Tanoaks at El Corte de Madera

I went up on Saturday, 8/8, to spend some time before our request hike. I started out around 2:15 from gate EC03.

It was warm, 80-85 degrees, with a slight breeze. Some butterflies were flying, and bumble bees visited the purple thistles. Grasshoppers were still around.

I stopped first at the tree nearest the gate, which is usually in shade when we’ve been there. A lot of the catkins had fallen off. I headed down Gordon Mill Trail, aiming for the tree that JO had found with pollinators a little over a mile in. I didn’t get that far.

There were a couple of guys down in the seep on the left side after a curve, who seemed to be looking for artifacts.

A few California Harebells were out, and Sneezeweed had yellow balls on the stems.

At around 3:00, I reached a tree on the left side, in the sun, with a yellow ribbon on it. It was slightly less than a mile in. We may have passed this one before, but I stopped to check out the state of the tree since it the catkins looked good. There was a lot of buzzing around the upper parts. When close, I could get a faint whiff of the catkin odor.
I noticed a lot of very small developing female flowers. As I was examining the flowers, a honey bee landed on a nearby catkin cluster and began to collect pollen. It had a load of yellow pollen already.

Honey bee with pollen load

Honey bee with pollen load

I decided to do some observations there, since there was activity. I started an observation at 3:10. Two honey bees visited, and made 6 and 11 collections respectively. There were 27 male flowers, and 8 very small female flowers.The bees tended to visit the same catkins, and sometimes went between two of them. One of them visited that cluster, went to the next one, and returned. A Syrphid Fly (?) buzzed closely around one of the catkins, but didn’t land, and a black Bee Fly landed on a catkin on the cluster to the left.
I watched for another 10 minutes, and this time there were 4 visits, also by a honey bee. Sometimes small flies would land on the leaves.

I was getting warm standing in the sun, so I went closer to count the flowers in the cluster. I found a piece of catkin on top of a leaf, but when I looked more closely, it was a caterpillar! Excellent camouflage.

The breeze was making it difficult to get photos of the female flowers and the caterpillar, so I took a leaf and got the caterpillar down. While I was crouched down taking photos, a Sheriff vehicle drove by.

Catkin-mimicing caterpillar

Catkin-mimicing caterpillar

I put the caterpillar back up on the cluster, and changed some settings on my camera. When I was trying to relocate the caterpillar, which had crawled into a shady part, I found a very small caterpillar or sawfly larva, .5″-long, under one of the leaves, near the stem. There was also a pile of something that may have been some other kind of larva. They were gray and oval-shaped with pointed ends. Not until I looked at one of the photos did I see the adult.

I got back to the gate around 4:30, and headed to Russian Ridge.

Photos are here.

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