Category Archives: Surprises

A Birthday Walk at River Bend, 01-22-23

I went out a bit later than usual today, the first time I’ve been out walking in nature for over a month. I wasn’t sure how long I’d be able to last or how far I could go — my strength and stamina have been pretty minimal since the chemo infusion in December 2022.

I went to the American River Bend Park, and surprised myself in being able to travel a mile… but it took me almost four hours to do that. I had to stop and either it in the car, or sit at a picnic table to catch my breath and relax for a few minutes. Near the end of the walk, my neck and shoulders were hurting from carrying my backpack, and my left leg (where the cancer is) was getting cranky, but I made it. I left the house around 9:30 am and got back home around 2:00 pm. It was clear, crisp and cold while I was out (in the 40’s), and the wind coming off the river was frigid so I was bundled up in layers.

I was looking specifically for fungi, but was open to whatever else I might find. The cool thing about the River Bend Park is that it has a lot of diversity among species: plants, animals, fungi. So you never know what you’ll see, but you’re always guaranteed to find something.

Among the fungi I found were Blewits, Brownits, Deer Mushrooms, Red Threads, a Yellow-Staining Milk Cap, Stubble Rosegills, and others. But most of the mushrooms were few and far between; most of the time I was finding only single specimens. I was looking for but didn’t find any earthstars, large Inkcaps, puffballs, Hellvella mushrooms, coral fungi or birdsnest fungi. I don’t know if it’s too early in the season to see those, or too late.

Of the jelly fungi I found, I was surprised that I didn’t see any yellow Witch’s Butter. I found lots of the Brown Jelly Fungus, and even some Crystal Brain. And in some places the Black Jelly Roll fungus was so prolific it poured off the dead wood substrate and collected in big bubbly-oil-looking puddles on the ground. On one specimen of the stuff, I saw some tiny bright pink Springtails and little pale yellow-orange mites with long spidery legs.

CLICK HERE for the current album of photos.

I also stopped to get lichen photos, although that wasn’t my focus for today. There was a lot of Powder-Edged Speckled Greenshield, covered with soredia. I have to get back into the swing of things, though. I need to look more closely and use the “eyeball” (my macro lens) more.

There were lots and lots of Wild Turkeys around the park; male troupes, everyone looking extra shiny and colorful. Some of them ran up to the car looking for handouts. That’s not a good thing. They shouldn’t get that used to humans.

I didn’t see many other birds, though, which kind of surprised me. Maybe it was too windy for the smaller birds? I got a glimpse of some sparrows, and a Cooper’s Hawk (who kept his back to me), but not many others (other than the ubiquitous Black Phoebe). Because the river was running high and fast, there weren’t many water fowl or shorebirds around. I got some photos of Mallards and a solitary female Common Goldeneye, but that was about it. The only birds I saw and heard a lot of were the Acorn Woodpeckers. They were working hard to get windfall acorns into their granary trees.

Among the mammals I saw were a handful of Fox Squirrels, and a couple of small herds of Columbian Black-Tailed Deer. I saw most of the deer as I was heading out of the park and was seated in my car. I was able to get photos of them — does, yearlings, and 4-pointer bucks — through the open windows of the car.

As I said, I was out for about four hours, and even though it wore me out, I enjoyed it soooo much. I missed being out in nature, and was happy I was able to do this on my birthday. A gift to myself.

This was hike #1 of my #52HikeChallenge for this new year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Agaric Mushroom, Coprinopsis uliginicola
  3. Alder, White Alder, Alnus rhI ombifolia
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna [heard]
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Black Witches’ Butter, Black Jelly Roll, Exidia glandulosa
  7. Bleachy Entoloma, Entoloma ferruginans
  8. Blewit Mushroom, Purple Core, Lepista nuda
  9. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis 
  10. Brown Jelly Fungus, Leafy Brain, Phaeotremella foliacea
  11. Brownit Mushroom, Clitocybe brunneocephala
  12. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  13. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [fly over]
  14. Candleflame Lichen, Candelaria sp.
  15. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  16. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  17. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  18. Coral Spot, Nectria cinnabarina
  19. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  20. Crust Fungus, Stereum sp.
  21. Crystal Brain Fungus, Myxarium nucleatum
  22. Deer Mushroom, Pluteus cervinus
  23. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger 
  24. Giraffe Spots Crust Fungus, Peniophora albobadia
  25. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  26. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  27. Gull, Larus sp.
  28. Hairy Curtain Crust, Stereum hirsutum
  29. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia
  30. Impatient Inkcap Mushroom, Tulosesus impatiens (formerly Coprinellus impatiens)
  31. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  32. Little Mite, Linopodes sp.
  33. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  34. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  35. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  36. Olive, Olea europaea
  37. Pin-Cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa 
  38. Pleated Marasmius, Red Thread, Marasmius plicatulus
  39. Powder-Edged Speckled Greenshield, Flavopunctelia soredica [pale green, lots of soredia]
  40. Ribbon Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  41. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  42. Sparrow, White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  43. Springtail, Subclass Collembola
  44. Tall Psathyrella, Psathyrella longipes
  45. Trumpet Lichen, Cladonia fimbriata
  46. Tuberous Polypore, Polyporus tuberaster [similar to Dryad’s Saddle]
  47. White Stubble Rosegill, Volvopluteus gloiocephalusi [white or gray mushroom, slick cap with colored center, pale pink to gills, papery volva]
  48. Yellow-Staining Milk Cap, Lactarius xanthogalactus [reddish cap, milky

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Back Up Ice House Road Again, 08-27-22

I got up around 5:00 AM to get ready to head out to Ice House Road with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne. It was cool and breezy all morning; got up to about 88º in the late afternoon. I like weather like that.

I had been looking forward to this excursion all week.  I was hoping to see different galls on the oak trees, willows, and other plants up there. In 2021, we saw Fireweed in bloom and gooseberries fruiting around the end of July. CLICK HERE to see last year’s album.

Although the galls were few and far between (not a lot of oak trees up there; it’s mostly a conifer forest), we ended up finding quit a few things I had never seen before, so that was fun! The only oak trees we found were Black Oaks, and the only gall I saw on the oak was a Ruptured Twig Gall.

One super-cool find on a Black Oak was a little family of Oak Treehoppers. Mom was the “spotted” version of the species. (There’s also a turquoise striped version. Some of the stuff I read about the species is that the spotted may morph into the turquoise version later in the season.) The babies looked like tiny African masks painted red, black and white with black “horns” sticking out of them.

The mom we saw refused to leave the branch her babies were on, even though she was winged and could have fled if she wanted to. She also stuck close to her kids, and some of the photos we got seemed to show her “kissing” her babies.

According to the University of Florida: “…Beamer (1930) even observed maternal instinct in females of Platycotis vittata on oak in California. Females were observed to ‘stand sentinel’ between their respective colonies of nymphs and the body of the tree. A female would allow herself to be picked up rather than fly away from her perch. Beamer watched one female repel a small vespid wasp approximately a dozen times from her colony of nymphs. After the vespid apparently grew discouraged and flew away, ‘…the membracid flew to her young, crawled over the spot where the vespid had alighted, apparently examined to see that they were uninjured; then making sure all was well again flew to the twig just below the nest, turned her head toward her young and stood immobile.’…” Awwww!

According to the North Carolina State University: “…Females mate more than once, but only the sperm of her last suitor is used to fertilize her 40 or so eggs. This insect overwinters as females in leaf litter. They emerge and lay their eggs the following spring. When the eggs hatch, the new nymphs gather around a slit in the bark made by the female. The Nymphs apparently feed at the slit and the female broods over them. Females definitely protect their nymphs by bumping predators. Second generation eggs are laid in August and these hatch and develop into the overwintering forms. Nymphs have two tiny ‘spikes’ on their backs and they tend to be contrastingly marked with white, black, and red…”

AmericanInsects.com reaffirmed the information from the NCSU but offered some more clarifying details: “…Wood, et al. (1984) noted that many females of this species mate more than once, with the first mating often taking place even before the female’s ovaries are mature. The sperm of the last male to mate with a female, however, is the sperm that is used to fertilize the eggs. Wood and his colleagues reasoned that the early matings were ‘insurance,’ with the sperm stored for possible use after the ovaries have matured. This ‘insurance mating’ is necessary because males tend not to live as long as females, and females may not be able to find a mate after the ovaries are mature. However, if the late season mating does take place, it is with a male that presumably has superior genes for longevity, and these are the sperm used to fertilize the eggs. Mating may last up to 24 hours, with the males apparently dragging out the process to prevent another male from mating with the female. Platycotis vittata also has an unusually long ‘waiting period’ between mating and oviposition, ranging from an average of 29 days for females who mated more than once, to 39 days for females who mated just once. Females lay about 40 eggs each…The Spring-hatched treehopper females oviposit in August and the nymphs hatch out in September, in time to feed as the tree sends nutrients from the canopy to the roots…”

That the second season would happen when the sap was flowing DOWN the tree to the roots for the winter, is sooooo interesting to me. Nature thinks of everything and wastes nothing.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Other new-to-me species included some small, pouty, yellow Keckiella flowers; some spidery, white White-Topped Aster flowers; a striped Sierra Dome Spider; a bristly yellow-footed Tachina fly; some different Manzanita galls (apparently there’s one species of aphid that makes three kinds of galls of those trees); some frilly, purple Sierra Lessingia flowers; and many, many Bush Chinquapin trees with their hedgehog-like-covered nuts on them. And I think I spotted some flower galls on the drying-up male flowers. So cool! It’s always fun to come across surprises like that.

Among the other insects we saw were some California Sister butterflies (which I get mixed up with the Lorquin’s Admirals all the time), a few Acmon Blue butterflies, an Urbane Digger Bee, and a Weevil Wasp (feeding on buckwheat flowers).

Another surprise was to see several bright green examples of the “witches broom” phenomenon on what we thought might have been bitter cherry or chokecherry trees and twigs.  Rox spotted a tree covered with them, so we pulled off to the side of the road to get a closer look.

“…Witches’ broom is a common affliction of many trees and shrubs. It can be caused by several different vectors. Witches’ broom earns its name by producing a plethora of small, distorted branches that grow very close together, giving these clumps of branches the appearance of a witches’ broom… Though witches’ broom on a cherry can develop from any damage, it can also be caused by a fungal pathogen known as Taphrina, specifically T. cerasi or T. wiesneri. This fungal disease causes close bunches of quick growing, small branches to form on other cherry tree branches. If left alone, these new branches usually bloom and drop their leaves earlier than other branches of the tree…” [GardeningKnowhow.com]

Although we didn’t see many birds or mammals around, we did get to see a couple of chipmunks. We don’t have those down here on the valley floor. Cute little buggers.

We were out for about 8 hours, but that included travel time and a stop for an in-the-car picnic lunch.  It was a long day, but I learned a lot and saw a lot of things I wasn’t expecting to see. Fun!

Species List:

  1. Acmon Blue Butterfly, Icaricia acmon
  2. Bare-Bottom Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza weberi
  3. Bee, Urbane Digger Bee, Anthophora urbana [gray and black, bluish eyes]
  4. Bigleaf Maple Tree, Acer macrophyllum
  5. Bitter Cherry, Prunus emarginata
  6. Bitter Lettuce, Lactuca virosa
  7. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  8. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
  9. Bristle Fly, Ptilodexia sp.
  10. Broad-Leaved Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium
  11. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare
  12. Bumblebee, Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee, Bombus vosnesenskii
  13. Bush Chinquapin, Chrysolepis sempervirens
  14. California Fuchsia, Epilobium canum
  15. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  16. California Sister Butterfly, Adelpha californica
  17. California Turret Spider, Atypoides riversi
  18. Cherry Tree Witches Broom, Taphrina wiesneri [on Prunus sp. trees]
  19. Chipmunk, Long-Eared Chipmunk, Neotamias quadrimaculatus
  20. Cinder Lichen, Aspicilia cinerea [gray on rocks]
  21. Columbine, Western Columbine, Aquilegia formosa
  22. Devil’s Beggarticks, Bidens frondosa
  23. Dog Pelt Lichen, Peltigera canina
  24. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  25. Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii
  26. Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
  27. Fern, Hairy Brackenfern, Pteridium aquilinum var. pubescens [variation of Common Bracken]
  28. Flower Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus castanopsidis [ n the male flowers of chinquapin]
  29. Fly, Bristle Fly, Ptilodexia sp.
  30. Goldenrod, Velvety Goldenrod, Solidago velutina
  31. Grass, Squirreltail Grass, Elymus elymoides
  32. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  33. Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis [eggs]
  34. Hooded Tube Lichen, Hypogymnia physodes
  35. Incense Cedar, California Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
  36. Leafhopper, Momoria sp. [pink and green]
  37. Lupine, Dwarf Lupine, Lupinus lepidus
  38. Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Flower version, Tamalia coweni
  39. Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Leaf curl version, Tamalia coweni
  40. Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Midvien version, Tamalia coweni
  41. Manzanita, Greenleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos patula
  42. Mistletoe, Western Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum
  43. Monkeyflower, Seep Monkeyflower, Erythranthe guttata [yellow]
  44. Morning-Glory Leafminer Moth, Bedellia somnulentella
  45. Mortar Rim Lichen, Myriolecis dispersa [black/grey]
  46. Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
  47. Naked Buckwheat, Eriogonum nudum
  48. Oak Anthracnose Fungus, Apiognomonia errabunda [spots on Chinquapin leaves]
  49. Oak Ribbed Casemaker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella
  50. Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittate [looks like a thorn; mother and babies]
  51. Oak, California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  52. Pacific Aster, Symphyotrichum chilense
  53. Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea
  54. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa [three needles]
  55. Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota
  56. Rock Greenshield Lichen, Flavoparmelia baltimorensis
  57. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens [on live oaks, black oaks]
  58. Sierra Dome Spider, Neriene litigiosa [black and white stripes]
  59. Sierra Lessingia, Lessingia leptoclada [purple fringy-looking flowers in flocculent coverings]
  60. Single-Spored Map Lichen, Rhizocarpon disporum [black/gray on rocks]
  61. Spring King Bolete Mushroom, Boletus rex-veris
  62. Stilt Bug, Family: Berytidae
  63. Sugar Pine Tree, Pinus lambertiana
  64. Treehopper, Gyponana sp. [pink head, yellowish body]
  65. Trembling Aspen, Populus tremuloides [white bark]
  66. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  67. Variable Wrinkle-Lichen, Tuckermanopsis orbata [green or brown]
  68. Weevil Wasp, Cerceris sp. [small, yellow and black, amber wings]
  69. Western Morning Glory, Calystegia occidentalis [seed pods have 4-5 black seeds in them]
  70. Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica
  71. White Fir, Abies concolor
  72. White-Topped Aster, Sericocarpus sp.
  73. Witch’s Hair Lichen, Alectoria sarmentosa [on fir trees]
  74. Wolf Lichen, Letharia vulpine [bright yellow-green]
  75. Woodland Woollythreads, Monolopia gracilens
  76. Yarrow, Fern-leaf Yarrow, Achillea filipendulina [yellow]
  77. Yellow Keckiella Flower, Keckiella sp.
  78. Yellow Salsify, Tragopogon dubius
  79. Yellow-Footed Tachinid Fly, Tachina sp.
  80. ?? flower head gall on goldenrod
  81. ?? tiny cocoon on manzanita leaf

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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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So Many Crystalline Galls, 07-25-22

I got up around 6:00 this morning, and got the dogs fed and pottied before heading out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. I was hoping to see some of bucks in their velvet and/or the does with their fawns, but I didn’t see a single deer. That is so weird.  I also wanted to check out “Old Blue” the blue oak that sits along a trail by the river. It usually sports a lot of different galls.

Part of the main trail at the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve

First, though, I stopped near the nature center to see if there were any Monarch caterpillars or eggs on the milkweed plants there. No Monarchs, but I did get to see another critter I’d kept an eye out for: a Mealy Bug Destroyer larva. It’s the larva of a beetle that is related to ladybeetles, and despite its name, it also eat aphids and drinks honeydew. I got some photos of it, and of ladybeetle eggs laid nearby.

“…This beetle was imported into the United States in 1891 from Australia by one of the early biological control pioneers, Albert Koebele, to control citrus mealybug in California… here’s no need for reintroduction here, though, with our (usually) temperate winters. Mealybug Destroyers are effective predators of aphids and various soft scales... The adult stage is small, 3-4 mm long (3 mm is slightly less than ⅛ inch.). Adults tend to quickly move away when disturbed. An additional reason for the adult stage of the Mealybug Destroyer not being well-known is that they don’t have the flashy patterning or coloring that occur in many species. Adults are dark brown with a tan-to-orange head and posterior. The resemblance of the larval stage of this predator to its prey is another reason Mealybug Destroyers may be overlooked or misidentified. With their wooly appendages and cigar-shaped body that looks as if it has been rolled in flour, Mealybug Destroyer larvae look very much like the larval and adult stages of the citrus mealybug (a serious insect pest). The important difference is size: full grown Mealybug Destroyer larvae are at least twice as large as adult mealybugs.

Mealybug Destroyers are not content to attack their prey at just one stage of development. The adult female lays her eggs in the cottony egg sack of the mealybug. As soon as they hatch, the destroyers start snacking. Adults and young larvae prefer eggs, while older larvae will consume mealybugs at all stages... One Mealybug Destroyer larva devours up to 250 mealybug larvae. They will even feed on honeydew, the sticky sugary substance secreted by mealybugs. When honeydew is excreted (mealybugs typically reside on the undersides of leaves), it lands on lower leaves or on the ground, becomes colonized by sooty mold and making infested plants look even worse…” (Galveston County Master Gardeners)

I checked out all of the Valley and Interior Live Oak trees on my way to Old Blue, looking for wasp galls on them, too. There was nothing on the Valley Oaks, beyond the big Oak Apples, but it seems that wasp galls on them are always “late” in the preserve. There wasn’t much on the Live Oaks either, but I was surprised to find a lot of emerging Pumpkin Galls. They normally don’t show up until September or October, but here they were.  I only found one Live Oak Apple gall on one of the Interior Live Oaks, which was kind of disappointing.

I also found a cute, tiny baby Jumping Spider. I’m not sure of the species because it was so young and not fully colored up yet.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The wasp galls visible on the blue oaks are different from the ones on the valley oaks, so I knew Old Blue would have different galls on it than the Reverend Mother tree, and that was exciting – as it always is – because it means I can increase the numbers on my species list for the year. The leaves were covered with Saucer Galls which is pretty common for this tree in the summer.

But I was shocked by how many Crystalline Galls I found. Usually, on this tree, they’re few and far between, but this time they seemed to be everywhere, from the top of the tree to the bottom. Some leaves have a handful of galls, others were encrusted with them. On one leaf I counted over 40 galls! And the color variations were cool: strawberry blonde to deep rose. So pretty. I was so excited and happy to see them.

I didn’t find any Hair Stalk galls or Urchin galls, but I did find a solitary Plate Gall. The others may show up later in the summer. I’ll keep an eye out for them. [There are also blue oaks at Sailor Bar that I want to check out.]

I got to do my “naturalist” thing, helping different people identify what they were seeing on the trail. I talked to one gentleman about the live oak galls, and helped a woman from Utah identify a black walnut tree and an Ash-Throated Flycatcher.  She asked if I could identify a black bird she saw with red on its wings, and I chuckled a little and said, “It was probably a Red-Winged Blackbird… Yeah, some of the names aren’t terribly imaginative.” She laughed. I like being able to do my naturalist thing, and really miss being able to teach the coursework. Stupid cancer.            

I came across the “second bee hive” in the preserve, and the bees were all clustered around the entryway. I think they might have been having a confab about where to go for the day. I wasn’t able to check out the other bee tree on the other end of the preserve, so I don’t know if there is still a queen ensconced there.

Wild Western Honeybees, Apis mellifera, at the mouth of their hive along the trail.

Elsewhere on the trail, I came across a female Wild Turkey with her six nearly fully fledged poults. And there were also spots where I could see the “scratch spots” along the side of the trail in areas where the turkeys scratch for insects and seeds, and also use the dirt they bring up to take “dust baths” (to help get the mites and other parasites off their skin and feathers).

I found quite a few Ground Squirrels, and the Fox Squirrels were out, chopping on the black walnuts. I was watching one Fox Squirrel that looked like he kept dozing off while he was working on his nut. His head kept dropping and his eyes would close, then he’d straighten up again and open his eyes a bit more…

As I was leaving, I could hear a Bullfrog croaking in the little pond, but couldn’t catch sight of it. I hope they’re not killing the bulls this year…

I was out for about 4 hours. This was hike #44 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year; and for the Summer Series, this was 4 more hours of a required 20 hours for the challenge [so, 19½ hours toward that total so far. Golly! Only half an hour short!]

Species List:

  1. Acorn Gall Wasp, Andricus chrysobalani [stunted growth, acorn may look pushed in or sideways]
  2. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Ant, Andre’s Harvester Ant, Veromessor andrei [black]
  5. Aphid, Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  6. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  7. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  8. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  9. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  10. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  11. California Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  12. California Brickellbush, Brickellia californica
  13. California Fuchsia, Epilobium canum
  14. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  15. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  16. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  17. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  18. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus [tracks and scat]
  19. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  20. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus
  21. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  22. Goldenrod, Velvety Goldenrod, Solidago velutina
  23. Grape Erineum Mite, Colomerus vitis
  24. Gumweed, Curlycup Gumweed, Grindelia squarrosa
  25. Jumping Spider, Subfamily: Salticinae
  26. Ladybeetle, Spotless Lady Beetle, Cycloneda sanguinea [no spots; more red than orange]
  27. Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Summer Generation, Amphibolips quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  28. Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
  29. Mealybug Destroyer, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri
  30. Meshweaver Spider, Family: Dictynidae
  31. Milkweed, Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  32. Milkweed, Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  34. Mule Fat, Baccharis salicifolia
  35. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  36. Oak Ribbed Casemaker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella
  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. Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  42. Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea
  43. Plant Bug, Parthenicus sp.
  44. Plate Gall Wasp, Andricus pattersonae
  45. Primrose, Tall Evening Primrose, Oenothera elata
  46. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  47. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  48. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas
  49. Small Milkweed Bug, Lygaeus kalmii
  50. Snowberry, Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  51. Spittlebug, Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius
  52. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura [flying overhead]

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