Lewis’s Woodpeckers at Lake Solano, 02-01-23

I got up early this morning to get myself ready to head out to Lake Solano Park with my fellow naturalist, Roxanne. We stopped for coffee first and then drove through the city of Davis into Winters and stopped at the Putah Creek Café for breakfast. When we were done there it was almost 10:00 AM, but it was still cold outside, so I figured we hadn’t missed too many of the critters that might normally be out earlier in the morning.

Along the way to and from Winters, we counted the hawks we saw along the highway, and ended up seeing about a dozen of them. [When we see a lot of hawks, we feel it’s a good birding day.] The majority of the hawks were Red-Tails, but we also saw a few Red-Shouldered Hawks.

When we got to the park we were surprised to see that the gate to the upper parking lots was closed, and only the small lower parking lot was open to the public. I think that helped to keep the number of visitors to a minimum, which I liked. Usually that lower lot is loaded with cars, but today only a few of the stalls were taken, so we had no trouble finding a place to park. Throughout the whole day, we only saw about four other people in the entire park, so the place was wonderfully quiet, and we didn’t feel rushed or crowded in any way. [The other people there seemed all to be birders who were very pleasant and shared some of their sightings with us.]

Nearest to the parking lot, we walked down to the boat launch area on the lake and got to see large flocks of Bufflehead ducks. Mixed in with them, we also saw several smaller flocks of Lesser Scaups, both males and females. I was hoping the little Buffleheads would do some of their courtship rituals, but they were more interested in getting warm and eating.

While we were at the boat launch are we also saw the first River Otter of the day. It was a solitary one, swimming along the edges of the tules. Later we saw a raft of three of them, swimming in the lake and fishing.

As always, I made sure to log the sightings into the Otter Spotter community based science database at the River Otter Ecology Project website.

There were a few more songbirds here than we saw at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge the other day. There were lots of little warblers and some Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, a few sparrows, Spotted Towhees, Robins and a chubby Hermit Thrush that seemed to show up here and there along the trail.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

In the trees were a lot of Acorn Woodpeckers moving their acorns back and forth between different holes in their granary trees. We also heard some Northern Flickers. What I was really hoping to see was a Lewis’s Woodpecker as I’d heard that they were out in the park. We were excited to find several of them– and many gave us a hard time photographing them. Hah! Finally, one of them flew up into the naked branches of a tall tree, and we were able to get some pictures of it before it flew off again.

Other cool sightings today were being able to see Belted Kingfishers across the lake, Phainopeplas in the trees (one being chased by a Mockingbird), and an Osprey. The Osprey flew in one direction overhead, and then a few seconds later, it flew back — with a huge bass in its talons. It moved too quickly for me to get any photos of it. Roxanne said that the fish in the bird’s talons looked like a torpedo.

There weren’t as many egrets and herons there as I expected to see, but we did get to see a Great Blue Heron land in a tree very near to where we were walking along the trail.

Roxanne was hoping to see some Hooded Mergansers and some Wood Ducks in the water. We did find the Hooded Mergansers (both males and females),but the Wood Ducks eluded us.

I got a video snippet of a pair of the Mergansers, and they were swimming close to one another, lifting their heads up in a synchronized manner, as though drinking, but not taking in any water. I wondered if that was the “Drinking” behavior associated with courtship. According to Cornell, “…Drinking is a ritualized behavior that can be distinguished from normal drinking motions by the strongly depressed crest and almost vertical orientation of the bill [in the males]…”

We saw quite a few Double-Crested Cormorants flying, necks outstretched, over the water, and also saw one stopping on a log to fan its drenched wings dry.

Among the plants, the Toyon were covered in red berries, and the Manroot and Pipevine vines were just starting to wake up. I’m still not really back to my full “naturalist brain” mode yet, so I’m sure I missed a lot of stuff. I tried getting some photos of lichen, too, but there wasn’t much of that to see at the park. We also didn’t see any fungi thee, which I thought was weird.

We walked for almost fours hours (and covered a slow mile and a half). I thought I did pretty well, even though I had to sit down several times along the way. I got a lot of exercise and fresh air, and got to spend the day with my friend. Super! We got back home around 3:00 PM.

This was hike #2 in my #52HikeChallenge for this new year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Alder, White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  3. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  4. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  5. Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [red canes]
  6. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  7. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  8. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  9. Black Walnut,Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  10. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  11. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  12. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  13. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  14. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  15. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  16. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  17. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  18. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  19. Candleflame Lichen, Candelaria concolor [bright yellow-orange] 
  20. Cattail, Broad-Leaved Cattail, Typha latifolia
  21. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  22. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  23. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  24. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto [heard]
  25. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  26. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  27. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  28. Grebe, Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  29. Green Heron, Butorides virescens [heard]
  30. Gull, Larus sp.
  31. Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
  32. Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus
  33. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  34. Lesser Scaup, Aythya affinis
  35. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  36. Lewis’s Woodpecker, Melanerpes lewis
  37. Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta
  38. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  39. Mistletoe, Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron macrophyllum
  40. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  41. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus [heard]
  42. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  43. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  44. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  45. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  46. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  47. Osprey, Pandion haliaetus [flyover with fish]
  48. Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis pacifica
  49. Peafowl, Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus [heard]
  50. Phainopepla, Phainopepla nitens
  51. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans [12 on the highway]
  52. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  53. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  54. Rose, California Wild Rose, Rosa californica [pink]
  55. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  56. Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  57. Sparrow, White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  58. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  59. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  60. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  61. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  62. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  63. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  64. Western Pocket Gopher, Thomomys sp. [mounds]
  65. White Sweetclover, Melilotus albus
  66. Willow, Salix sp.

Buy Me a Coffee!

Donate $5 to buy me a coffee so I have the fuel I need to keep exploring and bring more of nature to you. Thanks!