Mix Canyon Road, 04-17-20

I got up around 6:30 this morning to get Esteban fed and pottied before getting myself ready to go with my fellow naturalist and friend Roxanne in search of wildflowers on Mix Canyon Road in Vacaville.

We had never been to that location before, but had heard about it from birder Sami LaRocca. When she was up there, she’d found wildflowers that Rox and I hadn’t been seeing around Sacramento, so we thought we’d give it a try.

During the first part of the drive, we weren’t too impressed by what we saw, but as we went further up into the foothills to the ridge, the views and discoveries got more and more interesting.

View from the ridge

The road is really narrow and winding, so it was a little difficult to find spots where we could pull off and get out of the car and really LOOK at what was around us. You can see a lot from your vehicle, but it’s not the same as getting right out next to stuff and really looking for the little details and hidden flowers. We were also surprised by the number of cars that were going up and down the road. There’s aren’t many homesteads up there, but apparently everyone has three or four trucks, and they use them all the time.

When we got to one spot, we found a good pull-out on the side of the road, next to a wooden fence, and stopped to take photos of the poppies and Hummingbird sage on the hillsides. While we were talking to one another, we heard a dog barking from the other side of the fence and a woman asked what we were doing out there.

Roxanne let her know that we were naturalists and we were just taking photos of the flowers along the road. A few minutes later, the woman came out, introduced herself as Eleanor, and invited us onto her property. She had streamside access and a natural plants and vegetable garden she was working on, and she’d let us take photos if we promised to share them with her. I thanked her, and handed her my card that has all my contact information on it.

Eleanor allowed us to just roam her property at will, and we identified and took photos of as many plants and flowers as we could – along with getting picture of her handsome rooster and chickens. We saw several different butterflies on the wing including Pipevine Swallowtails, Tiger Swallowtails, and Cabbage Whites. Roxanne also saw several Orange Tips (white butterflies with orange tips on their forewings).

A first for me was seeing a pair of Black-Headed Grosbeaks (male and female) in the trees around the property. There’s one of these birds in the Effie Yeaw nature center, but I’d never seen any in the wild before, so that was a neat find for me. We also saw some Steller’s Jays along the road, but there was nowhere to park near them so we could snag some pictures of them.

Black-Headed Grosbeak, Pheucticus melanocephalus

We saw different species and felt a definite temperature change the higher up the ridge we climbed. Some areas along the road gave us panoramic vertigo inspiring views of the surrounding foothills, while other spots treated us to dark, shaded deeply forested views (which I LOVED). The air was fresh and clean, and filled with the sounds of chorus frogs, crickets, birds and cicadas. Just lovely!

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

Among the flowers we found were Yellowrockets, Scarlet Larkspur, Chinese Houses, Hummingbird Sage, Warrior’s Plumes, and Diogenes’ Lanterns (yellow globe lilies). The only things we didn’t like seeing was all of the invasive Periwinkle and Arundo along the road.

We drove up to near the top of the ridge, but stopped for lunch where the road went from paved to gravel. After lunch, we headed back down toward Lake Solano Park (which was closed due to CORVID-19) and the city of Winters.

We continued on toward Davis, and stopped for a moment to see if there were any Burrowing Owls out. It was about 2 o’clock by then; not the most advantageous time of day to see the owls, but we did get to see one. They’re so tiny, it’s easy to miss them, so I was pleased to be able to get photos of the one we saw. It was a sweet way to end our excursion.

Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia

We got back to the house around 3:00 pm, so that was another long day for me. I was tired and a little sore, but I really enjoyed the outing.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Agave, Century Plant, Agave vivipara
  3. American Plantain, Plantago rugelii
  4. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  5. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  6. Bedstraw, Graceful Bedstraw, Galium porrigens
  7. Bird’s Foot Cliffbrake, Pellaea mucronata [ferny]
  8. Bird’s-eye Speedwell, Veronica persica
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Black-Headed Grosbeak, Pheucticus melanocephalus
  11. Blue Ceanothus, Blueblossom, Ceanothus thyrsiflorus
  12. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
  13. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  14. Blue Witch Nighshade, Solanum umbelliferum
  15. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  16. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  17. Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia
  18. Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  19. Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
  20. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  21. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  22. California Lomatium, Lomatium californicum
  23. California Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum jordanii
  24. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  25. California Polypody fern, Polypodium californicum [like a small sword fern]
  26. California Ringlet Butterfly, Coenonympha tullia california
  27. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  28. Canyon Live-Forever, Stonecrop, Dudleya cymosa
  29. Chinese Houses, Purple Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla var. heterophylla
  30. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
  31. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  32. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  33. Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
  34. Domestic Chicken, Gallus gallus var. domesticus
  35. Echo Azure butterfly, Celastrina echo [“typical blues”]
  36. Eggleaf Spurge, Euphorbia oblongata
  37. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  38. Giant Deathcamas, Fremont’s Deathcamas, Toxicoscordion fremontii
  39. Giant Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
  40. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  41. Golden Fairy Lantern, Diogenes’ Lantern, Calochortus amabilis
  42. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  43. Hillside Woodland Star, Lithophragma heterophyllum
  44. Hummingbird Sage, Salvia spathacea
  45. Indian Warrior, Warrior’s Plume, Pedicularis densiflora
  46. Ithuriel’s Spear, Triteleia laxa
  47. Johnny Jump-Up, Wild Pansy, Tricolored Violet, Viola tricolor
  48. Kale, Brassica oleracea ssp. sabellica
  49. Lemmon’s Poppy, Field Poppy, Eschscholzia lemmonii
  50. Lilac, Common Lilac, Syringa vulgaris
  51. Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
  52. Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus
  53. Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius [spit]
  54. Miner’s Lettuce, Narrowleaf Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora ssp. parviflora [reddish buds]
  55. Modesty Flower, Yerba de Salva, Whipplea modesta [small white flowers]
  56. Mountain Phacelia, Phacelia imbricate
  57. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  58. Mule Fat, Baccharis salicifolia
  59. Mule’s Ears, Smooth Mule-Ears, Wyethia glabra
  60. Northern Alligator Lizard, Elgaria coerulea
  61. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  62. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard several]
  63. Pacific Orange Tip, Sara’s Orange Tip Butterfly, Anthocharis sara
  64. Pacific Pea, Lathyrus vestitus
  65. Pacific Tree Frog, Chorus Frog, Pseudacris regilla
  66. Periwinkle, Vinca major
  67. Pineappleweed, Matricaria discoidea
  68. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  69. Portuguese Squill, Scilla peruviana [purple “porcupine” flower]
  70. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus [saw along the highway]
  71. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  72. Salsify, Purple Salsify, Tragopogon porrifolius
  73. Scarlet Larkspur, Red Larkspur, Delphinium nudicaule
  74. Spice Bush, California Sweetshrub, Calycanthus occidentalis
  75. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  76. Steller’s Jay, Cyanocitta stelleri
  77. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni [saw along the highway]
  78. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  79. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  80. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  81. Twining Snakelily, Dichelostemma volubile
  82. Velvety Tree Ant, Liometopum occidentale
  83. Virgin’s Bower, Old Men’s Beards, Pipestem Clematis, Clematis lasiantha
  84. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
  85. Western Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio rutulus
  86. White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
  87. Woolly Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja foliolosa [red, dark red]
  88. Yellowrocket, Garden Yellowrocket, Barbarea vulgaris
  89. Yerba Santa, California Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum