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