Peña Adobe and Grizzly, 04-30-21

I got up around 5:00 am to head out with my friend Roxanne to the Peña Adobe Regional Park near Vacaville. This was the first day of the #CityNatureChallenge2021.

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!

Dry lake bottom with Canada Geese, Branta canadensis

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).

Hybrid goose

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.

American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

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.

Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata

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.

Species List:

  1. Alkali Heliotrope, Heliotropium curassavicum
  2. American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana
  3. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  4. Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica
  5. Barnacles, Class: Hexanauplia
  6. Bay Laurel Tree, Laurus nobilis
  7. Bird’s-Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
  8. Black Mustard, Common Wild Mustard, Brassica nigra
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  11. Broadleaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
  12. Bur Clover, Medicago polymorpha
  13. Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
  14. California Bulrush, Schoenoplectus californicus
  15. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  16. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  17. Cheeseweed Mallow, Malva parviflora
  18. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  19. Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  20. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  21. Common Fig, Ficus carica
  22. Common Reed, Phragmites australis
  23. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  24. Coyote, Canis latrans
  25. Cranefly, California Tipula, Tipula californica
  26. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  27. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  28. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  29. Fat-Hen, Atriplex prostrata
  30. Fig Rust, Cerotelium fici
  31. Formica Ant, Lasius americanus
  32. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  33. French Broom, Genista monspessulana
  34. Gall Inducing Wooly Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  35. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  36. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  37. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  38. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  39. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  40. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  41. Iceplant, Hardy Yellow Iceplant, Delosperma nubigenum
  42. Iceplant, Pink Trailing Iceplant, Delosperma cooperi
  43. Indian Hawthorn Tree, Rhaphiolepis indica [pink flowers]
  44. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  45. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  46. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  47. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  48. Long-Billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus
  49. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  50. Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
  51. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  52. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  53. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  54. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  55. Pineapple-Weed, Matricaria discoidea
  56. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  57. Purple Salsify, Tragopogon porrifolius
  58. Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
  59. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  60. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  61. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  62. Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle, Coccinella septempunctata
  63. Soldier Beetle, Silis sp.
  64. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  65. Spurge, Eggleaf Spurge, Euphorbia oblongata
  66. Striped Kermes, Allokermes rattani
  67. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  68. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  69. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  70. Wall Barley, Hordeum murinum
  71. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  72. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
  73. Western Seapurslane, Sesuvium verrucosum [kind of stonecrop]
  74. Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  75. Yellow Sweetclover, Melilotus officinalis
  76. ?? Eucalyptus Trees, Eucalyptus sp.
  77. ?? Hybrid goose, Canada x Swan Goose
  78. ?? Moth, Tribe: Xanthorhoini