Tanoaks at El Corte de Madera 2011

Despite overcast sky and relatively cold temps for summer, I decided to check out the tanoaks at El Corte de Madera on Monday (8/7/11). It was foggy driving along Skyline, but some sun started to break out as I neared the preserve.Once I got past the kiosk, I decided not to wear my jacket as it was warm enough in the sun.

It was 11:00 when I started off. I headed directly to our tree about 1.5 miles to the right. Along the way, spider webs glistened with fog drip, and I could hear drips hit the leaf duff. A few birds gave voice, but there wasn’t much insect action. And, except for an Agelenid and the numerous Sierra dome (Neriene) webs, I didn’t notice any arachnids.

Downhill past the nettle corner, I stopped to look at the underside of a tree on the trailbank. I noticed something odd–three tiny insects hanging from a silken thread. Then I noticed two more, near one end of the 2′ thread. It looked like tiny bug laundry, hanging out to dry! Later, I learned that these are Gall Midges (Cecidomyiidae), and certain ones like to hang on spider silk. Who knows why. I’ve found mention of this or photos of this behavior in various countries including France, China, and South America.

Gall Midges (Cecidomyiidae) hanging from a spider thread

Gall Midge

Like my previous visit, the 1.5 mile tanoak was in shade. There was one lower branch that had some catkins, but there were no obvious insects visiting. There was a tiny spider in a web, and upon shaking with the net, a lacewing larva fell out. There are larger 2 cm. acorns as well as younger ones. The smaller tanoak across from that one had low catkins. I didn’t see insects there either, despite that branch being in the sun, but when I looked at my photos, I saw another tiny spider as well as a small insect, possibly a beetle, on a catkin. These catkins still had their stamens, but just a little pollen left.

Birds calling: California Quail, Dark-eyed Junco, Spotted Towhee, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Steller’s Jay, Band-tailed Pigeon, Pygmy Nuthatch, and Allen’s? (or some other Selasphorus) Hummingbird.

Insects out: lots of Sierra dome webs, a few native bees in the lower meadow at yellow composites, two bumble bees on the way out, many grasshoppers, and a few butterflies (California sister or Lorquin’s admiral, blues/hairstreaks, skipper, swallowtail) and dragonflies flying around. I did find a triangle web spider, Hyptiotes, which we had been searching for here in the redwoods. There were a few small wasps searching for prey in the leaf litter under the small tanoak. One had blue markings.

And, one August banana slug found a moist place to hang out.

On the way out, I stopped to look at the Helleborine orchids in bloom. Also in bloom were sticky monkeyflower, a large patch of Clarkia, a few buttercups, and forget-me-nots. By then it was warm enough in the sun for the smell of yerba santa to permeate the air. My small thermometer said ~68F. I got back to the trailhead at 2:00.

Here are photos. The tanoaks are first, then insects and other things.