Tag Archives: jumping spider

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.

Monarch Monitoring, Day #1, 07-02-19

I got up around 5:30 this morning so I could get over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and begin my monitoring of my milkweed plot there for evidence of Monarch Butterflies.

  I got there around 6:30 am and was pleased to see fellow volunteer and Certified California Naturalist, Roxanne Moger, there, too, ready and anxious to help with this first day at “my” plot.  The first thing we saw when we walked in was a lovely doe sitting on the side of the hill right next to the plot.  She let us get some photos of her before she got up and moved along.  There was a narrow game trail right through the plot that the deer had made.

A female Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
The doe is to the left in this photo, and the plot to the right (at the end of the stone wall).

We divvied the plot up and started by counting all of the plants – over 40 just in our section! – and then we went plant-by plant, looking at every leaf for any evidence of Monarch eggs or larvae.  I wasn’t expecting to see any, and we didn’t. The Monarchs didn’t show up last year until the fall, so I didn’t think there would be any in the plot today.  But we were still very vigilant about checking every plant and every leaf.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

 Part of the plot sits at a slight angle and is cluttered with other plants like a large coyote brush bush, a couple of wild rose bushes and some bay, and Roxanne was wonderful about monitoring that part, so I didn’t have to climb under branches or get snagged by thorns.  I thought that was so sweet of her!  I had a special magnifier to check for eggs, but for most of the time I just used my cell phone as a magnifying glass and took photos if I found anything that looked interesting or unusual.  We came across several different kinds of spiders including Yellow Sac Spiders, Trashline Orb Weavers and Jumping Spiders; some Oleander Aphids, Common Green Lacewing eggs, Red Mites, the larvae of Green Stink Bugs and the Twenty-spotted Lady Beetle, some leafhoppers and some spittle bugs.

 We were out at the plot for about 2 hours.  Later in the day, after I got home, I loaded our findings onto the MLMP website.  It took me a little bit to figure out what went where, but I think I get everything in there all right.

Species List:

  1. Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis,
  2. California Bay, Umbellularia californica,
  3. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
  4. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  5. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  6. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis,
  7. European Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa,
  8. Green Leafhopper, Empoasca sp.,
  9. Green Stink Bug, Chinavia hilaris,
  10. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  11. Jumping Spider, Hentzia sp.,
  12. Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius,
  13. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii,
  14. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus,
  15. Red Mite, Spider Mite, Tetranychus urticae,
  16. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  17. Spotted Lady’s Thumb, Persicaria maculosa,
  18. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Cyclosa conica,
  19. Twenty-spotted Lady Beetle, Psyllobora vigintimaculata,
  20. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
  21. Yellow Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium mildei,

My First Glimpse of Fawns This Year, 07-02-19

I got up around 5:30 this morning so I could get over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and begin my monitoring of my milkweed plot there for evidence of Monarch Butterflies. I finished that (with the help of my friend and co-naturalist Roxanne Moger) around 8:30.

It was still relatively cool outside, so Roxanne and I decided to put our tools back into our car and walk for a little while.  We came across some cooperative squirrels and a Desert Cottontail rabbit, and also checked out the tree where I’d seen the feral beehive earlier.  There were about three times as many bees at the spot, so I’m assuming the queen has decided to set up shop there.

 The surprise sighting was coming across another doe – with twin fawns!  She was keeping them well-hidden in the shade and tall grass, but we were able to catch glimpses of them. And we couldn’t help but chuckle when the babies went stotting through the grass with mom chasing after them.  They’re so tiny but soooo active! They’re the first fawns I’ve seen this year and that’s always exciting.

As we were leaving the preserve, I could hear a Ground Squirrel’s alarm call and looked around to see if I could spot what the trouble might be. I saw movement overhead and spotted an adult Red-Shouldered Hawk fly overhead. It landed in a nearby tree and then sat there for quite a while, so we were able to get quite a few photos of it.  So, even though our walk was only a single loop, we got to see quite a bit… which is always fun.

An adult Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

We walked for about 2 hours before calling it quits and going to breakfast.

Species List:

  1. Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis,
  2. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii,
  3. Black Walnut Erineum Mite gall,
  4. California Bay, Umbellularia californica,
  5. California Black Walnut, Juglans californica,
  6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
  7. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
  8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  9. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis,
  10. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  11. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  12. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis,
  13. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa,
  14. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata,
  15. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  16. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
  17. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera,
  18. European Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa,
  19. Feral Honeybees, Apis mellifera,
  20. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
  21. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus,
  22. Green Leafhopper, Empoasca sp.,
  23. Green Stink Bug, Chinavia hilaris,
  24. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  25. Jumping Spider, Hentzia sp.,
  26. Lords-And-Ladies, Arum maculatum,
  27. Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius,
  28. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  29. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii,
  30. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus,
  31. Red Mite, Spider Mite, Tetranychus urticae,
  32. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
  33. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  34. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  35. Spotted Lady’s Thumb, Persicaria maculosa,
  36. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  37. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Cyclosa conica,
  38. Twenty-spotted Lady Beetle, Psyllobora vigintimaculata,
  39. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
  40. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
  41. Yellow Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium mildei,

Things are Getting Interesting at the Wildlife Refuge, 10-28-17

At the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, the wetlands areas aren’t completely flooded yet, so it’s not as full of birds as it could be… but there were a lot of the early-arrival species like the White-Fronted Geese, Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese, Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers, and Gadwalls. I also saw a few different species of sparrow including Song Sparrows, White-Crowned Sparrows, and Savannah Sparrows, a Dark-Eyed Junco, and a Nutthall’s Woodpecker. Among the other birds I saw – like the Wilson’s Snipes, Killdeer, Black-Necked Stilts, and American Pipits — a nice surprise was spotting the local Peregrine Falcon who was sitting up in “the eagle-tree”. He was obscured by branches and twigs, but I got a few fair photos of him.

Later on, I came across a trio of mule deer browsing in the tall grass and weeds.  One was a male, a two-pointer, and I couldn’t see any details but could tell there was a big lump – like a knot made out of hide — on the side of his head near one of his eyes. It looked like the eye was missing, but I’m not sure; it could have just been that the knot was casting a shadow over the eye socket. It didn’t seem to inhibit the buck or interfere with his ability to move around…

The big surprise of the day, though, was when I saw a skunk moving along the tules and weeds on the edge of one of the wetland ponds, and stopped to take some photos and video of it. As I watched it, I could hear it nattering angrily at something and thought maybe there was another skunk or a snake or something near it in the weeds…  When a raccoon climbed out over the vegetation and moved gingerly past the skunk I had to laugh.  I wasn’t expecting that at all!  You can see the video here: https://youtu.be/yrja6wSMtxA.

I saw another raccoon further along the auto tour route near the large viewing platform.  I heard first as it went scuffing through the fallen dried leaves under the platform, and then saw it as it was walking away along the edge of the slough near the base of the platform.

Here is an album of pix: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157665598291929

I was at the refuge for about 3 ½  hours and then turned around and headed back home.

Bugs, Flowers and Ducks on Saturday, 07-30-16

Even though it’s the weekend, I got up around 5:00 am so I could get out for a walk before it got too hot.

I went over to the WPA Rock Garden in the hopes of finding some summer caterpillars and praying mantises.  I didn’t see either of those but I did see a young Great Blue Heron and an adult female Belted Kingfisher fishing in one of the ponds.  I watched the heron grab at fish four times, and he never caught anything. The Kingfisher was more successful.  On the two face-first dives I saw her do, she caught fish on both attempts.

The regular crew of geese and ducks were also around the pond: Canada geese, Grayleg geese, Chinese geese, Muscovy ducks, Mallards, Swedish Blues, a Peking duck, and some Wood Ducks… And a sad thing.  When a flock of Canada geese came swooping in to land on the water and along the bank of the pond, one of them collided with a small Mallard duckling… and hit it with enough force to break its neck.  I felt so bad for the little thing.  I scooped it up and put it in the grass under a tree so it could die in some comfort and peace.

As a sort of counter-balance for that, I also came across a mama Mallard with two fuzzy hatchlings.  One was the normal brown and yellow color; the other one was all black with a yellow chin and bib.  So cute!

On other parts of my walk, I found a couple of Cicada exoskeletons – including one in which the Cicada died before it could make it all the way out – and I also found raccoon tracks on the dirt paths throughout the garden.  There was one big oak tree that had all sorts of different wasp galls on it: White and Red Cone galls, a fuzzy Club gall, Spiny Turban galls, Yellow Wig galls, and a gall of the Round Gall wasp (Besbicus conspicuous) – a species I hadn’t found before, so it was my “first” of the day..

I walked around for about 3 ½  hours and headed back home.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

A Walk Before the Rain on Wednesday

Female Carpenter Bee. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Female Carpenter Bee. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

After work, it wasn’t raining – a little bit of angel spit, but no downpours yet – so I took the dog over to the WPA Rock Garden and duck pond for a short walk.

Again there were no spectacular photo ops, but I did get to get a few close-ups of a female Carpenter Bee napping on a flower stem. I also came across a Flame Skimmer dragonfly and tried to get closer to it to take some photos, but there were cactus all around where it was perched. Smart little dickens. I got some distance shots, but… Arrrgh! I really wanted a close up. While I was watching it, a Jumping Spider came out of its hidey-hole and tried to sneak up on the dragonfly, but – fffffffllllit! – the dragonfly went off again.

I did manage to get a few good squirrel photos, and found another female Wood Duck, this one with about six fuzzy babies all around her. The dog and I left the park, though, just as the clouds were starting to get serious: thunder, lightning and a sprinkle of rain.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thankfully, the clouds didn’t open up until AFTER I got home.