Welllllllll, Sh*t, 09-06-22

Cancer is back… and it’s more aggressive this time. I had a biopsy done on August 30th. My friend Roxanne was at the house by 5:45 AM (such a good friend), drove me to the appointment, and stayed at the hospital until the biopsy was done. We were out of there and back home by around 10 o’clock…which was a good thing because Rox had to go to work around noon.

The procedure was slated for 6:30, but of course the nurse (mine was a male nurse named Larry) has to get you prepped, take your pulse, blood pressure et al, stick EKG monitor stickers on you, and put a line in a vein. Larry was great, and was able to find a vein that was cooperative on the very first jab.

The doctor, Brandon Doskocil, came in to say hi and to let me know how the procedure was going to go: they’d give me lidocaine and “happy drugs” before doing anything, and keep me semiconscious because I had to be able to follow the instructions of the CT machine. I’d go into and out of the machine a few times while they found the right spot to send in the puncture biopsy instrument. Then the doctor would extract two samples, one from the lesion and one from an adjacent lymph node. Okee-dokee.

I get wheeled into the CT room on a gurney and then have to transfer over onto the scanner bed. Once they got me situated on the scanner bed the way they wanted me, I asked for a pillow under my knees, but they could only use a shallow one because if my knees were bent up too high in would interfere with the biopsy.  So, once I was settled and feeling relatively comfy, I got shot up with lidocaine in my hip joint, and was given the “happy drugs”. Those drugs were great, I didn’t care about anything…even when, during the procedure, the doctor hit the femoral nerve. I screamed – but then laughed because everyone else in the room screamed, too, and said “hit a nerve” in unison. That whole process took about 20 minutes.

Then it was back to the gurney and into a small area where I could get dressed again. But the drug were making me stupid and I put my shoes on before I put my pants on and basically forgot how to dress myself. Larry helped me pull my pants up. As he was wheeling me out to the parking lot in a wheelchair I thanked him and told him he had done a great job.  He squeezed my shoulder and said, “thank you” in my ear and there was so much emotion in his voice; like no one had thanked him before. Awww.

Roxanne was right at the curb as Larry rolled me out of the hospital, and she drove me back home. Lots of anticipation and anxiety over “nothing”.  We’ll see how I feel when the drugs wear off.

On September 3rd, I got a call from my oncologist, Dr. Suby, letting me know about the results of the biopsy. My cancer is back, and it seems to be in a more aggressive form than it was previously. *Sigh* The cancer cells aren’t well defined, so they can more easily metastasize to other cells. Not what I wanted to hear, but was what I was sort of expecting.

I have a video visit with a neurologist on the 7th, and I should have a PET scan scheduled sometime soon. I’ll let you know if anything comes of them.

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A New-to-Me Spider, 09-01-22

I got up around 5:30 this morning, and gave Esteban his breakfast before we both headed out to the Cosumnes River Preserve before the day’s heat rolled in.  It got up to 104º today. And the super-high temperatures are supposed to last through this week and into next week.

I just needed to get out somewhere; I was going a bit stir-crazy in the house, not having been out in nature since Saturday because of pain in my leg and the heat. Oh, the heat. My left leg was aching a little bit, but not bad. When I take Esteban with me to places like this, there are a lot of areas where pets aren’t allowed, so I have to restrict my explorations to places where he can go. He did really good on the whole trip.

There is virtually no water at the preserve. I saw one pond filled, but everything else was bone dry.  The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge posted information about the fact that they were only allowed to operate with 40% of their normal water allowance this year, and I’m assuming the Cosumnes Preserve was likewise constrained. Some of the rice fields, also owned by the preserve, however, were full of water. That’s “farm” money, not preserve money.

Canada Geese, Branta canadensis, and Black-Necked Stilts, Himantopus mexicanus, in one of the few flooded rice fields.

No one really knows how the migrating birds coming through these areas for the next several months are going to react to the extreme lack of water. They may fly off to somewhere else, and they may all collect in the few filled ponds and fields available to them. That would mean the birders and photographers might get to see a lot of different birds in a very small area… but it might also mean that the birds, confined to smaller areas, all pooping and peeing in the same water, might be subject to a lot more disease – like bird flu or cholera. Not good.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I looked at the Valley Oaks along Desmond Road to look for galls and also checked out the trees by the now-empty pond near the boardwalk area. Found clusters of Red Cones, Yellow Wigs, and Club galls but nothing out of the ordinary. What seemed to be conspicuously missing were the honeydew galls. They provide extra sugar to ants and wasps in the summer months when most of the flowers have died out.  I only found one of those galls.

I did find a new-to-me spider, a Humped-Back Orbweaver (Eustala sp.), and that’s always fun.

I didn’t see a whole lot of birds, even in the few flooded areas, but I did get to see both a Red-Shouldered Hawk and a Red-Tailed Hawk on the telephone poles along the road. On my way to the preserve, I actually saw five other hawks, so it was a pretty fair raptor-sighting day.

It was also fun to see Cattle Egrets in among the cattle in the fields. When the herd of cattle ran off to the back of the field, one mama stayed still because her calf needed to nurse. So cute!

I was out for about 2½ hours, and was feeling pretty good for quite a while after my walk.

Species List:

  1. Aphid, Woolly Oak Aphid, Stegophylla brevirostris [lots of white fluff, honeydew]
  2. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Aceria fraxiniflora
  3. Ash Leaf Curl Aphid, Prociphilus fraxinifolii
  4. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  5. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  6. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  7. Cattle Egret, Western Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis ibis
  8. Cattle, Black Angus, Bos Taurus var, Black Angus
  9. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  10. Downy Woodpecker, Dryobates pubescens
  11. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  12. Flax-Leaved Horseweed, Erigeron bonariensis
  13. Fly, Stable Fly, Stomoxys calcitrans
  14. Grasses, Barnyardgrass, Echinochloa crus-galli
  15. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  16. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  17. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  18. Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
  19. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  20. Humpbacked Orbweaver Spider, Eustala sp.
  21. Humped Trashline Orbweaver Spider, Cyclosa turbinata
  22. Jumping Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  23. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  24. Lady’s Thumb Smartweed, Persicaria maculosa
  25. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  26. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  27. Milkweed, Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  28. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  29. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  30. Oak Ribbed Casemaker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella
  31. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  32. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  33. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  34. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  35. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  36. Rosette Gall Wasp, Andricus wiltzae [on Valley Oak]
  37. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumariumswal
  38. Round-Gall Wasp, Burnettweldia washingtonensis [round, fuzzy, on twig]
  39. Small Milkweed Bug, Lygaeus kalmii
  40. Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  41. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Cynips douglasii [summer, asexual generation, pink, spiky top]
  42. Swallow, Barn Swallow, American Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica erythrogaster
  43. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  44. Woolly Oak Aphid, Stegophylla brevirostris (lots of white fluff & honeydew)           
  45. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  46. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Druon fullawayi

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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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Lace Bugs were the Standout, 08-19-22

The temperature rose up to 102º today. Plah! I got up around 5:30 AM so I could get the dogs fed and pottied before I got myself ready to head to the River Bend Park with my friend Roxanne while it was still relatively cool outside.

I was hoping to see some new-ish galls on the oak trees, but the Live Oaks seemed to be covered with little more than tiny Pumpkin galls and a handful of Live Oak galls. We did find a few more, mostly on the Valley Oaks: Red Cones, Ruptured Twigs, Spined Turban, and some Rosettes, among others.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The highlight was being able to show Roxanne some Lace Bugs on coyote brush and telegraph weed. She’d seen photos of them, but never saw them live before. A “lifer” species for her. I was so happy that she got to see them.

According to Wikipedia: “…Lace bugs are usually host-specific and can be very destructive to plants… Each individual usually completes its entire lifecycle on the same plant, if not the same part of the plant… Most species have one to two generations per year, but some species have multiple generations. Most overwinter as adults, but some species overwinter as eggs or nymphs. This group has incomplete metamorphosis in that the immature stages resemble the adults, except that the immatures are smaller and do not have wings. However, wing pads appear in the second and third instars and increase in size as the nymph matures. Depending on the species, lace bugs have four or five instars…”

On the telegraph weed, we were able to see about four instars. Very cool. You can see many of them in the video below.

We walked for about 4 hours, until it got too hot for us to stay out anymore. This was hike #48 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Amaranth, Family: Amaranthaceae
  3. Black Walnut, Northern California Black Walnut, Juglans hindsii
  4. California Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  5. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  7. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  8. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  9. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  10. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata
  11. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  12. Lace Bug, Chrysanthemum Lace Bug, Corythucha marmorata
  13. Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidea [on Valley Oak]
  14. Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Spring, sexual generation, Amphibolips quercuspomiformis [upside down volcano on the edge of the leaf, green or brown]
  15. Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Summer, asexual generation, Amphibolips quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  16. Mullein, Turkey Mullein, Doveweed, Croton setiger
  17. Non-Biting Midge, Cricotopus sp.
  18. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  19. Oak Leaf Blister, Taphrina caerulescens [fungus, may present as discoloration on leaves]
  20. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  21. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  22. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  23. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa [three needles]
  24. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  25. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  26. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  27. Rosette Gall Wasp, Andricus wiltzae [on Valley Oak]
  28. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens [on live oaks]
  29. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Cynips douglasii [summer, asexual generation, pink, spiky top]
  30. Telegraphweed, Heterotheca grandiflora
  31. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  32. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, unisexual , summer generation,  Dryocosmus dubiosus [small, green or mottled, on back of leaf along the midvein]
  33. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  34. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  35. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  36. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  37. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Druon fullawayi

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Travels of a Certified California Naturalist

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