Fragrant Fritillaries at Jepson, 03-31-23

I got up around 6:30 AM with the alarm. I got the dog fed and pottied, and got myself dressed and ready to go out to the Jepson Prairie Preserve for a walk around the vernal pools with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne.

We hit the road around 7:30 AM and stopped first to get some coffee. Then we headed out through Davis toward Dixon. On our way there, we saw Yellow-Headed Blackbirds (!) in some of the trees along the highway. We don’t get to see those birds very often, so we pulled off the freeway onto frontage roads to try to get some photos of them. We saw a small flock of them interspersed with Red-Winged Blackbirds near the onramp that would take us back onto the highway. We pulled off the road and started taking photos.

“…In California, breeds along the lower Colorado River; at the north and south ends of the Salton Sea; locally in n. Kern, n. Ventura, w. Riverside, San Diego, and possibly Orange counties of the southeast; at Clear Lake, Lake Co.; locally throughout the Central Valley from n. Tehama Co. south to Kern Co.; in the Klamath Basin and Modoc Plateau of the northeast; and in portions of the Mono Basin and Owens Valley of e.-central California…Annual migration between breeding range in n. Great Plains and w. U.S. and wintering range in sw. U.S. and w.-central Mexico… In California, flocks of 1,000–2,000 birds pass through during Apr and May, whereas roosting flocks of 5,000 migrants have been noted in August…” Cornell Birds of the World.

Also along the highway we saw a LOT of Swainson’s Hawks. Like the We Yellow-Headed Blackbirds, the Swainson’s migrate. Their track is longer, though. The Swainson’s Hawk migrate between here and Argentina each year.

“…Nearly the entire population migrates annually between breeding areas in North America and wintering grounds in pampas of South America, a round-trip that can exceed 20,000 km. Individuals are absent from breeding grounds for 5–6 months in central California, 205–217 d in northeast California…” Cornell Birds of the World.

When we got to the preserve, we were surprised by how much water was on the landscape. There were very few places that weren’t muddy or covered with shallow pools of water. The largest, deepest pool is called Olcott Pool, a large “playa pool” that can be seen, when it’s full, on both sides of the road. In 2021 the drought was still in full swing and the lake was no larger than a bathtub. Today, with all the rain we’ve had this year, the lake was massive.

Overall, the preserve is about 2.5 square miles and comprised of relatively flat prairie land, mima mounds, and a variety of vernal pools. It’s one of the few surviving vernal pool habitats and native bunchgrass prairies in the state.

I was looking specifically for some Fragrant Fritillary flowers because I’d heard they were there and I’d never seen them before. Happily, I found several of them growing here and there in areas where the water wasn’t so deep and the ground wasn’t so muddy.

We seem to be in the “yellow phase” of wildflowers right now, and there were whole swaths of California Golden Violets, Goldfields, and Butter-and-Eggs on the landscape. We also saw some sorrel, different species of Erodium, a handful of Blue Dicks, one tiny specimen of Shooting Stars, tiny Miniature Lupine, different species of Lomatium, Common Vetch, Purple Sanicle, and others.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

While we were walking around, we were surprised by a visit from another fellow naturalist and student of mine, Charlie Russell. We really enjoy walking with him because, as a seasoned docent and botanist, he’s so knowledgeable about the plants here. He pointed out a lone Woodland Star plant, gave us a short lesson on how to tell the different species of Lomatium apart, and also told us about the water- and terrestrial forms of Winged Water-Starwort. So interesting. You can see his work on California wildflowers HERE.

Among the other birds we saw in and around the preserve included Canada and Greater White-Fronted Geese, Savannah Sparrows, Killdeer, House Finches, American Avocets, Wigeons, Northern Shovelers, and a Loggerhead Shrike, among others. We also saw a young Turkey Vulture dining on the carcass of a dead sheep.

So it was a very full day outdoors. I loved it! We walked for about 3-4 hours. This was hike #14 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

When we were finished at the preserve we went into the town of Dixon and stopped at Bud’s Pub and Grill for lunch and to work on our species list for the day. [If you go there make sure to order some of their fried zucchini sticks. Super yummy!]

Species List:

  1. American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  4. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  5. Bedstraw, Graceful Bedstraw, Galium porrigens [very smal]
  6. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  7. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  8. Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. capitatus
  9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  10. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  11. Butter-and-Eggs, Johnnytuck, Triphysaria eriantha
  12. California Golden Violet, Viola pedunculata
  13. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  14. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  15. Cattle, Belted Gallowy, “Oreo Cow”, Bos taurus var. Belted Galloway
  16. Cattle, Black Angus, Bos taurus var. Black Angus
  17. Cattle, Red Poll, Bos taurus var. Red Poll
  18. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus [scat, wet and dry forms]
  19. Common Fieldcap Mushroom, Agrocybe pediades
  20. Common Groundsel, Senecio vulgaris [like little dandelions on a stem]
  21. Common Merganser, American Common Merganser, Mergus merganser americanus
  22. Common Stickyseed, Blennosperma nanum var. nanum
  23. Copepods, Family: Cyclopidae
  24. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  25. Cut-Leaf Filaree, Erodium cicutarium
  26. Cut-Leaved Crane’s-Bill, Geranium dissectum
  27. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  28. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  29. Douglas’ Meadowfoam, Limnanthes douglasii ssp. rosea
  30. Erodium, Redstem Stork’s-Bill, Erodium cicutarium
  31. False Venus Looking Glass, Legenere limosa 
  32. Fiddleneck, Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  33. Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
  34. Fragrant Fritillary, Fritillaria liliacea
  35. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica
  36. Goldfields, Vernal Pool Goldfields, Lasthenia fremontii
  37. Grasses, Foxtail Barley, Hordeum murinum
  38. Grasses, Ripgut Brome, Bromus diandrus
  39. Grasses, Saltgrass, Distichlis spicata
  40. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  41. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  42. Horse, Equus caballus
  43. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  44. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
  45. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  46. Loggerhead Shrike, Lanius ludovicianus
  47. Lomatium, Alkali Desertparsley, Caraway-Leaved Lomatium, Lomatium caruifolium
  48. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  49. Lythrum Loosestrifes, Lythrum sp.
  50. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  51. Mouse-Ear Chickweed, Cerastium fontanum
  52. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  53. Oxalis, Bermuda Buttercup, Oxalis pes-caprae
  54. Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata
  55. Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida 
  56. Red Maids, Calandrinia menziesii
  57. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  58. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  59. San Francisco Woodland-Star, Lithophragma affine
  60. Sheep, Ovis aries [domesticated]
  61. Shining Pepperweed, Lepidium nitidum
  62. Shooting Star, Padre’s Shooting Star, Primula clevelandii patulum
  63. Shrimp, California Clam Shrimp, Cyzicus californicus
  64. Shrimp, Vernal Pool Tadpole Shrimp, Lepidurus packardi
  65. Smooth Cat’s Ear, Hypochaeris glabra
  66. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  67. Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  68. Stonecrop, Moss Pygmy Weed, Crassula connata [tiny, red]
  69. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
  70. Swallow, Barn Swallow, American Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica erythrogaster
  71. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  72. Vetch, Common Vetch, Vicia sativa
  73. Water Fleas, Daphnia sp.
  74. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  75. Wild Oat, Avena fatua
  76. Winged Water-Starwort, Callitriche marginata [has a water form and a terrestrial form]
  77. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
  78. Yellow-Headed Blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
  79. ?? animal bones: deer, goose

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