fellow naturalist Roxanne Moger and I had planned to have breakfast in Winters, then go up Mix Canyon Road again, and then drive further down Highway 128.
On the way to Winters, however, amidst other conversations, we were talking about seeing photos of Yellow-headed Blackbirds at the Yolo Bypass. Since the bypass was on our way, we drove into the preserve to look for the blackbirds. We drove the whole auto tour loops that took a couple of hours.
There was more water on the ground than we’d seen there in a long time, so we were hopeful that we’d see SOMETHING. We didn’t see any of the Yellow-headed Blackbirds but we did get to see an American Bittern in a small pool, and a Great Horned Owl sitting on her nest.
We always get excited when we see the Bitterns because we don’t get to see them very often, and they’re such interesting birds. They have stripes on their neck and chest that help them to camouflage themselves against the tules in the areas where they hunt. The one we saw was standing in a shallow pond, but it still tried out its camouflage technique by raising it head, exposing the stripes, and tilting its eyes forward so it could see us better.
When we found the owl, I saw its nest first and remarked on how large it was. I wondered what had built it. Then I saw the owl’s plumicorns poking up from the center of the nest. If it stays with that site, it should be fun to watch the nest and see if the owl has any babies over the next few weeks.
As for the Yellow-headed Blackbirds, when I got home I saw another photo posted to a Facebook group of the birds taken at the Yolo Bypass just yesterday. Arrrgh!
I think it might have been taken later in the day when the birds were looking for a place to overnight. So, Rox and I decided to pencil in a trip back to the bypass on the 26th around 4:00 PM to see if we can find the birds then. Going later, too, means we might be able to see bats, or Night Herons, or mama owl’s hubby…Should be interesting.
At the bypass today there seemed to be lots and lots of Greater Yellowlegs. We seemed to find at least one almost everywhere we looked. The Meadowlarks were out singing; they’re such “joyful” birds.
When we’d finished the loop at the bypass, we went on to Winters. By then it was lunchtime, so we had sandwiches and Bloody Marys at the Putah Creek Café.
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
Then it was on to Mix Canyon Road. The wildflowers usually bloom in waves – first one handful of species and then another – so we were hoping to see flowers on this trip that we didn’t see when we were up the road in mid-February.
What struck us the most when we went up the road this time was the fact that the County had apparently gone up in the intervening month and sprayed herbicide – most likely Round Up – on both sides of the road, killing everything from the street up to about 4 or 5 feet above that. I think that’s such a stupid and shitty thing to do at this time of year, when all of the pollinators are out.
Round Up and the other herbicides like it don’t just poison the plant life; they also kill and maim pollinators, pollute the groundwater, and have been found to be hazardous to the humans who handle them. There’s no reason why, if this kind of reckless plant killing must go on, it couldn’t be done in the summer, when nature has already thinned out the plant population by itself and most of the pollinators are less active.
Because the poison went up four or five feet up the side if the road, the still living plants were above that line, so we were looking UP a great deal to get photographs.
We did get to see some things we hadn’t seen in February including a few Ithuriel’s Spears, lots and lots of Red Larkspur, some clusters of the purple-blue Zigzag Larkspur, a few Chinese Houses, and even some Checker Lilies. The Mountain Phacelia was blooming in great swaths here and there, and the hillsides were covered in poppies.
As we were driving past a collection of flat boulders, a movement caught my eye as we drove past – a striped lizard of some kind — so I asked Rox to backup a little to see if I could catch sight of it again in or to get a picture of it. She obliged, but when we got back to the rock cluster, the lizard had moved itself to the edge of one of the boulders and was, to my eye, barely visible. Then I saw it move slightly, so I aimed my camera at the spot where the movement was and shot blindly, hoping to get SOMETHING. As luck would have it, I was able to get two halfway decent photos with enough detail to allow me to identify the lizard as an adult Western Skink [no blue tail like the juveniles have].
In some areas, the air was full of mayflies, and I was surprised there weren’t birds flying around gobbling them up. The mayflies aren’t very strong fliers, but they were just fast enough to avoid being caught by us. [I need to get a butterfly net. Hah!] Roxanne was able to get one of them but kind of bent it in the process of closing her hand around it. Based on the shape and size of its cerci and claspers, I think it was a male.
We drove up and down the road for a few hours and then headed back home. It was a long day, but a fun and fruitful one.
- American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus
- American Coot, Fulica americana
- American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
- Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
- Bay Laurel, California Bay, Umbellularia californica
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
- Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus
- Bluewitch Nightshade, Solanum umbelliferum
- Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
- Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
- Bur Clover, Medicago polymorpha
- Buttercup, Ranunculus sp.
- California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
- California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
- Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymosa
- Cattail, Narrowleaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia
- Checker Lily, Fritillaria affinis
- Cheeseweed Mallow, Malva parviflora
- Chinese Houses, Purple Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla
- Clematis, Western Virgin’s Bower, Clematis ligusticifolia
- Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
- Fern, California Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum jordanii
- Fern, California Polypody, Polypodium californicum
- Fern, Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis
- Fiddleneck, Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
- Fringepod, Sand Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes [pinholes]
- Garlic, Naples Garlic, Allium neapolitanum [like white onion flowers]
- Grasses, Ripgut Brome, Bromus diandrus
- Grasses, Wall Barley, Hordeum murinum
- Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
- Great Egret, Ardea alba
- Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
- Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
- Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
- Hillside Woodland Star, Lithophragma heterophyllum
- Hollyhock Rust, Puccinia malvacearum
- Ithuriel’s Spear, Triteleia laxa
- Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
- Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
- Larkspur, Red Larkspur, Delphinium nudicaule
- Larkspur, Zigzag Larkspur, Delphinium patens [dark purple-blue]
- Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
- Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
- Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus [white or yellow]
- Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
- Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
- Manzanita, Arctostaphylos sp.
- Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
- Mayfly, Order: Ephemeroptera
- Milkmaids, Cardamine californica
- Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
- Monkeyflower, Orange Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
- Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
- Mule Fat, Baccharis salicifolia
- Mule’s Ears, Gray Mule-Ears, Wyethia helenioides
- Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
- Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
- Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Oxalis, Bermuda Buttercup, Oxalis pes-caprae
- Pacific Pea, Lathyrus vestitus
- Paintbrush, Woolly Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja foliolosa
- Pale Dewplant, Drosanthemum floribundum
- Paper Wasp, Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
- Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major
- Phacelia, Mountain Phacelia, Phacelia imbricata [white]
- Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
- Poppy, Field Poppy, Tufted Poppy, Eschscholzia caespitosa
- Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
- Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
- Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
- Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
- Rocketsalad, Eruca vesicaria [like charlock but very tall, in thin colums]
- Sage, Hummingbird Sage, Salvia spathacea
- Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
- Seablush, Shortspur Seablush, Plectritis congesta [white or pink, single head]
- Shepherd’s-Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
- Shooting Star, Henderson’s Shooting Star, Primula hendersonii
- Skink, Western Skink, Plestiodon skiltonianus [juveniles have a blue tail]
- Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
- Stork’s Bill, Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
- Sunflower, California Sunflower, Helianthus californicus
- Tamarisk, Saltcedar, Tamarix ramosissima
- Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
- Vetch, Common Vetch, Vicia sativa [pink flowers]
- Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
- Wallflower, Western Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum
- Warrior’s Plume, Pedicularis densiflora
- Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
- Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
- White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
- White Sweetclover, Melilotus albus
- White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
- Wild Mustard, Sinapis arvensis
- Willows, Salix sp.
- ?? white substance on rock; possible lichen or a mineral exudate (like laumontite or calcite maybe)
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