Category Archives: photography

Blue Oak Galls and Other Stuff, 07-09-19

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.  It was about 56° when I got there, but it was up to around 75° when I left.  When I got there, I was happy to see my friend and fellow-naturalist Roxanne there, too. She’s helping me out with the Monarch monitoring facet of my volunteer work at the preserve. I really appreciate her help, too, because it makes the somewhat tedious process of looking over each milkweed plant go more quickly. 

Still no sign of Monarch eggs or caterpillars, and what was odd was we didn’t see much in the way of other insects either.  We did find some spiders (including a White Crab Spider and a little Jumping Spider), some aphids, a single praying mantis, and a couple of beetles but that was it.  The lack of critters was rather surprising and made me wonder if the area had been sprayed or something.  We worked on the plants for about 90 minutes and then went for a short walk through the preserve.

 Although we heard a lot of different birds, we didn’t see any Wild Turkeys today, which was very unusual. They’re normally all over the place. We came across two bucks but no does and no fawns. Both bucks were in their velvet.  One was a nervous youngster who was just getting his first antlers (a “spike buck”), and the other was a laid-back 3-pointer who was just lying in the grass on the side of the trail.  He kept an eye on us but didn’t move from his spot. I guess he figured we were no match for him, so we weren’t much of a threat.  He was gorgeous. And because he was so still, we were able to get quite a few good photos of him.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

The most exciting thing to me that we came across on our walk was sighting a few different species on a Blue Oak tree (Quercus douglasii) along the River Trail.  It had both Saucer Galls (Andricus gigas) and newly budding Crystalline Galls (Andricus crystallinus). The saucers start out flat and then form cups (some with smooth edges and some with serrated edges). The Crystalline Galls start out like tiny dark-pink urns and then swell up and get their sparkly spines. We hadn’t seen any galls at all on the “Frankenstein” hybrid tree further up the trail, so finding the galls on the Blue Oak by the river was rewarding. 

It was nice to see that this particular Blue Oak was also getting acorns on it. These oaks don’t produce acorns in drought years, and when they do produce acorns, they’ll produce a lot one year (a “mast” year) and then produce far fewer for the next two or three years.  So, as I said, it was nice to see this one with acorns all over it.  (The acorns usually take a year to develop.) Blue Oaks are also endemic to California, which means they’re found here and nowhere else on the planet.  It’s also one of the oak trees that is immune to the fungus that causes Sudden Oak Death.  Very cool trees.

Oh, and we found a Treehopper – but it jumped away before I could get a photo of it.  Those things are sooooooo weird-looking with their hunched backs. The one we saw was a Buffalo Treehopper (Stictocephala bisonia): mostly green with some burnished gold edges on it.

We walked the trails for about 2 hours.

Species List:

  1. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
  2. Brass Buttons, Cotula coronopifolia,
  3. Buffalo Treehopper, Stictocephala bisonia,
  4. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
  5. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
  6. California Praying Mantis, Stagmomantis californica,
  7. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  8. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  9. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  10. Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis,
  11. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
  12. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus,
  13. Convergent Ladybeetle, Hippodamia convergens.
  14. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus,
  15. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  16. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera,
  17. Flax-Leaf Horseweed, Erigeron canadensis,
  18. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  19. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  20. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  21. Jumping Spider, Phidippus sp.,
  22. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
  23. Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria,
  24. Mushroom Headed Mayfly, Small Minnow Mayfly, Callibaetis ferrugineus ferrugineus,
  25. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  26. Occidental Grasshopper, Trimerotropis occidentalis,
  27. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii,
  28. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  29. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
  30. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas,
  31. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  32. Sweet Pea, Lathyrus odoratus,
  33. Tarweed, Common Madia, Madia elegans,
  34. Wavy-Leaf Soap Plant, Soap Root, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
  35. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
  36. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia,
  37. White Crab Spider, Misumessus sp.

A Coyote and Lerps, 07-06-19

Around 5:30 am I headed over to the William Pond Park (across the river from the American River Bend Park). I usually don’t like going over there because it’s “too manicured” for me, but I go there because there’s an oak tree that grow over there that always has interesting galls on it.

The weather was beautiful and it was about 55° when I got to the park.

At the naturalist class on Friday, one of my naturalist students, Jeanette, said she wasn’t seeing much in the way of galls out there yet, so I kept an eye out for them when I was walking. They’re just starting to show themselves around here.  I’ve found Pumpkin galls on the Live Oak trees, and today was able to find some Spiny Turban galls and Fuzzy Round galls on my go-to Valley Oak tree – and also spotted some aphid galls on a Cottonwood tree.  In another month or so, there should be dozens of different galls showing up all over the place.  I reminded the students that the galls may form on different parts of the trees depending on insect species. Some only form on the bark or stems; some only form on the top of the leaves; some only form on the underside of the leaves; some only form on the terminal ends of the branches… so, hey have to look everywhere.  And identifying the tree or plant on which you find the gall will make identifying the galls themselves easier.

I also saw lots of “lerps” today. They’re little teepees spun out of starch and sugar by tiny insects called Red Gum Lerp Psyllids (Glycaspis brimblecombei). Mama psyllid lays a bunch of eggs and as the babies hatch they cover themselves with the lerps. The babies then exude honeydew to attract ants and Yellowjackets that unwittingly defend them against other predators while they (the ants and wasps) guard the caches of honeydew. So, kewl looking.

Lerps of the Red Gum Eucalyptus Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei . the tiny “crab-looking” insect is a type of Lace Bug, Corythucha sp.

I came across a California Ground Squirrel sitting on top of a pile of fallen limbs and stumps, and thought its face looked “weird”. When I got home and went through my photos, I realized that the squirrel’s face was badly swollen on one side. It looked like it had swallowed bees or something; or maybe it had been struck by a rattlesnake. The adult ground squirrels are immune to rattlesnake venom. They can take a few strikes without dying, but some swelling can still happen.  The swelling didn’t seem to bother the squirrel too much. It was still busy stuffing its face with seeds and grasses.

California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi, with a swollen face.

Dogs off-leash in nature parks is one of my pet peeves. So, when I spotted what I thought was a dog taking a crap on the lawn in the park, I was muttering angrily to myself about “stupid humans and their unleashed pets”.  I first saw the canine from a distance, but as I got closer, I realized it was a coyote!  It posed for a few photos and then crossed the road in front of me and loped into the high grass… where two more were waiting for it. So, that turned out to be a “happy” moment instead of an “irritated” one. Go, Nature!  The coyote was very gray in the face and had a spot on its right flank that was furless and kind of leathery (like an old injury that had healed over), so I think it was pretty elderly (for a coyote).

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Part of my walk took me right along the bank of the American River, and I don’t remember it ever being as high or flowing as fast as it is right now.  The rocky areas where I’d usually walk are all under water now.  And because the water is moving so fast, and not really pooling anywhere, all of the insect larvae that usually breed in the water weren’t breeding there… So, not a lot of mayflies, dragonflies or damselflies. 

I DID see a stay cat that was missing an eye, as well as a few California Quails (males) sitting in trees overlooking their domains, and lots of Mockingbirds which seem to be doing their courtship stuff right now.  I also found a spot near the riverbank where there were a lot of raccoon tracks. Most of the tracks were around little puddles of water in the sand; so, I inferred that the racoons had taken whatever they were eating to the puddles to wash the food off.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back home.

Species Identification:

  1. Blackberry Rust Fungus, Gymnoconia nitens,
  2. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
  3. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus,
  4. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
  5. California Quail, Callipepla californica,
  6. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  7. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  8. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica,
  9. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  10. Chicory, Cichorium intybus,
  11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  12. Coyote, Canis latrans,
  13. Domestic Shorthair Cat, Felis catus,
  14. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setigerus,
  15. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare,
  16. Fitch’s Tarweed, Centromadia fitchii,
  17. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis,
  18. Flax-leaved Horseweed, Erigeron bonariensis,
  19. Fuzzy Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis washingtonensis,
  20. Giant Mullein, Verbascum thapsus,
  21. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  22. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus,
  23. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  24. Jalisco Petrophila Moth, Petrophila jaliscalis,
  25. Lace Bug, Corythucha sp.,
  26. Long-Jawed Orb-Weaver Spider, Tetragnatha sp.,
  27. Mayfly, Epeorus sp.,
  28. Minnow, Phoxinus phoxinus,
  29. Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria,
  30. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  31. Nectarine, Prunus persica,
  32. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos,
  33. Oak Apple Wasp Gall, Andricus quercuscalifornicus,
  34. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum,
  35. Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitranversus,
  36. Purpletop Vervain, Verbena bonariensis,
  37. Queen Anne’s Lace, Wild Carrot, Daucus carota,
  38. Rabbit Tail Grass, Lagurus ovatus,
  39. Raccoon, Procyon lotor,
  40. Red Gum Eucalyptus Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei,
  41. Red Gum Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus camaldulensis,
  42. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
  43. Robberfly, Efferia sp.,
  44. Sneezeweed, Helenium puberulum,
  45. Spanish Clover, Acmispon americanus,
  46. Spiny Turban Wasp Gall, Antron douglasii,
  47. Spotted Lady’s Thumb, Persicaria maculosa,
  48. Tarweed, Common Madia, Madia elegans,
  49. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
  50. Tree Tobacco, Nicotiana glauca,
  51. Treehopper, Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittata,
  52. Turkey Tangle, Fogfruit, Phyla nodiflora,
  53. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
  54. Variable Flatsedge, Cyperus difformis,
  55. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
  56. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli,