The park is about 45 minutes from Sacramento, and is comprised of 306 acres. We went there hoping to see Lagoon Valley Park, and the lake there…but were surprised once we arrived to see that there was no water in the lake at all. Totally dry, the bottom dirt cracked and covered with wild weeds. Dang it!
We found some Kermes on one of the oak trees; they’re little scale insects that build a round gall-like structures around them. In this particular species, the structures are reddish orange with dark mottling on them. The insects produce a kind of honeydew that attracts ants, and the ones we saw had ant protectors all around them.
We didn’t see much of anything else new. There were some Cliff Swallows under a bridge.
On the dry lake bottom, we saw a bird that looked like a cross between a Canada Goose and a domestic Swan-Goose. It had a pure white head and neck and a Canada Goose body (although somewhat lighter in color).
We walked around for maybe an hour, and then decided to head over to the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area.
Earlier in the year when things were still wet and the large flocks of migrating birds were going through, there would have been more to see all along the road, but a lot of the water is gone right now.
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
There were some areas where there was enough water to fish in, like the David D. Bohannan Memorial Pond, and fishermen were gathered in small groups along the shore and road.
We’d never been there before either, and were pretty much open to see whatever we could see there. Grizzly Island Wildlife Area is approximately 12,900 acres of this prime habitat and the complex is a patchwork of 10 distinct land parcels, many of which are not connected and are surrounded by private land.
In the fall, there are supposed to be elk on the property going through their rut (October-ish), so a trip back then might be in order.
As we were driving through a hilly dry patch, we saw lots of California Ground Squirrels, including some babies, and one group that was standing up in the high grass like meerkats looking around.
I wondered aloud what they were looking at/or for, and was answered within a few second when a coyote came running down the side of the hill in their general direction. A female. When she saw us, the coyote stopped and turned around to go back up the hill again. We then saw a second coyote on the opposite side of the hill and assumed it was either her mate or her young adult offspring.
As we continued down the windy road, we saw signs warning campers not to star fires because the peat on the bottom of the dried pool can burn and smolder for days. In earlier years, grass fires in the region ignited the peat which caused the fires to explode into wildfires and burn thousands of acres. Yikes!
When we got to the sign-in building, which is actually about 9 miles down the road from where we entered the area, I stayed in the car while Rox signed us in, and got some photos of Black Phoebes, House Sparrows and lots of Barn Swallows. One of the swallows had a nest inside the doorway to the sign-in shed!
One of the phoebes had claimed a pump handle as its watchtower, but a House Sparrow wanted it, too,so they had some brief scuffles over it. The sparrow won.
In the watery areas we saw handfuls of Avocets, Killdeer, sandpipers, herons, egrets and other birds. And also came across a few small flocks of American White Pelicans. They’re such large birds, it’s always astonishing when we see them.
As we were driving along one of the sloughs, I saw an otter sitting on top of the levy. We screeched to a halt and then backed up, but by then the otter had disappeared down into the slough. I thought we’d lost him, but then Roxanne saw him swimming in the water.
We were able to get quite a few photos of him as he swam back and forth for a while. At one point, the otter swam over to the weir at the end of the slough and “hid” behind the legs of the platform there, then came back out again. Such a cute — and healthy looking — thing. [Grizzly Island has one of California’s largest populations of river otters.]
Rather than doing the full circle route — because we were seeing less and less as we went along — we turned around and headed back the way we’d come. We stopped at a slough near the fishing area and walked along the berm for a short distance. On a rock in the water we found a fat Pacific Pond turtle sunning itself. A really nice specimen.
It was pretty breezy by the late afternoon, which made it a little difficult for the smaller birds to sing from their favorite perching spots.
By the time we got back to where we’d entered the area, it was after 2:00 pm, so we decided to head back home. It was a long day, and we saw a few cool things, but I bet this place will be a goldmine of species in the fall and winter. Definitely worth a trip back.
I counted this as hike #40 of my #52HikeChallenge.
- Alkali Heliotrope, Heliotropium curassavicum
- American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana
- American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
- Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica
- Barnacles, Class: Hexanauplia
- Bay Laurel Tree, Laurus nobilis
- Bird’s-Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
- Black Mustard, Common Wild Mustard, Brassica nigra
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
- Broadleaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
- Bur Clover, Medicago polymorpha
- Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
- California Bulrush, Schoenoplectus californicus
- California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
- Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
- Cheeseweed Mallow, Malva parviflora
- Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
- Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
- Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
- Common Fig, Ficus carica
- Common Reed, Phragmites australis
- Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
- Coyote, Canis latrans
- Cranefly, California Tipula, Tipula californica
- Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
- Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
- Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
- Fat-Hen, Atriplex prostrata
- Fig Rust, Cerotelium fici
- Formica Ant, Lasius americanus
- Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
- French Broom, Genista monspessulana
- Gall Inducing Wooly Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
- Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
- Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
- Great Egret, Ardea alba
- Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
- House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
- House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
- Iceplant, Hardy Yellow Iceplant, Delosperma nubigenum
- Iceplant, Pink Trailing Iceplant, Delosperma cooperi
- Indian Hawthorn Tree, Rhaphiolepis indica [pink flowers]
- Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
- Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
- Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
- Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
- Long-Billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus
- Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
- Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
- Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
- Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
- Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
- Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
- Pineapple-Weed, Matricaria discoidea
- Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
- Purple Salsify, Tragopogon porrifolius
- Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
- Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
- River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
- Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
- Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle, Coccinella septempunctata
- Soldier Beetle, Silis sp.
- Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
- Spurge, Eggleaf Spurge, Euphorbia oblongata
- Striped Kermes, Allokermes rattani
- Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
- Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
- Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Wall Barley, Hordeum murinum
- Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
- Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
- Western Seapurslane, Sesuvium verrucosum [kind of stonecrop]
- Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
- Yellow Sweetclover, Melilotus officinalis
- ?? Eucalyptus Trees, Eucalyptus sp.
- ?? Hybrid goose, Canada x Swan Goose
- ?? Moth, Tribe: Xanthorhoini