Tag Archives: white alder

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.

Trying to Beat the Heat on 06-05-19

I got up around 5:00 am this morning so I could get out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve before it got too hot outside. The predicted high for today was 100°. When I got to the preserve, it was already about 67° outside.

Just seconds after I arrived, my CalNat graduate/friend, Roxanne M., showed up to join me and so did “The Other Mary”, Mary M., another volunteer trail walker at Effie Yeaw.  She brought a small bag for me filled with blackberries from her yard. I thought that was so nice of her.

The three of us walked for about 3 hours, but we cut out walk short because it was humid and hot at the river. When we left, it was already about 80°– and it was only a little after 9 o’clock. Pleh!

We weren’t expecting to see a lot, because nature is kind of in a transition period right now. We’re waiting for mammal babies to be born and insects to start showing themselves.  And, we didn’t see a whole lot, but Roxanne and I can always find something to look at and focus on.

Roxanne is doing a seed-collecting thing right now for the naturalist class, and so she stops at different plants to see what kind of seeds they have on them and how the seeds might be disbursed.  She took on this project on all by herself and is volunteering all the time it’s taking her to collect specimens and ID the plants.  I’m so proud of her!

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

On our walk we saw a group of about four deer including a young buck in his velvet and a very pregnant doe. And later on, we also saw a bunch of baby rusty-headed Common Mergansers zooming down the riverside with their mom. It was so cute to see some of the babies swimming with their face down in the water, like the adults do, looking for things to eat.  Roxanne, The Other Mary and I all tried to get photos of them, but they moved so-so fast, it was really hard!

I also stopped to get some video of a hive of Common Black Ants (yeah, they’re really called that) carrying their larvae from one nest to another — most likely because the old nest was compromised in some way (infested with fungus, collapsing, etc.).

Moving the eggs and babies around can be really risky because they make for tasty treats for other insects and some birds, so the workers who carry them (very gently in their jaws) have to move really fast and know right where they’re going.

Queen ants are pretty awesome. They control the sex of all of their offspring (only creating males when it’s time for nuptial flights; ost ants you see are females); they can live for up to 15 (some say 30) years, and only mate during their nuptial flights… which means they can mate with several males during that short-term flight period, and then hang onto the sperm for the rest of their entire lives.

On our way out of the preserve we noticed leaves with circular cutouts on them. They’re made by Leafcutting Bees (Megachile sp.), a kind of native bee that lives in cavities. They use the bits they cut out of the leaves to line their tube-like nests and build a neat row of individual compartments, in each of which they’ll form a small doughy mound of pollen and nectar. On top of each of these mounds, the bee will lay a single egg.

Mother leafcutters can control the gender of their offspring, and often lay the eggs of their female offspring in the back of the tube-nest and the males in the front. This way, if the nest is invaded by a bird or other insects, it’s the males that will die first, leaving the females protected.

Although they’re solitary bees and don’t produce a lot of offspring, leafcutters are great pollinators. You can encourage them to pollinate your garden by building nesting boxes, called “bee condos”, for them in your yard. Here is a guide from the Xerces Society on how to do that: http://ow.ly/MhVf50uygX1.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
  2. Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis,
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  4. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
  5. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii,
  6. California Brodiaea, Brodiaea californica,
  7. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
  8. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  12. Common Black Ant, Lasius niger,
  13. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
  14. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  15. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa,
  16. Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus,
  17. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
  18. English Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata,
  19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
  20. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
  21. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata,
  22. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  23. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  24. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  25. Leaf-Cutter Bee, Megachile,
  26. Long-Jawed Orb-Weaver Spider, Tetragnatha elongate,
  27. Mock Orange, Lewis’s Mockorange, Philadelphus lewisii,
  28. Moss, Bryum Moss, Bryum capillare,
  29. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
  30. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  31. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia,
  32. Pacific Bent Grass, Agrostis avenacea,
  33. Praying Mantis, European Mantis, Mantis religiosa,
  34. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  35. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  36. Spicebush, Calycanthus occidentalis,
  37. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
  38. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
  39. Valley x Blue Oak, Quercus lobata x douglasii,
  40. Variable Flatsedge, Cyperus difformis,
  41. Wavy-Leaf Soap Plant, California Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
  42. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
  43. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia,
  44. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare,
  45. Winter Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa,
  46. Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus,

Lots of Birds Nesting, 03-31-19

Around 7:00 am I headed over to the American River Bend Park for walk. It was about 44° at the river when I got there and was heading toward 70° by the time I left.

It was nice to see that the dirt road to the camping area and nature trails was cleaned up and smoothed out. No more car-swallowing potholes!  I saw some deer and a jackrabbit right when I was heading in, so I felt that was a good portend.

The Black Walnut trees are starting to leaf out and drop their catkins, and the California Buckeye trees are just beginning to squeeze out their panicles of flowers. Redbud trees are flowering, and the Santa Barbara Sedge is starting to show off. I checked out various stands of Pipevine but still don’t see any evidence of butterfly eggs yet… I was happy to see small stands of stinging nettle in the picnic area. Let’s see how long it’s allowed to remain there.  It’s a host plant for Red Admiral butterflies, and when the park eradicates the nettles, they eradicate the butterflies as well.  You’d think they’d figure that out.  It would be a lot easier and cheaper to post a sign about the nettles and have people avoid them, than to kill all of the plants.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I spent almost 20 minutes watching a female Western Bluebird deciding whether she wanted to commit to a nesting cavity or not. She flew up to the opening several times, poked her head in and looked around, but then would back off again. I didn’t understand what her hesitation was and wondered if maybe the hole was already occupied by something. Then it occurred to me that she might not be committing to the spot because I was there watching her, so I walked off a bit, then a bit more. I still didn’t see her go all the way in, but her hubby was sitting in the tree nearby patiently waiting for her to make a decision.

I also came across a House Wren taking twigs to her nesting cavity, and a European Starling poking her head out of her nest.  She’d chased off a Tree Swallow that wanted the same spot.  Lots of cool photo ops today!

I got to see a very large Red-Tailed Hawk in a tree (but she had her face turned away from me, so I didn’t get any good shots of that).  She was so big, I thought at first that she might have been an owl.  As soon as she left, I saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk near the same tree.  As I was leaving the park, I also saw a Cooper’s Hawk chattering in a tree alongside the road.

I walked for a little over 3 ½ hours before heading back home.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga auduboni auduboni
3. Black Walnut Tree, Juglans nigra
4. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
5. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
6. Burr Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
7. California Buckeye, Aesculus californica
8. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
9. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
10. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
12. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
13. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
14. Common Ink Cap Mushroom, Coprinopsis atramentaria
15. Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii
16. Cranefly, Mosquito Hawk, Tipula dietziana
17. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata
18. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica
19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
20. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deathnettle,
21. Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
22. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
23. Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
24. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
25. Hop Tree, Ptelea trifoliata
26. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
27. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
28. Longstalk Cranesbill, Geranium columbinum
29. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
30. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
31. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
32. Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys sp.
33. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
34. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
35. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
36. Santa Barbara Sedge, Valley Sedge, Carex barbarae
37. Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
38. Speedwell, Bird’s Eye Speedwell, Veronica persica
39. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
40. Stinging Nettle, Annual Stinging Nettle, Urtica urens
41. Stork’s Bill, Big Heron Bill, Erodium botrys
42. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria sp.
43. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
44. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
45. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
46. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
47. Winter Vetch, Smooth Vetch, Vicia villosa