An All-Day Trip From Highway 16 to the Colusa Refuge, 02-28-22

I got up around 6:30 this morning, and fed and pottied Esteban before we headed out together to search for wildflowers. I headed through the city of Woodland up Highway 16 through the Capay Valley toward Highway 20.

Poppies on the hillside.

It was a mild day (in the 60’s and low 70’s), clear and sunny outside. Along Highway 16, the wildflowers are just showing up, but on some of the hillsides you could see large swaths of orange (poppies), blue (lupine), yellow (mustard), and bright pink (owl’s clover). The redbud trees are all starting to bloom, too, but the pale pink tamarisk trees aren’t in blossom yet. The valley oaks are starting to get their new leaves, so you see these wonderfully gnarly branches decorated with bright chartreuse foliage. In another week or so, it should be gorgeous up there.

Near the site of Camp Haswell in Brooks, I pulled off the highway and got to see a nice variety of the flowers and some photos of manroot vines. I could see Mule’s Ears flowers up on the hillside, but couldn’t get clear photos of them. I was also hoping to spot the Northern Pygmy Owl that had been seen up there, but…no luck.

I continued on down the highway to where it intersects with Highway 20, and drove partway up Bear Valley Road to see if there were any flowers showing out there yet. Although there were some of the usual suspects like lupine, fiddleneck, and poppies, there were some nice large collections of Bird’s Eye Gilia flowers. I don’t remember ever seeing that many in one spot before.

Otherwise, the drive was uneventful. In some areas it was obvious that earlier rains had brought down the dirt-and-rock hillsides, and new road had been carved out of the rubble. In other areas it seemed apparent that all of the greenery on the hillsides had been mowed/weed wacked down to the ground as there was no tall grass and no sprigs of wildflowers in spots where we had seen flowers before. This was especially obvious along Wilbur Springs Road where everything was cut down to the same stubbly height, and all of the phacelia plants that we saw around there in previous years were all gone. Sad. It might not be worth another drive down there this year. We’ll see.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

After leaving Bear Valley Road, I decided to take Highway 20 out to I5, and since that was so close to the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, I decided to go there before going home. At the refuge, there wasn’t a whole lot to see on the auto tour route; mostly Snow Geese.

In the video [above] you’ll notice in the background a goose with a black body and a white head. That is also a Snow Goose, but they’re often referred to a “Blue” Geese. “…These birds were once though to be two separate species, but they have recently been found to be merely two different color morphs of the same bird. A single gene controls the color difference….”

I was hoping to see some raptors, snipes and bitterns, but Nature wasn’t with me on that. I did get to see one bittern, but it was at a distance and had its back to me most of the time. I got a fuzzy video snippet of it trying to catch something and then doing its waggling “Neck Swaying” dance (that caused its whole body to rock back and forth). According to Cornell, the dance “…may enable bitterns to overcome glare or permit a quicker strike by having muscles in movement when strike begins…”

I was surprised to find that, at the end of the route, there wasn’t a single Black-Crowned Night Heron roosting in the trees. Usually, there are 50 to 100 of them out there.  I was met, instead, by a small flock of Greater White-Fronted Geese clogging the road.

After finishing the route, I headed back to Sacramento and got home a little before 5:00 pm. So, that was a l-o-n-g day for me.

Species List:

  1. Acmon Blue Butterfly, Icaricia acmon
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. Bird’s-Eye Gilia, Gilia tricolor
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  6. Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus
  7. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  8. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi       
  10. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  11. Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymosa
  12. Cattle, Black Angus Cattle, Bos taurus var. Black Angus
  13. Cattle, Hereford Cattle, Bos taurus var. Hereford
  14. Cattle, Holstein Friesian Cattle, Bos taurus var. Holstein
  15. Cattle, Jersey Cattle, Bos taurus var. Jersey
  16. Creamcups, Platystemon californicus
  17. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  18. Fiddleneck, Bristly Fiddleneck, Amsinckia tessellata
  19. Fiddleneck, Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  20. Fringepod, Sand Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  21. Gadwall Duck, Mareca strepera
  22. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  23. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica
  24. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  25. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  26. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  27. Grebe, Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  28. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  29. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  30. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  31. Lomatium, Foothill Desert-Parsley, Lomatium utriculatum
  32. Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
  33. Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus [white or yellow]
  34. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  35. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  36. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  37. Manroot, Coastal Manroot, Marah oregana [elongated pods, seen in Solano County]
  38. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  39. Non-Biting Midges, Family: Chironomidae
  40. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  41. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  42. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  43. Owl’s Clover, Purple Owl’s-Clover, Castilleja exserta
  44. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  45. Paintbrush, Woolly Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja foliolosa
  46. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  47. Popcorn Flower, Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus
  48. Poppy, Field Poppy, Tufted Poppy, Eschscholzia caespitosa
  49. Red Maids, Calandrinia menziesii
  50. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  51. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  52. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  53. Stork’s Bill, Redstem Stork’s-Bill, Erodium cicutarium
  54. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  55. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  56. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  57. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  58. Wild Mustard, Sinapis arvensis

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