Mix Canyon Road, 04-06-21

I got up around 6:00 am, and was ready to head out with my friend Roxanne Moger by 6:30 am.  We wanted to go to Lake Solano and up Mix Canyon Road in search of birds and wildflowers.

Well, Lake Solano Park was still closed and we couldn’t get in, not even to just walk along the edge of the lake. The rangers and county were still cleaning up after last year’s wildfires. They were felling a lot of burned trees that were in danger of falling into the roadways or into the waterways.

Effects of the LNU Lightning Complex Fire that burned between August and October of 2020

The fire that burned up through that area was part of the LNU Lightning Complex Fire that burned between August and October of last year and ate up over 360,000 acres. I hadn’t realized how much of that area had burned, and was REALLY surprised when we got up further into the hills to see foothill after foothill just covered in nothing but black match-stick trees. 

In one burned area we came across Acorn Woodpeckers that were going through the acorns on the blackened ground, selecting ones they’d then take up into their granary trees. Some of the woodpeckers were using a telephone pole to store the acorns because, I assumed, their trees were burnt.

Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus, with a burnt acorn

In some areas, blackened trees and shrubs were coming back from the roots. And in other places, the wildflowers were prolific.

Because we couldn’t get into the park, we drove around to the “back” of the lake which is visible from Putah Creek Road. Here, though, there were very few birds. Reflections on the water were lovely, and we got to see a few different early spring galls on some of the plants.

The “back side” of Lake Solano

We then headed back toward Pleasants Valley Road and took that to Mix Canyon Road. Mix Canyon is a dead end road and fairly narrow. (I’m surprised two cars can actually sit on it, side by side.) It winds high up into the hills; the elevation gain is about 2178 feet. The road is the only way in and out; I’m sure when the fires came, getting out to safety was severely hampered. I only saw evidence of one home burned to the ground, but there may have been others… and lots of obvious landscape damage.

Along the way we noted that there were For Sale signs all along the road. Oddly enough, though, we also saw several new pads cut into the hillsides; contractors taking advantage of the fact that there was now a lack of shrubs and understory plants to contend with.

We started out seeing small numbers of wildflowers, and the variety and numbers grew more and more as we went up toward the end of the road. There were huge swaths of poppies, lupine and (surprisingly) Chinese Houses. I’ve never seen that many Chinese Houses in one location in all my life. They were particularly gorgeous.

There were so many photos, I broke them down into two albums.

CLICK HERE for album #1
CLICK HERE for album #2

In the more shadowed areas and cliffsides, we saw lots of larkspur (purple and scarlet), woodland stars, ferns, globe lilies and other flowers.

We were looking for fritillaries and found one of the two that had been spotted there by others earlier: Checker Lilies. I’d never seen them “live” before; they’re so interesting.

Checker Lily, Fritillaria affinis

We stopped at one of the turn outs and had our lunch before heading back down the road. We turned in to one of the fishing access areas along Putah Creek, but by then it was the afternoon, getting too warm for me, and I was very tired, so we didn’t stay long. Still, in all, we were out and about for almost nine or ten hours. That’s a long day for me, but I enjoyed it.

Putah Creek

Because we were in the car for the majority of the time, I didn’t count this outing toward my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  3. Aphid, Cabbage Aphid, Brevicoryne brassicae
  4. Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
  5. Blow Wives, Soft Blow Wives, Achyrachaena mollis
  6. Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus
  7. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  8. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  9. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  10. California Lomatium, Lomatium californicum
  11. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  12. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  13. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  14. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  15. Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymosa
  16. Checker Lily, Fritillaria affinis
  17. Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus
  18. Chinese Houses, Purple Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla
  19. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  20. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  21. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus albus
  22. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  23. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  24. Coyote Brush Stem Gall Moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
  25. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  26. Death Camas, Foothill Deathcamas, Toxicoscordion paniculatum
  27. Digger Bee, Tribe: Anthophorin
  28. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  29. Dove’s-Foot Crane’s-Bill, Geranium mole
  30. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  31. Fern, California Polypody, Polypodium californicum
  32. Field Poppy, Common Poppy, Papaver rhoeas
  33. Fringepod, Sand Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  34. Gall Inducing Wooly Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  35. Globe Lily, Diogenes’ Lantern, Calochortus amabilis [yellow]
  36. Goat, Domestic Goat, Capra hircus
  37. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica
  38. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  39. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa 
  40. Henderson’s Shooting Star, Primula hendersonii
  41. Hillside Woodland Star, Lithophragma heterophyllum
  42. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  43. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  44. Ithuriel’s Spear, Triteleia laxa
  45. Larkspur, Red Larkspur, Delphinium nudicaule
  46. Larkspur, Zigzag Larkspur, Delphinium patens [purple, striped lips]
  47. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  48. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  49. Live Oak Kermes, Allokermes cueroensis
  50. Llama, Lama glama
  51. Long Horned Beetle, Callimus ruficollis [black with red thorax]
  52. Mahogany, Birchleaf Mountain Mahogany, Cercocarpus betuloides
  53. Maidenhair, California Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum jordanii
  54. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  55. Marsh Morning Glory, Calystegia sepium limnophila
  56. Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius [spit]
  57. Mountain Phacelia, Phacelia imbricata
  58. Mule’s Ears, Smooth Mule-Ears, Wyethia glabra
  59. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  60. Northern Rough-Winged Swallow, Stelgidopteryx serripennis [ashy]
  61. Orange Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  62. Oxalis, Bermuda Buttercup, Oxalis pes-caprae
  63. Pacific Pea, Lathyrus vestitus
  64. Pacific Sanicle, Sanicula crassicaulis [large, yellow flowers]
  65. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  66. Q-Tips, Micropus californicus
  67. Rapeseed, Brassica napus
  68. Red Maids, Calandrinia menziesii
  69. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  70. Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
  71. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
  72. Scarlet Pimpernel, Lysimachia arvensis
  73. Seablush, Longspur Seablush, Plectritis macrocera
  74. Seablush, Shortspur Seablush, Plectritis congesta
  75. Shepherd’s-Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
  76. Smooth Cliffbrake, Pellaea glabella
  77. Tamarisk, Saltcedar, Tamarix ramosissima
  78. Taw Man-Root, Marah watsonii
  79. Tomcat Clover, Trifolium willdenovii
  80. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  81. Warrior’s Plume, Pedicularis densiflora
  82. Western Polished Lady Beetle, Cycloneda polita [orange, no spots]
  83. White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
  84. Wild Oat Grass, Chrysopogon aciculatus
  85. Woolly Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja foliolosa