A Wildflower Hunt on Mix Canyon Road, 02-16-22

I got up around 6:00 am and met with my friend Roxanne at 6:30 AM. We were heading over to Mix Canyon Road and Lake Solano Park, but before we went there, we got some coffee and then drove around some of the ag fields in Davis. Trees in some of the almond orchards were in full bloom. They’re pretty, but they’re also water guzzlers and constitute “single-species” areas that don’t allow pollinators and other critters to get the nutrition and habitat they require.

Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis

If the fields and along the telephone pole lines, we saw a few birds including Savannah Sparrows, a few Great Egrets, some House Finches, a Kestrel and a Meadowlark. The coolest sighting, though, was seeing a pair of coyotes hunting through the grass in one of the fields.

We then drove into the town of Winters and stopped at the Putah Creek Café for breakfast. They had just opened, so we were able to get seated an waited on right away. We both had omelets with a side of homestyle potatoes (potatoes pan-fried with red and green peppers). My omelet had bacon, cheese and slices of avocado. Everything tasted yummy, and they gave us such big portions, I had to take of it home with me.

Friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne Moger sharing breakfast at the Putah Creek Cafe in Winters

Then it was up Pleasant Valley Road to Mix Canyon Road. All of that area had been severely burned by wildfires a couple of years ago. Many of the trees are still blackened, but life is showing again now. On one of the hillside, we saw a group of crows cawing and bowing to one another. I think it was kind of a “hello” ritual.  After all the noise, the birds seemed content to walk with one another and hunt for bugs in the grass.

I was hoping to see some Shooting Star flowers — (I always seem to miss their emergence.) — and some ferns and liverworts.  Although we didn’t see any liverworts and only found a few species of ferns, we were excited to have found a nice variety of wildflowers, including lots and lots of Shooting Stars. (Yay!)

Finding spots to get out and look around on the road are few and far between. The road is somewhat narrow and there are few turnouts. When we did find a good turnout, we walked up and down the road on foot to see as much as we could before getting back into the car.

Because the wildfires had burned off a lot of the groundcover, it’s been replaced by the quick-growing plants like vetch. There were some areas where the vetch was so thick it laid on the ground in heaps. We also saw areas where the bindweed was winding up through burned trees like kudzu, covering everything.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

After the drive up and back down the road, we stopped briefly at Lake Solano Park. I’d seen posts on Facebook from people who had seen Hooded Mergansers there, and I want to see if I could get some photos of the birds. I hadn’t seen any of the Hooded ones last year, so I was pleased when I was able to see some today.  They were on the far side of the lake, so they were right on the edge of my camera’s focal range. Still, I was able to get few (if somewhat fuzzy) photos of them. 

Here’s a video of a male swimming down the river, showing off to the female Buffleheads with his “popped top”.

When I got home and was processing the photos I’d taken, I realized that in a few photos a Sora had stepped out from between the tules so I was able to see one of those, too.

After a short walk at the park, we headed back home. It was fun, long day. This was a good test as to whether I could get in and out of the car a lot in one trip, and I was able to manage pretty well. Yay!

Species List:

  1. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  2. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  3. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  4. Bay Laurel, Laurus nobilis
  5. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  6. Bindweed, Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
  7. Bird’s-eye Speedwell, Veronica persica
  8. Bittercress, Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  11. Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus
  12. Bluewitch Nightshade, Solanum umbelliferum
  13. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  14. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus [nest]
  15. Buttercup, Western Buttercup, Ranunculus occidentalis
  16. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  17. California Saxifrage, Micranthes californica
  18. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  19. Chickweed, Common Chickweed, Stellaria media
  20. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus [tracks]
  21. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  22. Coyote, Canis latrans
  23. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  24. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata
  25. Dudleya, Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymosa
  26. Fern, California Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum jordanii
  27. Fern, Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis
  28. Fiddleneck, Bristly Fiddleneck, Amsinckia tessellata
  29. Fiddleneck, Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  30. Fringepod, Sand Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  31. Giraffe’s Head, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  32. Globe Lily, Diogenes’ Lantern, Calochortus amabilis [leaves]
  33. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  34. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  35. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  36. Grebe, Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  37. Groundsel, Common Groundsel, Senecio vulgaris
  38. Henderson’s Shooting Star, Primula hendersonii
  39. Hillside Woodland Star, Lithophragma heterophyllum
  40. Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus
  41. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  42. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
  43. Larkspur, Red Larkspur, Delphinium nudicaule
  44. Live Oak Kermes, Allokermes cueroensis
  45. Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
  46. Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus [white or yellow]
  47. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  48. Manroot, Coastal Manroot, Marah oregana [elongated pods, seen in Solano County]
  49. Manzanita, Arctostaphylos sp.
  50. Milkmaids, Cardamine californica
  51. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  52. Monkeyflower, Orange Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  53. Mule’s Ears, Narrowleaf Mule-Ears, Wyethia angustifolia
  54. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  55. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  56. Oxalis, Bermuda Buttercup, Oxalis pes-caprae
  57. Pacific Pea, Lathyrus vestitus
  58. Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  59. Paintbrush, Woolly Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja foliolosa
  60. Peafowl, Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus
  61. Phacelia, Mountain Phacelia, Phacelia imbricata [white]
  62. Poppy, Field Poppy, Tufted Poppy, Eschscholzia caespitosa
  63. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  64. Sage, Hummingbird Sage, Salvia spathacea
  65. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  66. Sheep, Ovis aries
  67. Sora, Porzana carolina
  68. Sunflower, California Sunflower, Helianthus californicus
  69. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  70. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  71. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  72. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  73. Velvety Tree Ant, Liometopum occidentale
  74. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  75. Warrior’s Plume, Pedicularis densiflora
  76. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  77. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  78. White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
  79. Wild Mustard, Sinapis arvensis
  80. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
  81. ?? Tiny brown insect with ants on live oak

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