Tag Archives: Spangle Galls

Mostly Galls… which is what I was looking for, 08-06-17

Up at 5:30 again. I hate that I have to get up so early on the weekends just so I can get outside when it’s still cool, but… whatcha gonna do? I went over to the River Bend Park, but rather than going to the area where I usually walk, I crossed the bridge and walked along the west shore of the river.

I didn’t see much in the way of animals during my walk, but I did get to see quite a few different galls – which is what I was really looking for. I did get to see, though, some Canada Geese, Mallards, a Snowy Egret, Acorn Woodpeckers, some European Starlings, some Western Bluebirds, and very young fledgling Scrub Jays. The only mammal I saw (besides humans) was a California Ground Squirrel.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

Among the galls I found were: prickly Live Oak galls, Oak “apples”, Spiny Turbans and Red Cone galls (which are by far the most numerous around here), Yellow Wig galls, newly forming Spangle Galls, Flat-Topped Honeydew Galls (some tended by ants and protected by Yellow Jackets), and fuzzy Club Galls.  The majority of the gals I found were all on one tree.  Apparently it’s situated at an intersection where a lot of different wasps and other insects meet.  There was one other tree I went looking for, a small one that’s right along the river’s edge where there are usually great specimens of the Wooly Bear galls…  But, alas, in the flooding spring rains, that little trees was swept away (along with the piece of shore it was growing on.

The eucalyptus trees along the river were also covered in lerps (from the Red Gum Eucalyptus Lerp Psyllid).  The lerps are like little pyramids that the psyllid spin out of starch and sugar.  They’re all sticky with the honeydew the psyllids exude.   I also founds lots of clusters of eggs laid by Assassin Bugs. Most of them were already hatched out.  In one place, I came across some off-looking larvae climbing up and around the rushes along the river side. I’m not sure what they were (some sort of beetle, I suspect, based on their shape); I’ll have to investigate those some more.

The oak trees are just starting to sport their acorns. Give them another month and they’ll be shiny brown and ripe enough to pick and plant.  In September, Tuleyome is having Zarah Wyly from the Sacramento Tree Foundation come to do a lecture for us on acorn gathering.  And then on October 1st, if everything works out well, she’ll also lead an outing to collect Blue Oak acorns from the Silver Spur Ranch property.  Fingers crossed on that one…

I walked for about 2 ½ hours and then went back home

Vacation Day 1: Cache Creek Conservancy Nature Preserve

DAY 1 OF MY VACATION. Around 8:00 am I headed out to the Cache Creek Conservancy’s nature preserve.

They only open up the preserve on a weekend about once a quarter, so when it opens up, I try to get over there. I got there just as they were opening the gates, so I got first pick of a parking space in the very-limited-parking lot adjacent to the walking trails.  I don’t usually see a whole lot when I’m there. Their riparian area is pretty small and is mostly willows and cottonwood trees (with only a few scattered oaks). I knew they were working on expanding their trail system, though, so I thought I’d check it out.

CLICK HERE for an album of photos.

In and around the small wetlands area, I saw Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons along with a few Pied-Billed Grebes and lots of blackbirds, some Northern Flickers, and White-Crowned Sparrows.  I got a little video snippet of a young grebe trying to eat a crawfish.

At one point along the trail I saw a big Red-Tailed Hawk strafe and knock down a Cottontail rabbit.  It hit the rabbit so hard it broke its neck.  By the time I got close enough to it to take photos, the hawk flew off into the nearby trees, but left his meal behind.  I checked out the rabbit to make sure it was suffering and, nope, it was dead.  Eyes still open.  It only had a few bites taken out of it from the hawk – which I’m sure went back to the rabbit as soon as I was away from there.

I also saw a Northern Pike in the wetlands area.  It was moving around in a shallow pond, so I could see the water being slowly agitated but at first I couldn’t see clearly what was causing the agitation.  I took a few videos and watched them all in slow motion when I got home.  The dorsal part of the fish would come to the top of the water – a slightly humped back and sort of yellowish-olive patterned body — then I’d see the tip of its tail fin poke out above the surface.  The fish must have been 2 feet long, easily.  Those guys are super-efficient predators that eat just about anything.  I wonder if the conservancy knows they’re in the pond.

It’s just about the end of the gall season, but there were still some clinging to the leaves of trees and scattered on the ground.  There were two I hadn’t seen or photographed before, so that was cool.  The little round ones were called – duh — Round Galls (Besbicus conspicuous), and the other one I saw was along the edges of the leaves of the Cottonwood Trees.  Now, I’d seen the Petiole galls before (lots of them) that form at the base of the leave and are caused by a species of aphid (Pemphigus populicaulis), but I’d never seen the ones that formed along the edges.  I took a bunch of photos and when I got home, I looked them up in my trusty galls books and I actually had some trouble finding it.  It’s a kind of “leaf curl” gall also caused by an aphid (Pemphigus sp.) but the exact species wasn’t specified.  I’ll have to do more research. There were also a lot of Jumping Galls (Neuroterus saltatorius ) still clinging to the leaves of some of the oaks.  Along with the willows, cottonwood trees and Valley Oaks, I also came across some very late-blooming Rock Phacelia (Phacelia egena), Vinegarweed (Trichostema lanceolatum), Cocklebur, Chicory and Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) – an invasive species.

I got to see a pair of mule deer, but couldn’t get very close to them before they were off, dashing toward the river side…  I walked for about three hours and then headed back to the car.

 

Gall City at the American River, 08-07-16

I got up around 6 o’clock this morning and went over to the American River Bend Park for my walk.  I was looking for summer galls and found ‘em, so my trip was fruitful. I found Red and White Cone galls, Spiny Turbans, Yellow Wig galls, Spangle galls, ash tree galls, willow galls, Woolybear galls, Live Oak Round galls, Flat-Top Honeydew galls… and this is just the start of the season.  Sometimes there were several different galls on the same leaf or stem.

CLICK HERE to see the whole album.

The wasp larvae inside the Flat-Top Honeydew galls produce honeydew that exudes through the surface of the galls. The tree gets no benefit from it, but the honeydew attracts ants and wasps that in turn protect the larvae from parasites that might otherwise prey on them.  I also found some Yellow Jackets feasting on some dead thing, and a lovely Green Lacewing sitting on a leaf… As for other critters, I got to see a Great Blue Heron, some female Common Mergansers resting on stones in the water, and a young male coyote.  He kept moving from bright sunlight to shade among the trees, but I did get a little video of it.

Acorn Harvesting Class with the Sacramento Tree Foundation

I could have slept in, but Sergeant Margie needed to go potty around 6:30 am so I got up to let him out and then just stayed up.  Marty was already gone for the day!  He was going to a car club thing at Ironstone, and they had to go in early to set up the cars before the guests arrived.

Around 8 o’clock I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve in Carmichael (about a half an hour from the house).  I’d never been there before and always wanted to check it out.  I had an extra incentive today because they were hosting an Acorn Gathering course by the Sacramento Tree Foundation.  The nature preserve was a little difficult to find because it’s off a road that isn’t really clearly marked; and inside the complex you have to be careful not to go down the wrong one-way roads or you end up facing all their tire-shredding road spikes.  But now that I know where it is, I should be able to find it again easily.  I got to the preserve around 8:30 and the class didn’t start until 10 o’clock , so I took some time to walk around a little bit.  They have a nice set of offices and a nature center there with a small amphitheater in the back of it, and a museum and shop inside.  They also have some raptors they’re rehabilitating including an owl and a Red-Shouldered Hawk.  Outside the center was a garden with lots of Showy Milkweed in it.  The plants all had large seed pods on them, but I didn’t see any Monarch Butterfly caterpillars on it.

I’d only walked out a short way from the nature center building when I came across a Mule Deer doe lying down in the grass… and nearby were her two sons, a yearling (with his first set of antlers) and a fawn (who was still too young to have gotten his first set yet).  I also saw several Turkey Vultures, Acorn Woodpeckers, Scrub Jays, several samples of sulfur shelf fungus, and all sorts of different galls including: Red Cone galls, Popcorn galls, Spangle Galls, Wooly Leaf Gall, etc.  All before the class started!  Wow!

The class was really neat.  It was held outside — the weather was lovely, in the high 60’s and a little breezy — and the presentation was by Zarah Wyly of the tree foundation.  She told us about the general morphology of oak trees (there are 20 different kinds in California, not counting the hybrids), and then narrowed that down to about 6 trees we’re supposed to look for.   We have to be careful what kind of acorns we gather and where we get them, because not all of them are “native” and the tree foundation doesn’t want to replant non-native acorns or the weird hybrid ones.  Apparently, oak trees don’t care who they have sex with, and if you gather acorns from a Live Oak tree and there’s a non-native Burr Oak tree within 1000 feet of it, the two can cross pollinate and create unwanted hybrid acorns that give you who-knows-what kind of oak tree.  Some of the who-knows-what acorns have too much tannin in them and can poison wildlife.  I had no idea…  I thought an acorn was an acorn.

We were given kits with the capacity to collect 200 acorns within the next month and a half.  The acorns have a short period during which they ripen and fall.  We only collected the fallen ones; not the ones on the tree.  And we don’t collect fallen ones that are mis-colored, have lumps or holes in them, that are “squishy” to the touch, or that won’t let go of their caps… because those are rotten or infested with something.  One of the acorns Zarah picked up when she took us out onto the preserve had a hole in the side of it that she said was indicative of weevil infestation.  While she was talking, this fat, pale weevil larva wriggled out of it onto her hand… right on cue.  Eeeew!   Hah!  When we collect the acorns we’re supposed to get about 40 from the same area, bag them, ID them by date, place and time (and take a photo of the leaves and bark if we can to help to positively identify the type of tree we’re collecting from).  Then we’re supposed to put the bags in the fridge (not the freezer, and no anywhere where the acorns will get too hot — no leaving them in the trunk of your car — and then notify the foundation that we have bags for pick up.  Their people will then meet with you to collect the bags.  We were given totes that proclaim that we’re authorized acorn interns, and blank releases in case we need to get a land-owner’s permission to collect on their property.    It was a 2-hour class, jammed with information… and very interesting.  I was so glad I went there!