Category Archives: General Blog

Surprised by Fawns when Looking for Galls, 08-20-19

My friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne Moger, picked me up and did all the driving today.  She took a longer route to the Cosumnes River Preserve down Freeport Avenue which is a lot more picturesque than going by the freeway.  There are some really nice views of the river along the road… And the weather was cooperative.  It was 59º when we left the house around 6:30 am, and it got up to about 86º by the afternoon.  There was a slight breeze blowing most of the time, so it was very nice.

The gates at the preserve hadn’t opened yet by the time we arrived, so Roxanne parked on the side of the road (as everyone does when the gates are closed): the walking trails are open even when the boardwalk and nature center aren’t.  I wasn’t expecting there to be many birds or much water at the preserve this time of year, but I was actually surprised to see most of the sloughs and little pond completely dry and empty. 

Only one pond had water in it, and it was a really nice surprise to see standing on the far bank of it two fawns still in their spots!  Mom didn’t seem to around anywhere, so I inferred that she must have left the fawns there (where there was shade and water for them) while she went foraging.  That’s not an uncommon thing for mother deer to do.  This was first pair of twins I’d seen this year so far.  (All the other fawns I’ve seen have been singles, even though twin births are the norm for the Columbian Black-Tailed Deer.)  I think I took about a 100 photos of them. Hah!

The fawns were a BIG surprise!

Roxanne and I had really gone to look for galls and spiders.  Although we didn’t see much in the way of spiders, the galls didn’t disappoint.  There were some trees that were COVERED in Red Cone galls, and others dripping with honeydew from the Flat-Topped Honeydew galls. Lots of Yellow Wig Galls, Spiny Turbans and Oak Apples, along with a few Convoluted Galls, Disk Galls, Fuzzy Galls, Club Galls and some others.  We also saw some Ash Flower galls and Leafcurl.  On some of the willow trees we found some Willow Apple Galls made by wasps and Blister galls made by mites.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The queen Paper Wasp on her nest. There were no eggs in the chambers yet.

While we were looking for more galls, I noticed, tucked under a leaf, a Paper Wasp queen and two of her daughters working on their nest. The daughters flew off when we lifted a leaf to get a better view of the nest, but the queen stayed where she was and gave us the stink-eye until we left her alone.  As far as I could tell, there were no new eggs in the chambers of the nest yet.  So, I inferred that the daughters had just finished them, and the queen hadn’t laid any more eggs yet.  Paper Wasps are far less aggressive than Yellow Jackets, so I’m actually able to get pretty close to them; close enough, in fact, to get a pretty good photo of the queen’s face.  Each Paper Wasp has different facial markings, so they recognize each other as individuals.  So cool. ((You can read more about that here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/12/111202-wasps-people-faces-recognition-insects-science-animals/))

Along the side of the road I found a big chunk of some kind of animal hide, a few large bones (which I assumed were from a deer), and part of an opossum skeleton, including half a skull, one paw and some rib bones. And, yeah, I took photos of the opossum.

 We also saw a Painted Lady butterfly, a couple of Lorquin’s Admiral butterflies, a Cabbage White and a Monarch (!).  

At one point along the trail, we heard this weird clicking/rasping sound and couldn’t figure out what it was. Might have been a hidden bird or maybe the trees rubbing together?  We just couldn’t figure it out no matter how close we were able to get to it. It kind of creeped me out…. Especially when it got louder when Roxanne approached it from a different angle. What is it?! Here’s the video: https://youtu.be/3bTIqvSkUA4

We found several different species of willows along the way.  And ID-ing willows is kind of difficult for me because I’m not really a “plants” person and they “all look the same” to me.  (Is that being a plant racist?) But here’s a good guide from Calscape: https://calscape.org/loc-california/Salix(all)/vw-list/np-0?

We walked from the pond near the boardwalk area, through the oak woodland and up to the nature center… a total of about 4 hours, which is my limit.

SPECIES LIST:

1. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Eriophyes fraxinivorus
2. Ash Leaf Curl Aphid, Prociphilus fraxinifolii
3. Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
4. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
5. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
6. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
7. Club Gall Wasp, Xanthoteras clavuloides
8. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
9. Common Brown Leafhopper, Orosius orientalis
10. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
11. Common Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes
12. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
13. Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula
14. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
15. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. peploides
16. Fuzzy Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis washingtonensis
17. Great Egret, Ardea alba
18. Jumping Oak Galls, Neuroterus saltatorius
19. Leafy Bud Gall Wasp, Andricus foliates
20. Lorquin’s Admiral Butterfly, Limenitis lorquini
21. Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus
22. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
23. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
24. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
25. Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
26. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui
27. Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
28. Praying Mantis, Mantis sp. (exuvia)
29. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
30. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
31. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii
32. Spotted Orb Weaver Spider, Neoscona crucifera
33. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Cyclosa conica
34. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
35. Twinberry Honeysuckle, Lonicera involucrate
36. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
37. Velvety Tree Ant, Liometopum occidentale
38. Virginia Opossum, Didelphis virginiana
39. Willow Apple Gall Wasp, Pontania californica
40. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Blister Gall, Aculops tentanothrix
41. Woolly Aphid, Prociphilus sp.
42. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
… and a teneral damselfly I was unable to identify.

Galls, Galls, and Galls, 08-18-19

I headed out to William Pond Park on the American River around 6:00 am to check out my go-to oak tree and look for galls.  I like that one particular Valley Oak because it seems to have a wide variety of galls on it every summer.  I think the relatively mild summer this year has delayed when a lot of the wasps from making up and laying their eggs on the tree, but I was still able to find quite a few different species: Red Cone, Convoluted, Yellow Wig, Jumping Galls, Disk Galls, Oak Apples, Spiny Turbans, Flat-Topped Honeydew Galls, Round Galls (yeah, that’s really their name), Live Oak galls (1st generation), Pumpkin Galls, Fuzzy Galls, Club Galls… I was pleased with the variety.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

 There were also more Valley Oaks, some Interior Live Oaks, and what I think were Coast Live Oaks (based on their leaves) in the park that had galls on them.  On one of the Coast Live Oaks, I found a gall that didn’t look at all familiar to me.  I tried looking it up when I got home but couldn’t see a photographic reference for it.  I thought it might be a form of Two-Horned gall (without any horns) but it just doesn’t look or feel like that, really. So, I’ll need to do more research on it. 

I also found some gall-affected acorns: black and oozy.  I took one o them home to open it up and try to see what might be inside of it, but my photographic equipment isn’t really good enough to see much.  Still, I think the “exercise” of looking is a good thing.  It trains my eye to see more tiny details.

The Flat-Topped Honeydew Galls weren’t very big yet, but they were already exuding so much honeydew that they made parts of the branches and leaves very sticky.  So sticky, in fact, that I had to take a break and walk down to the river to wash my hands.

Gall of the Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis, oozing honeydew

Along the edge of the river there were a lot of stupid people with their unleashed dogs, letting the dogs run into the water… which is running really cold and fast right now.  They’re lucky none of the dogs were swept away.

Along the paved bike trails there were quite a few people on those Elliptical Stepper Scooter Bike thingies. They’re like big scooters but instead of propelling them with your feet, you stand on the steps and pump them.  You get the same leg action you’d get with a bike, but you’re standing up instead of sitting down.  They’re really kind of cool-looking, but to get a good one you have to spend between $800 and $1200.  Sheesh!

 I also found lots of Green Lacewing eggs and several Assassin Bug egg cases on the go-to tree, including some eggs cases that had tiny newly hatched nymphs next to them. The nymphs were so pale and so small—like “air bugs” — it was hard to see them…until they scrambled up on my fingers. Luckily, I’ve never been bitten by an Assassin Bug, and the babies pretty much just left me alone after I returned them to their leaf.

Egg case and nymphs of an Assassin Bug, Zelus luridus

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed home. 

SPECIES LIST:

1. Assassin Bug, Zelus luridus
2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
3. Chicory, Cichorium intybus
4. Club Gall Wasp, Xanthoteras clavuloides
5. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
6. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
7. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
8. Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula
9. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
10. Fuzzy Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis washingtonensis
11. Giant Fennel, Ferula communis
12. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
13. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
14. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
15. Jumping Oak Galls, Neuroterus saltatorius
16. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
17. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
18. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
19. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
20. Round Gall Wasp, Besbicus conspicuous
21. Silver Wattle, Acacia dealbata
22. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii
23. Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima
24. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
25. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
26. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
27. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella

A 3-hour walk

This and That, 08-13-19

Around 6:00 am I went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my regular volunteer trail-walking gig.  It was 57° at the preserve when I got there, but before I left it was already up to 77° and heading to a high of 100°.  Pleh!

I didn’t see a whole lot today, but I did get to see several different kinds of galls, a Turkey Vulture posing in a tree and a small herd of deer.  One of the fawns was out, but he was in the high grass laying down near his mom, so getting photos of him was tough.  I also saw a young Red-Shouldered Hawk getting harassed by Mockingbirds again, and I came across some insects which I think were a tiny species of Crane Flies.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Along the way, I got to do my “naturalist” thing for a lady named “Karen” who comes to the preserve on Tuesdays, too.  I had stopped by a Live Oak tree when she came by and she asked what I was looking at.  I showed her a Two-Horned gall and explained what it was, then found a Pumpkin gall and a Kernel gall on the same tree.  She said, “Say all of that again so I can record you on my phone.”  So, I went through the whole spiel about the cynipid wasps, how they lay eggs on the leaves of the oak trees and how the tree forms the galls, and how each gall is species-specific.  She was very appreciative.  I hope the video turned out so she can share it with her friends. 

I stopped to look at the feral bee colony and was a little worried when I didn’t see a lot of activity around the tree where the hive was.  There were only a few bees around the entrance this time.  I usually see dozens.  I’ll have to check out the tree again next time I’m there. I hope nothing happened to their queen…

There were hardly any bees at the “bee tree” today…

As I was heading out of the preserve, I noticed that the gardeners were ripping up the showy milkweed that was infested with black mold… which is the majority of the plants. It’s been my observation that the Monarchs don’t care if the milkweed plants are moldy… and most of the plants that the gardeners were ripping out today were plants where I historically found Monarch caterpillars in the past.  I guess the gardeners know what they’re doing but I was kind of disappointed to see the plants being destroyed right before the late-summer Monarchs are due to arrive.

I walked for three hours and then headed home.

Screen shot from My Tracks app.

SPECIES LIST:

1. American Yellow Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium inclusum

2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
3. Asian Lady Beetle, Harlequin Labybug, Harmonia axyridis
4. Ball-tipped Gall Wasp, Xanthoteras teres
5. Bay Laurel, Laurus nobilis
6. Black Walnut Tree, Juglans nigra
7. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
8. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
9. Boxelder Bug, Boisea trivittata (nymph)
10. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
11. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
12. Canada Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis
13. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
14. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea (nymph, lion)
15. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
16. Cranefly, Erioptera sp. (maybe Erioptera septemtrionis)
17. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
18. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
19. Feral Honeybees, Apis mellifera
20. Giant Sunflower, Helianthus giganteus
21. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
22. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
23. Kernel Flower Gall Wasp, Callirhytis serricornis
24. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
25. Leaf Gall Wasp, Unidentified
26. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
27. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
28. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
29. Peregrine Falcon, Wek-Wek, Falco peregrinus
30. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
31. Raccoon, Procyon lotor (tracks)
32. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
33. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
34. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella
35. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas
36. Tall Buckwheat, Eriogonum elatum var. elatum
37. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
38. Twice-Stabbed Ladybeetle, Chilocorus stigma
39. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus dubiosus
40. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
41. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
42. Woodland Skipper, Ochlodes sylvanoides
43. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi