I got up a little before 6:00 am so I could head out with my friend Roxanne to go to the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in Oroville, about a 90-minute drive from Sacramento right up Highway 70. We had never been there before, but we’d seen photos from other people who had been up there, so we were excited to see what we could see. Some words of warning if you go up there yourself: don’t go on a weekend, and try to get there as early as you can.
When we got there, one of the parking lots was already full, and by the time we left both parking lots were overflowing with cars, more cars were coming in, and other cars were parked on both sides of the road for about a MILE. Rox and I figured that by the time we left there were about 1000 people at the site. Now, Table Mountain is huge, but still… gad.
After we walked for several hours, we went back to the car to sit and have some lunch. It was our original intention to go out and walk some more after lunch, but after realizing how many people were there and how the cars were stacking up, we decided to leave.
Weatherwise, it was a gorgeous day to be out walking: in the 60’s and 70’s,sunny, with a slight breeze. Just beautiful.
Rox found an excellent parking space right near the front entrance to the parking lot. And right outside the doors of the car were Blue Dicks, Popcorn Flowers, Goldfields, Fiddleneck, and Sky Lupines! So pretty…and such a great start to our flower-search day.
The area is also home to free-range cattle. Signage tells you to stay at least 300 feet from the cows, but that wasn’t always possible because several of the cattle walked right up to within arm’s length of us. Sometimes they were so close, you could hear the crunch of their teeth as they browsed among the wildflowers.
I was watching one Black Angus who was watching Rox as she checked out the various flowers on the ground below her. When she would bend down to get a picture, the cow would dip its head down like it was trying to see what she was interested in. Hah!
We avoided the heavily trafficked trails (too many people making too much noise), and just perused the top of the plateau and some of the seep areas. Everywhere you stepped there were flowers, including several I hadn’t seen before, like the glorious pink Bitterroots and white Table Mountain Meadowfoam (which are endemic to that region; found there and nowhere else on earth).
The broad landscapes were as interesting and beautiful as the close-up flowers themselves. Waves of blue lupines, yellow goldfields, orange poppies, white popcorn flowers. Just breath taking.
We spent about 3½ combing the area, and were happy when we discovered a tiny Sierra Chorus Frog in one of the seep areas. I was able to catch him, so we could get some close up photos before releasing him back into the water.
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
As we drove out, heading eventually back to Sacramento via Colusa, we stopped occasionally along the way to get photos of other flowering plants we saw along the way. We saw some Virgin Bower (“Old Man’s Beard”) in the treetops, but also found a whole bankside along the road covered with phacelia.
We’re anxious to check out more wildflower spots in the region. During one of those stops we also got to see a lovely Lark Sparrow sitting on a barbed wire fence line.
After driving through the city of Colusa, we stopped briefly at the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge so I could show Rox where one of the Great Horned Owls were.
The mama owl wasn’t in her nest, but she was up in the trees near it. The afternoon sun was really beating down on the tree where her nest was, and she was panting like she was overheated.
The heat no doubt kept her eggs warm (if she had any; and I’m assuming she did, or she wouldn’t have stuck so close to that same nesting tree). We took a few distant photos of her and headed back to the car.
By then it was almost 80° outside and we were getting overheated ourselves. We headed home, stopping off to get a cold drink along the way.
We were out for a little over 10 hours. Phew! This counted as hike #30 in my #52HikeChallenge.
- Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
- American Coot, Fulica americana
- Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
- Bitterroot, Lewisia rediviva [large, bright pink flowers]
- Black Angus Cattle, Bos taurus var. Black Angus
- Black Grain-Spored Lichen, Sarcogyne hypophaea [black, grainy, on rocks]
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
- Black-Tailed Bumble Bee, Bombus melanopygus
- Blue Dicks, Table Mountain Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus capitatus
- Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
- Brown Cobblestone Lichen, Acarospora fuscata
- Butter-and-Eggs, Triphysaria eriantha eriantha [red stems]
- Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
- California Buttercup, Ranunculus californicus
- California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
- Cascade Onion, Allium cratericola
- Chickweed, Common Chickweed, Stellaria media
- Cinder Lichen, Aspicilia cinerea
- Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
- Common Goldspeck Lichen, Candelariella vitellina [bright yellow with rimmed apothecia on rocks]
- Common Vetch, Vicia sativa [pink flowers]
- Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
- Cowbag Clover, Trifolium depauperatum
- Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
- Deceiver Mushroom, Laccaria laccata [reddish-tan, dimpled, goblet shaped]
- Dot-Seed Plantain, Plantago erecta
- Douglas’ Violet, Viola douglasii [yellow violet with rusty back]
- Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto [heard]
- Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii
- Glue-Seed, Blennosperma nanum [yellow with white dots around the center]
- Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
- Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica
- Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
- Great Egret, Ardea alba
- Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
- Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
- Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
- Guernsey Cattle, Bos taurus var. Guernsey
- Holstein Friesian Cattle, Bos taurus var. Holstein
- Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
- Lark Sparrow, Chondestes grammacus
- Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
- Lupine, Sky Lupine, Lupinus nanus
- Miner’s Lettuce, Streambank Springbeauty, Claytonia parviflora [very small]
- Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
- Northern Sanicle, Sierra Sanicle, Sanicula graveolens [very strong scent]
- Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
- Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
- Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
- Osprey, Pandion haliaetus
- Peridot Sweat Bee, Augochlorella pomoniella [bright metallic green]
- Pennsylvania Bittercress, Cardamine pensylvanica
- Phacelia, Caterpillar Scorpionweed, Phacelia cicutaria
- Pipestem Clematis, Old Man’s Beards, Clematis lasiantha
- Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
- Popcorn Flower, Pacific Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys tenellus [bright yellow center]
- Popcorn Flower, Stalked Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys stipitatus
- Prettyface, Dark-stained Prettyface, Triteleia ixioides unifolia
- Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
- Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
- Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
- Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
- Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
- Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia conspersa
- Rock Tripe, Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
- Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
- Seep Monkeyflower, Erythranthe guttata
- Shining Pepperweed, Lepidium nitidum
- Sierra Mock Stonecrop, Sedella pumila
- Sierran Tree Frog, Pseudacris sierra [dark stripe across the eye]
- Smokey-Eyed Boulder Lichen, Porpidia albocaerulescens
- Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
- Sticky Mouse-Ear Chickweed, Cerastium glomeratum
- Stonecrop, Sedum sp.
- Table Mountain Meadowfoam, Limnanthes douglasii nivea
- Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
- Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
- Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
- Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
- Western Buttercup, Ranunculus occidentalis
- Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
- Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
- White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
- White-tipped Clover, Trifolium variegatum
- Yellow Cobblestone Lichen, Acarospora socialis
- Yellow-Legged Mud-dauber Wasp, Sceliphron caementarium
- Yellow Map Lichen, Rhizocarpon geographicum [bright yellow-green with dark spots]
- Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata