudweed, California Cudweed, Pseudognaphalium californicum
  19. Dallis Grass, Paspalum dilatatum
  20. Digger Bee, Tribe: Anthophorin
  21. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  22. Hair Stalk Gall Wasp, Andricus pedicellatus [thread gall on blue oak]
  23. Harvester Ant, Western, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis [red]
  24. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  25. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  26. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  27. Narrowleaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  28. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  29. Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota
  30. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  31. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  32. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  33. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas [cup shaped, sometimes rough edges]
  34. Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima
  35. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  36. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  37. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  38. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  39. Wooly Oak Aphid, Stegophylla essigi
  40. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis
  41. ?? Folded alder leaf parasite

At Cosumnes, 07-07-21

I got up at 5:30 this morning. Rox and I had planned to go to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge today, but she got a is it from her daughter, so I decided to go to the Consumes River Preserve by myself instead.

I took Franklin Blvd. from Sacramento to the preserve and at Cosumnes River Blvd. at a train crossing, the gates came down and the lights started flashing… and they stayed that way for five, ten, twelve, fifteen, twenty minutes with no train in sight anywhere. Some people were honking their horns (like that was going to do any good), and others worked together to lift one of the gates by hand and get their cars through.

I looked up “train crossing malfunctions” in Google and got a phone number to call. I told the guy on the line that the gates had been down for 20 minutes and there were no trains. He asked for the street names and the crossing’s DOT number. I didn’t know what that was. Apparently, every train crossing is marked with a blue sign that has a specific number on it that allows the dispatcher know exactly which crossing is involved. I could see the sign, but was too far away to read it.

The guy was still able to look things up and said there was a disabled light train on the rails that was moving very slowly, so it was setting off the crossing gate even though it wasn’t there yet. A few seconds later, the crippled train showed up. It was all dark gray, like it had burned up. It crept slowly through the crossing, honking its horn all along the way, and the gates finally went up.

All the while I was sitting in the car, stuck between cars and high curbs, waiting for the stupid gate to rise, all I could think of was that I was losing outdoor time when the temperatures were still pleasant. Priorities. Hah!

I finally got near the Consumes River Preserve around 7:30 and drove around Bruceville and Desmond Roads to see if there was anything interesting in the fields. There was only a little bit of water in one field, so no waterfowl. There were finches, a Killdeer, some Song Sparrows… and a cat.

There was also a spot where there were a lot of common sunflowers, so I got out of the car and checked them out — looking for pollinators and other insects. I found a couple of crab spiders, and a few bees, but that was about it. I’m still not seeing as many insects as I think I should be, and that’s really concerning to me.

Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia

According to the BBC: “…Previous research indicated an alarming decline in numbers in all parts of world, with losses of up to 25% per decade. [A] new study [in 2020], the largest carried out to date, says the picture is more complex and varied. Land-dwelling insects are definitely declining the authors say, while bugs living in freshwater are increasing… Reports of the rapid and widespread decline of insects globally have caused great worry to scientists… Many people have an instinctive perception that insects are decreasing – often informed by the so-called ‘windscreen phenomenon’, where you find fewer dead bugs splattered on cars. The researchers say it’s real… However while many land-based species are declining, the new study shows that insects that live in fresh water, like midges and mayflies, are growing by 1.08% per year… The researchers believe this is because of legislation that has cleaned up polluted rivers and lakes…. The scientists say there is no smoking gun on insect declines but they find the destruction of natural habitats due to urbanisation, to be key… ‘The nice thing about insects is that most have incredibly large numbers of offspring, so if you change the habitat in the right way we will see them recover really fast’…”

Rox and I have noticed large swarms of midges in the freshwater areas where we hike, but the other land-based insects have been on an obvious (to us) decline for the past few years. I wonder if that will affect the gall production this year.

The summer wasp galls are just starting to show up on the trees. Along with the ubiquitous Oak Apples, I also found some early Yellow Wig galls, Ash Flower galls, Spiny Turban galls, and some Jumping Galls. Some of the younger Oak Apples were bright red, and I’m not sure what causes that. Maybe a lot of tannins in those particular trees?

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There was only a little bit of water in the pond by the boardwalk parking lot, but I could see some birds around it, so I parked there and walked around the pond to get some photos. There were Tree Swallows, Western Kingbirds and Ash-Throated Flycatchers flying around, but none of them would land anywhere long enough for me to get any photos. One group of Kingbirds mobbed a Red-Shouldered Hawk in a nearby tree and chased it away, and the Tree Swallows dipped down into the water eating bugs.

Along one side of the pond, there was a Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron hunting in the water primrose and pond vegetation. Although both of them did a lot of their “stalking” behavior, I didn’t see either of them catch anything.

In the water, at the larger birds’ feet, there was a small Pied-Billed Grebe that was very successful in catching lots of fat crawfish in the shallows.

When I’d gotten my fill of photos from the pond, I walked across the road and followed the trail on that side for a couple of hours. The buttonbushes were in bloom, and everything was covered in the fluff from the willow and cottonwood trees.

I saw a few cottontail rabbits, and a pair of female Wild Turkeys. Each turkey was leading a single poult across the path and into the oak forest.

Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii

In some of the flowers of Curlycup Gumweed along the trail, I found some tiny beetles, and new-to-me Owlet Moth caterpillars. The caterpillars were transparent orange with black dots around each segment. They were really small but I was able to get some detail with my macro lens attachment. When I’m getting these super-close-up photos, though, I always forget to take a distance photo to show what the subject looks like in a “normal” view in comparison to the close-up.D’oh!      

The big surprise was a Lorquin’s Admiral butterfly. Their host plants are willows, cottonwoods, and various orchard trees like plums and cherries. They take nectar, but they also take fluids and nourishment from bird droppings and animal dung. The overwinter as larvae in a leaf cases on their host plant. I wonder if those cases are what’ve been seeing on the willow trees in the Gristmill area.

Lorquin’s Admiral Butterfly, Limenitis lorquini

According to butterfly expert, Art Shapiro, “…Since the late 1990s this species has been in precipitous and unexplained decline in the Sacramento Valley, becoming extinct in North Sacramento and Rancho Cordova and flirting with extinction in West Sacramento…”   

Well, they’re not wholly extinct, obviously. I see at least one around here every year.

As I was heading back to the car, I saw some goldfinches among the wild sunflowers growing in the now completely dry “wetland” area beside the parking lot.

I walked for about 2 hours and then headed back home. This was hike #60 of my annual hike challenge.

SPECIES LIST:

  1. Aphid, Family: Aphididae
  2. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Aceria fraxiniflora
  3. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  6. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  7. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  8. Broadleaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
  9. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  12. Cat, Felis catus
  13. Chicory, Cichorium intybus
  14. Common Spikeweed, Centromadia pungens
  15. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  16. Curlycup Gumweed, Grindelia squarrosa
  17. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  18. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  19. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  20. Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
  21. Floating Primrose-Willow, Ludwigia peploides
  22. Flower Beetle, Listrus sp.
  23. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  24. Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia
  25. Gray Hairstreak Butterfly, Strymon melinus
  26. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  27. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  28. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  29. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  30. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  31. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  32. Lorquin’s Admiral Butterfly, Limenitis lorquini
  33. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  34. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  35. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  36. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  37. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  38. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  39. Owlet Moth, Subfamily: Heliothinae
  40. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  41. Plum, Prunus domestica
  42. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  43. Raccoon, Common Raccoon, Procyon lotor [2 roadkill, and a latrine spot]
  44. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  45. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Oak Ribbed Skeletonizer,  Bucculatrix albertiella
  46. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  47. Robberfly, Machimus sp.
  48. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumariumswal
  49. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  50. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii [spring gall, round on the stems, valley oaks]
  51. Sunflower, Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus
  52. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
  53. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  54. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  55. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  56. Water Smartweed, Persicaria amphibia
  57. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
  58. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  59. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi