Research: Ulatis Creek

I was having a lousy day. Then I met Kevin. Kevin walked circles around my car for over an hour straight, looking at his reflection. And that cheered me up.

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Kevin, admiring his fanciful plumage.

With our move from Los Banos to Vacaville, we have officially crossed into northern California. I can’t be sure where amidst the rain-soaked journey the official transition took place. But when we arrived at our campground at Lake Solano, we found ourselves beneath a heavy canopy of oaks, buckeyes, and walnuts.

The campground also happens to be a “peacock reserve.” Charming during the day. Less so in the middle of the night.

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Peahen and peachick

Our arrival into Vacaville was a little rocky, what with a list of properties to acquire access to, and property owners who met us with anything from hesitant vagaries to outright refusal. But in the end we managed to adjust our points into a surprisingly successful transect along Ulatis Creek, in the heart of Vacaville.

Having so many trees overhead was an odd feeling after hiking through shrubs for the past few weeks. But the wild plums growing along our route quickly won us over. Not to mention a new cast of more forest-oriented birds: nuthatches, woodpeckers, creepers, titmice. All chattering through the canopy, despite the roaring city streets just underneath.

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Acorn woodpecker

Despite the diversity, a number of notable species have gone missing. Lark sparrow, canyon wren, quail, and thrasher have lost their scrubby homes to the considerable development of Vacaville over the past century. And some riparian specialists such as Bullock’s oriole and yellow warbler are strangely missing from what seems like suitable habitat.

Though it remained pleasantly cool for our morning surveys, the afternoons were more scorchers. Luckily, Vacaville has a greater diversity of entertainment, including a charming display at the local history museum. The fiberglass jackrabbits were each designed by a different artist, and formerly placed at sponsoring businesses throughout town.

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