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