Journal archives for September 2021

September 10, 2021

Gall Hunt Part One, 08-27-21

I got up around 6:00 this morning. After feeding the dog and letting him go potty, I headed out to the Johnson-Springview Park with my friend Roxanne to go gall hunting. It was about 68º when we got there, and the air was smoky. It also seemed a bit humid. I was really looking forward to finding galls on the trees there; it’s usually a treasure house of them because there are so many oaks and so many different species.

We were able to check out a series of blue oaks in the front of the park, and found lots of different galls including Saucer galls, Red Striped Volcano galls, Clustered galls, Crystalline galls, Peach galls, Plate galls, Gray Midribs, Coral galls, Disc galls, Hair Stalk galls, and a very few, very small Urchin galls. The Crystalline galls were all clustered against one another, completely covering many of the leaves on which we saw them. They were losing most of their color by now, but still very recognizable. And I was super happy to see the Coral galls; I’ve only ever found them at this park.

That was an auspicious start to our day, but after about 90 minutes, I started to feel really sick: dizzy, nauseated, sweaty. I sat down on a rock and Roxanne brought the car around as close to me as she could. I thought if I sat for a bit and had some water in the air-conditioned car I’d feel better. But then I felt like I had to vomit, so I got out of the car in search of a restroom facility. We were next to a brown building that I thought might house a restroom, but no such luck. I upchucked a bit on the outside wall (and that will probably show up on their security cameras if they have them; D’oh!) Then I saw the restrooms on the other side of a lawn so I headed toward them. Thankfully, when I got there, the first door I tried was open and I was able to settle in on one of the commodes. Stuff came out of both ends -- which is always fun, not -- and once that hideousness was over I felt a lot better. I don’t know what my body’s issue was. A combination of meds, breakfast, smoke and humidity I’m assuming. But, yuck, that is NOT how I wanted to spend the morning.

When I came out of the restroom, Rox was there to help usher me back to the car. I was kind of determined not to give up, so we rolled the car over next to some sycamore trees by the parking area. I was hoping we’d see some lace bugs, but nope. Instead we found an odd, stringy-looking fungus on the back of one of the leaves.

Then we rolled the car over to another spot in the parking area next to a small patch of oaks. There were some Blue Oaks, a Live Oak, and a Valley Oak tree in that one little area. Didn’t see much of anything on the Live Oak, but on the Valley Oak we found a few Red Cone galls and Spiney Turban galls.

Here are the photos from today:

The big find, for me, was a “lifer” for us, a gall we’d never seen before: the fuzzy convolutions left by the Erineum mites (Aceria trichophila). We’d seen something similar to these on Live Oak tree leaves in our area, but the ones on the Live Oaks (Eriophyes mackiei) leave a kind of rusty residue on the back of the leaf where the mites have been feeding. Here, on the Blue Oaks, the mites create a concave “nest” for themselves, dressed in white hairs, on the back of the leaves, which then leave a convex lumpy mound on the top of the leaf. We only found them on one tree but there seemed to be a lot of them, affecting groups of leaves. What was cool about these -- besides the fact that we’d never seen them before -- was that I had just been reading about them the night before in Russo’s book (page 106).

By then it was 10-ish and already getting warm enough outside that sweat was running down the back of my neck, ick. So, we decided to call it a day. We’ll come back in a week or so, weather permitting, and check out more of the trees in the back of the park.

We walked for about 2 hours. This was hike #73 in my annual hike challenge.

Rox and I decided to try out the Granite Rock Grille for breakfast, and I was actually surprised by how hungry I was after being sick earlier. I had a Santa Fe Scramble with country potatoes, salsa and iced tea. The service there is a little slow, but the food is always very good.

Posted on September 10, 2021 07:21 PM by simpylmare55 simpylmare55 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Galls on Desmond Road, 09-01-21

I was supposed to go my GP doctor’s office today, but since she cancelled the appointment and rescheduled it for next week, I decided to go out to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk. So, I got up around 6:00 am and was on the road by 6:30. It was windy and 55º outside; just lovely.

There is no water at the preserve itself, and the trees along the now-empty pond by the boardwalk parking lot weren’t giving me a lot to look at. In fact, I was shocked to see that the gate there was still locked, so I had to park on the street. I was primarily looking for galls, and the trees along the pond had lots of Red Cones and a few others, but not a lot of variety.

So, I drove around instead to the line of trees along Desmond Road and checked them out. I was surprised to see water in the ditches along the road (which prevented me from getting to some of the trees; I didn’t have my rain boots with me.) Most of the trees there are willows and Valley Oak with some Cottonwoods thrown in. I was focused on the oaks for galls.

Because I was limited to Valley Oaks for oak trees in this location, I saw a lot of the same galls on different trees. Some had lots of galls, others, not so much. I saw a “healthy” number of Red Cone galls, which we hadn’t been seeing in other areas, and there were lots of Flat-Topped Honeydew galls attended by their cadres of ants. Other galls found included Club galls, Convoluted galls, Disc galls, Jumping galls, the big Oak Apples, Spiny Turban galls, Yellow Wigs, Fuzzy Round galls, and even some Woollybears. Nothing new, but lots to see and most of the galls were mature and nice-looking.

Here are my photos from today:

Some of the leaves were covered with the white fluff associated with Woolly Oak Aphids. On one leaf, I found a small collection of the aphids in various instars. Here’s a video snippet of them:

As I was checking out the trees, I walked face-first into a couple of very large orb webs and disturbed the Western Spotted Orbweaver Spiders that constructed them. D’oh! I also came across two different kinds of praying mantises: a Mediterranean mantis with a white pin stripe down its back, and an Arizona Mantis with her beautiful blue lips.

In that same area, I saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting in one of the trees. Based on its dark, rich color I assumed it was a male, but it was molting and was kind of scruffy looking. I got some photos of it, and a video snippet of it calling to its family. Here’s a video snippet:

I was out for about 3 hours and then headed back home. This was hike #74 in my annual hike challenge.

Species List:
American Kestrel, Falco sparverius [flyover]
Arizona Mantis, Stagmomantis limbata [blue lip]
Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
California Quail, Callipepla californica
Canada Goose, Branta canadensis[flyover]
Chicory, Cichorium intybus
Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
Common Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos[flyover]
Common Pill Woodlouse, Armadillidium vulgare
Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula [round flat, “spangle gall”]
Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
Fuzzy Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis washingtonensi [round faintly fuzzy galls on stems]
Great Egret, Ardea alba [4 in a field]
Green Midge, Chironomus chironomus sp.
Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidi [on Valley Oak]
Mediterranean Praying Mantis, Iris Mantis, Iris oratoria [very narrow ootheca]
Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
Omnivorous Leafroller Moth, Platynota stultana
Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
Small Honey Ant, Prenolepis imparis
Sorghum, Sorghum bicolor
Spiny Cocklebur, Xanthium spinosum
Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, asexual, fall generation, Antron douglasii
Swamp Smartweed, Persicaria hydropiperoides [white, single stem]
Tangleweb Spider, Theridion sp.
Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura [5 kettling overhead]
Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
Woolly Oak Aphid, Stegophylla brevirostris (lots of white fluff & honeydew)
Woollybear Gall Wasp, Atrusca trimaculosa
Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi

Posted on September 10, 2021 07:24 PM by simpylmare55 simpylmare55 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Gall Hunt Part Two, 09-03-21

I got up at 6:00 this morning, and headed out with my friend Roxanne for Johnson-Springview Park in Rocklin a little before 6:30. This was round two of our gall hunt there.

The last time we were there, we stuck mainly to the Blue Oaks in the front of the park. Today we went looking for the Valley Oaks and the Interior Live Oaks to see if we could find different galls on them. That’s not to say we didn’t shop at the Blue Oaks we came across, but we tried to keep moving to see the other oaks and plants in the middle section of the park. All the while we were out there, we had to keep an eye out for the disc golf players who were out in the park.

Although we found a variety of different species of wasp galls, it was very apparent to both of us that we weren’t seeing the number of galls that we normally see. Fewer galls means fewer wasps, or wasps that aren’t laying as many eggs as they normally do. And we still haven’t found ANY of the spiky-ball summer galls of the Live Oak Gall Wasp. That’s worrisome. We might be seeing the beginning of the end of some of these species.

On the Blue Oaks we found Clustered Galls, two different generation galls of the Striped Volcano Gall Wasp, pale yellow and bright pink galls of the Crystalline Gall Wasp, Gray Midrib galls, Saucer galls, Plate galls, Dried Peach galls, Coral galls, a couple of Disc Galls, and some Urchin galls. The most Urchins we found were on a tiny tree that had a wide variety of different galls on it. Some were pink, pink with white tips, or varying shades of purple.

On the Interior Live Oaks we found some old springtime galls of the Live Oak Gall Wasp, a single older Kernel gall, and a few Pumpkin galls. A nice surprise was being able to find some old spring galls of the Two-Horned Gall Wasp. We didn’t see any of the summer galls of that species, though… and I’m wondering if the extreme heat we’ve had this year burned out some of the summer generations of some of the species, or if we’ll see the summer generation galls later in the year when (potentially) it cools off a little bit before the Fall. There’s just so much we don’t know.

Later in the day, at lunch, Roxanne found this great 69-page article on keying out and identifying the galls wasp species:

“…While much has been learned regarding the phylogeny and evolution of cynipoid wasps, clearly illustrated diagnostic tools and identification keys have remained stagnant. So too, where keys do exist, they are often to genus or species, and there are no user-friendly keys to groups such as tribes, subfamilies, or families. This state of affairs leaves a knowledge gap for non-specialists and slows future research on the group. To address this, we provide a fully illustrated key to the higher-level groups of world Cynipoidea. We also provide summaries of all higher-level taxa with updated generic lists, biological data, distribution, and literature resources. The dichotomous key presented here is complimented with a multi-entry matrix-based key, created in Lucid, and served on with online versions of the dichotomous keys also available…”

Always learning more about these creatures.

On the Valley Oaks we found the Oak Apples, Red Cone galls, Convoluted galls, Spiney Turban galls, Yellow Wig galls, what we think might have been an old Rosette gall, and a single gall of the Live Oak Gall Wasp and the Fuzzy Gall Wasp, Burnettweldia washingtonensis. We saw what we thought might have been an example of the mid-twig gall of the Split Twig Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus asymmetricus… but then, that only forms on Canyon Live Oak, and we found it on a Valley Oak, so more research is needed. On one tree, we found honeybees lapping up the honeydew from the galls of the Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp. We also found examples of acorn affected by Drippy Nut, cause by the bacterium Lonsdalea quercina populi.

Here are the photos from today:

On another tree, we found the old cocoon of a tussock moth with eggs on it.

“…The tiny, whitish eggs occur in a mass of several hundred, covered with the female's brownish hairs… Pupae occur on or near the host plant… Tussock moths overwinter as eggs. The tiny, dark caterpillars hatch in spring and can use a silk strand and their body hairs to float on the wind to other trees. After feeding, mature larvae pupate on bark in a hairy, brown or tan cocoon. The emerging females produce pheromone to attract the night-flying males; females of some species are flightless. Adults occur from late spring through at least early summer. There are one or two generations per year, depending on the species and location…”

On some of the cattails in the creek, we also found a few examples of “fasciation”.

“…Fasciation, also known as cresting, is a relatively rare condition of abnormal growth in vascular plants in which the growing tip which normally is concentrated around a single point and produces approximately cylindrical tissue, instead becomes elongated perpendicularly to the direction of growth, thus producing flattened, ribbon-like, crested (or “cristate”), or elaborately contorted, tissue…”

In the cattails, some of the head were split into threes, with three heads growing from a single stem. Very interesting!

So there was lots to see. We didn’t see many birds, however, but I still got some photos of a Black Phoebe, and some of the Yellow-Billed Magpies in the park. Many of the magpies were going through a molt, so they were looking a bit ragged.

There were also a few Western Fence Lizards darting about, including some pairs and a few tiny baby lizards.

We walked for a little over 3 hours and then headed back toward Sacramento. This was walk #75 of my annual hike challenge. We were happy to have had a fun outing and good weather.


American Plantain, Plantago rugelii
Bean, Common Bean, Phaseolus vulgaris
Bittersweet Nightshade, Solanum dulcamara
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
Clustered Gall Wasp, Andricus brunneus
Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange,on wood/trees]
Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
Coral Gall Wasp, Burnettweldia corallina
Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata
Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus
Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula [round flat, “spangle gall”]
Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
Dried Peach Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis simulate
Drippy Nut, Lonsdalea quercina populi [bacterium that affects acorns]
Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
Elegant Zinnia, Zinnia elegans
European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
Gray Midrib Gall Wasp, Cynips multipunctata
Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
Kernel Flower Gall Wasp, Callirhytis serricornis
Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [in the road]
Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
Live Oak Kermes, Allokermes cueroensis
Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
Narrowleaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia
Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus [heard, glimpsed]
Plate Gall Wasp, Andricus pattersonae
Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus [flyover]
Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia conspersa
Rock Tripe, Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
Rosette Gall Wasp, Andricus wiltzae
Round Gall Wasp, Cynpis conspicuus [round gall near base of leaf on Valley Oaks, formerly Besbicus conspicuus]
Round-Gall Wasp, Fuzzy Gall, Burnettweldia washingtonensis [round, fuzzy, on twigs]
Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas [cup shaped, sometimes rough edges]
Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Cynips douglasii [summer gall, pink, spikey top]
Striped Volcano Gall Wasp, Andricus atrimentus, Spring generation [looks like a ball on the side of the leaf; dark inside]
Striped Volcano Gall Wasp, Andricus atrimentus, Summer generation [looks like a tiny volcano]
Sunflower, Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus
Swamp Smartweed, Persicaria hydropiperoides [white, single stem]
Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
Two-Horned Gall Wasp, bisexual gall, spring generation, Dryocosmus dubiosus [looks like a hard, shiny, brown “beak” on the edge of the leaf]
Urchin Gall Wasp, Cynips quercusechinus
Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
Western Tussock Moth, Orgyia vetusta [cocoon with eggs]
White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis [heard]
Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli
?? Jumping Spider [on cattails]

Posted on September 10, 2021 07:27 PM by simpylmare55 simpylmare55 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

A Short Walk at Gristmill, 09-06-21

I got up around 6:00 o’clock and headed over to the Gristmill Recreation Area to see if I could find galls there. It was 61º when I got there but got up to 102º by the afternoon. PM2.5 AQI levels reached: 184 AQI (Unhealthy) .

There are a variety of oak tree there including Interior Live Oaks, Valley Oaks, some Black Oaks and Holm Oaks. I was shocked, therefore, when I found only a handful of galls. The Holm and Black Oaks gave me nothing, but it’s always fun to see them.

On the live oaks I found Erineum mite galls, Pumpkin galls, some fold galls and Live Oak Bud galls… but that was only on two trees. I didn’t find anything at all on the other live oaks I looked at.

On the Valley Oaks, I was expecting to see Red Cone galls everywhere but I only found them on ONE tree, along with a single Yellow Wig Gall, some Jumping galls, a handful of Spined Turban galls, small Flat-Topped Honeydew galls, and stem galls. And, of course, there were Oak Apple galls on a lot of the trees.

I got a few photos of a Jumping Spider (Colonus hesperus) on one of the leaves, and it was eating its breakfast. I had to chase it from one side of the leaf to the other until it finally stopped to stare me down.

Here are the photos from today:

I could hear a few birds like Nuttall’s Woodpeckers, Killdeer, Belted Kingfishers, and Oak Titmice, but I couldn’t get photos of them. I saw your basic Wild Turkeys, Common Mergansers, Mallards, Canada Geese, Wood Ducks, a Great Blue Heron, Mourning Doves, Black Phoebes and some Cedar Waxwings. There was also a small flock of Bushtits, but trying to get photos of any of them is always a challenge for me. They’re small and they move so fast!

I came across a birding ground that was following a “Warbling Vireo” in the treetops. I couldn’t see it, but it was fun to know that it was out there.

Not a lot happening, and I was only out for about 90 minutes because it was heating up fast, but I enjoyed the exercise. #CABiodiversityDay. This was hike #76 in my annual hike challenge.

Species List:

Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [heard]
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum
Common Fig, Ficus carica
Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
Gall Inducing Wooly Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
Holm Oak, Quercus ilex
Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
Irregular Spindle Gall Wasp, Andricus chrysolepidicola [on white oaks, Blue, Valley, etc.]
Jumping Spider, Colonus hesperus
Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
Live Oak Bud Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercusagrifoliae
Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Cynips douglasii [summer gall, pink, spikey top]
Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi

Posted on September 10, 2021 07:30 PM by simpylmare55 simpylmare55 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Doves at the House, 09-07-21

We have a pair of Eurasian Collared Doves (Streptopelia decaocto) building a late-season nest in the palm tree in the backyard. The male was bringing the female twigs for the construction. #CABiodiversityDay.

According to Cornell: “…Building usually done by female with male gathering material. Male gives excitement calls while bringing female nest material; on arrival pair give nest calls and billing occurs… Male may push nesting materials directly under female. Build nest during daylight hours; usually takes 1–3 days…Incubation by both parents, with female sitting on nest through night and male relieving female in early morning for about 8 hours. Incubating bird usually summons mate for relief; male gives advertising call, female gives nest call…In warmer regions, Eurasian Collared-Doves can nest year-round, which may help explain their success as colonizers…”

“…Eurasian Collared-Doves made their way to North America via the Bahamas, where several birds escaped from a pet shop during a mid-1970s burglary; the shop owner then released the rest of the flock of approximately 50 doves. Others were set free on the island of Guadeloupe when a volcano threatened eruption. From these two sites the birds likely spread to Florida, and now occur over most of North America…Eurasian Collared-Doves are one of very few species that can drink “head down,” submerging their bills and sucking water as though drinking through a straw. Most birds must scoop water and tip the head back to let it run down into the throat…”

Here are some photos of the birds. In some of them, you can see the male bringing a twig to the female:

Posted on September 10, 2021 07:32 PM by simpylmare55 simpylmare55 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Helped Out a Fellow Naturalist, 09-10-21

In my email today, I got a follow up message from a gal named Lauren de Boer. She had written to me in March:

“I am currently taking the citizen naturalist certification course and decided to focus on oaks. I’ve run across you name many times in the course of my research. You are prolific! And the quality of your photography is impressive. There is one photo where you are holding two live oak leaves for comparison that would be very helpful for the pocket guide to oaks I am creating. Would it be possible to have permission to use the photo? Since the guide will be for print and online, I would need a hi res version.”

I gave her permission to use the photo -- and whatever other photos she’d like to use -- and today she says:

“Thank you again for the use of the photo of oak leaves. The Pocket Guide to Northern California Oaks is finished and has been printed. Now I’d like to send you copy in gratitude for your contribution.”

Cool! I’m looking forward to seeing it and I’m so happy that I was able to assist an other naturalist with their capstone project.

Posted on September 10, 2021 08:08 PM by simpylmare55 simpylmare55 | 0 comments | Leave a comment