Sunday, October 5, 2014

Oaks on a hilltop

 We took a nice little walk among the California Black Oaks on Mt. Claremont Saturday afternoon.  We could barely see Lassen Peak through the haze.  With no snow cover remaining, there was nothing to reflect the sunlight. We did get close-up views of some interesting artifacts, not the least of which were the leaves of the Black Oaks in all stages of turning to their fall colors.  Many were still green, but others were turning yellow, orange, and flame red, each one a work of art.

Click on any of these photos for close-up views of the details.  Maybe you'll discover things in the photos I haven't yet noticed.
For a while, we harbored the illusion of having this beautiful, quiet place to ourselves.  Then we stumbled across evidence of visiting barbarians (below). 
Whenever I'm around Black Oaks at this time of year, I think about my favorite visitors, the Oak Treehoppers.  As I looked straight up at the bright blue sky and a towering Douglas-fir, I spotted a bumpy texture near the end of this oak branch (below), perhaps 15 feet above my head.
Switching to a slightly longer lens, I got a little closer, and sure enough, I saw that it was a large group of Treehoppers.  Still a little too far away to get good photos.
Then I started to inspect every lower branch and found almost all of them covered with Treehoppers.  In fact, this was the most I'd ever seen in one place.  Click on the photo (below) for a closer view.
Another thing I witnessed for the first time was a significant behavior difference.  In all my previous encounters with Treehoppers, they seemed to cling tenaciously to their branches while I took pictures.  In fact, I'd often push nearby leaves and branches aside in order to get my lens within a few inches of the bugs.  On this occasion, if I touched any leaf or branch within a foot or so of the Treehoppers they all jumped and/or flew every which way, most landing on the ground.  I wondered if they would fly or crawl their way back after we left.  It took several careful attempts to get in close without touching any leaves before I could good close-ups.  I decided the jumping ones were responding to vibrations of the branches I touched and not to the mere sight of me.  I left with the realization there's a lot about Oak Treehoppers I don't know.  I'll be back.

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