First Trip to Table Mountain, 03-27-21

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.

Sky Lupine, Pan Poppies, and Goldfields

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.

Domestic Cattle, Bos Taurus

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.

Sky Lupine, Popcorn Flowers and Goldfields

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.

Sierran Tree Frog, Pseudacris sierra

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.

Phacelia, Caterpillar Scorpionweed, Phacelia cicutaria

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.

Lark Sparrow, Chondestes grammacus

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.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Bitterroot, Lewisia rediviva [large, bright pink flowers]
  5. Black Angus Cattle, Bos taurus var. Black Angus
  6. Black Grain-Spored Lichen, Sarcogyne hypophaea [black, grainy, on rocks]
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  9. Black-Tailed Bumble Bee, Bombus melanopygus
  10. Blue Dicks, Table Mountain Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus capitatus
  11. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  12. Brown Cobblestone Lichen, Acarospora fuscata
  13. Butter-and-Eggs, Triphysaria eriantha eriantha [red stems]
  14. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
  15. California Buttercup, Ranunculus californicus
  16. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  17. Cascade Onion, Allium cratericola
  18. Chickweed, Common Chickweed, Stellaria media
  19. Cinder Lichen, Aspicilia cinerea
  20. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  21. Common Goldspeck Lichen, Candelariella vitellina [bright yellow with rimmed apothecia on rocks]
  22. Common Vetch, Vicia sativa [pink flowers]
  23. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  24. Cowbag Clover, Trifolium depauperatum
  25. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  26. Deceiver Mushroom, Laccaria laccata [reddish-tan, dimpled, goblet shaped]
  27. Dot-Seed Plantain, Plantago erecta
  28. Douglas’ Violet, Viola douglasii [yellow violet with rusty back]
  29. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto [heard]
  30. Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii
  31. Glue-Seed, Blennosperma nanum [yellow with white dots around the center]
  32. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  33. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica
  34. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  35. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  36. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  37. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  38. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  39. Guernsey Cattle, Bos taurus var. Guernsey
  40. Holstein Friesian Cattle, Bos taurus var. Holstein
  41. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  42. Lark Sparrow, Chondestes grammacus
  43. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  44. Lupine, Sky Lupine, Lupinus nanus
  45. Miner’s Lettuce, Streambank Springbeauty, Claytonia parviflora [very small]
  46. Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
  47. Northern Sanicle, Sierra Sanicle, Sanicula graveolens [very strong scent]
  48. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  49. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  50. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  51. Osprey, Pandion haliaetus
  52. Peridot Sweat Bee, Augochlorella pomoniella [bright metallic green]
  53. Pennsylvania Bittercress, Cardamine pensylvanica
  54. Phacelia, Caterpillar Scorpionweed, Phacelia cicutaria
  55. Pipestem Clematis, Old Man’s Beards, Clematis lasiantha
  56. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  57. Popcorn Flower, Pacific Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys tenellus [bright yellow center]
  58. Popcorn Flower, Stalked Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys stipitatus
  59. Prettyface, Dark-stained Prettyface, Triteleia ixioides unifolia
  60. Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
  61. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  62. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  63. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  64. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  65. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia conspersa
  66. Rock Tripe, Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
  67. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  68. Seep Monkeyflower, Erythranthe guttata
  69. Shining Pepperweed, Lepidium nitidum
  70. Sierra Mock Stonecrop, Sedella pumila
  71. Sierran Tree Frog, Pseudacris sierra [dark stripe across the eye]
  72. Smokey-Eyed Boulder Lichen, Porpidia albocaerulescens
  73. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  74. Sticky Mouse-Ear Chickweed, Cerastium glomeratum
  75. Stonecrop, Sedum sp.
  76. Table Mountain Meadowfoam, Limnanthes douglasii nivea
  77. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  78. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  79. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  80. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  81. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  82. Western Buttercup, Ranunculus occidentalis
  83. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  84. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  85. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  86. White-tipped Clover, Trifolium variegatum
  87. Yellow Cobblestone Lichen, Acarospora socialis
  88. Yellow-Legged Mud-dauber Wasp, Sceliphron caementarium
  89. Yellow Map Lichen, Rhizocarpon geographicum [bright yellow-green with dark spots]
  90. Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata