Wildlife at Putah Creek

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Western pond turtles The western pond turtle and its dull, patternless shell might be dull in color, but these native turtles are entertaining swimmers to watch. While they might be slow on land, they are speedy and graceful once they get in the water. Look out for them resting on partially submerged logs in the shallows. California roach can be found in warm tributary streams like Pleasants Creek, which is accessible by canoe or kayak in Lake Solano. Threespine stickleback like cool water and the shade of aquatic plants. Riffle sculpin and prickly sculpin These two species are well-camouflaged bottom dwellers, so you will have to be sharp-eyed and patient to catch a glimpse of them. They riffle sculpin like cool, fast flowing water, but the prickly sculpin can also be found in warmer, slower waters.    Sacramento tule perch like the shade of aquatic vegetation and overhanging branches. They deliver live young.    Fathead minnow Pikeminnow Red shiner Rainbow trout in Lake Berryessa Pacific lamprey Chinook Salmon Once almost nonexistant in Putah Creek, the chiook salmon has returned to Putah Creek thanks to conservation efforts. These fish need year-round water flow to make it up the creek to good spawning areas.  In the fall the Railroad Bridge is one of the best places to catch a glimpse of a few spawning salmon. Stand at the midway point of the bridge and look down into the shallow water of Putah Creek. If you’re lucky you will catch a glimpse of a pair of salmon swimming in place. This is usually a mated pair protecting their clutch of eggs. Occasionally one might take a short break from the constant swimming and go along with the water flow for a few moments, but after a short break these protective parents will swim right back to their clutch. It is best to observe these fish from a distance and leave the family alone.    Pipevine swallowtail These butterflies lay their eggs on vine called Dutchman’s pipe, which grows along the banks of Putah Creek. The larvae eat the vine after they hatch. Adult pipevine swallowtails can be identified by their dark blue-green wings which have orange spots on their undersides.   Valley elderberry longhorn beetle These small, brightly colored beetles might be hard to spot, considering that they are on the threatened species list. The males are less than an inch long, and have green spots on their red body. The species spends its entire lifecycle in close proximity to the elderberry tree, which grows along Putah Creek.    Mexican free-tailed bat Look for these small mammals at dusk from summer to fall. In the evening light they look like small birds in flight, but take note to see if that “bird” is darting through the air at incredible speed. That’s the Mexican free-tailed bat, which is considered to have the fastest horizontal speed of any animal. Their fleshy tail serves as a rudder as they navigate the skies catching small insects. Watch for them after sunset as they fly out of the vacant second stories of historic Winters buildings, and watch them hunting over Putah Creek   River otters These members of the weasel swim along the bed of the creek catching frogs and crayfish. Otters will also leave to water to hunt for smaller mammals. These top notch predators can also be caught playing on the banks of the creek, often by zipping down slides of their own creation into the cool water below. Beavers The beavers of Putah Creek build their homes in the creek’s soft banks. They can be a plant restorationist’s nightmare, as they prefer gnawing on native plants and leave the nonnative ones to thrive. If you see a restoration area with young trees and shrubs wrapped in protective fencing, beavers are one of the reasons why. Beavers are nocturnal animals, but if you catch one out you will be able to identify it by the way it swims with only its head poking above the water. Crayfish Crayfish, also known as crawdads, are freshwater crustaceans that look like small brown lobsters. They are the sanitation workers of Putah Creek, feasting on decomposing plants and other dead organic matter. The birds of Putah Creek Putah Creek is a great stop for birds, which makes it a great place for birdwatchers to visit. To date there have been over 200 species of birds reported along Putah Creek. Western yellow-billed cuckoo These endangered birds are a rare sighting anywhere, but have been spotted along Putah Creek. Look out for their long tails, brown feathers and white bellies. Yellow breasted chat These loud songbirds try to stay hidden, but if you watch carefully you might catch a glimpse of their lemon-yellow breast feathers.  Wood duck  The brightly colored wood duck can be a rare sighting in the Central Valley, but thanks to a nest box project by the UC Davis Department of Wildlife it is possible to see some living along Putah Creek. Barn swallows Red-shouldered hawk Red-tailed hawk When watching these raptors in flight, their eponymous tail often gives them away. Look for their gliding flight pattern, comes from their large wingspan.  Northern harrier Swainson’s hawk Swainson’s hawks migrate through Yolo County on their way to their destinations in Canada and Argentina. These threatened species have the longest migrations of any North American raptor.  Coopers and sharp-shinned hawk These raptors fall under the subcategory of accipiters. They have shorter wingspans which allows them to dart through the air quickly as they hunt down smaller birds of prey. White-tailed kite  American Kestrel Merlins Peregrine falcons Prairie falcons Barn owls Great horned owls Western screech owls Pygmy owls  Osprey Golden eagles Bald eagles  Turkey vultures Reptiles Gopher snakes Rattle snakes California king snake Western yellow-bellied racer Valley garter snake Coyotes: Coyotes have earned their title of “omnivourous opportunist,” along with a lot of ire. They hunt small animals, eat carrion and will also pick up fallen fruit and nuts. Foxes Raccoon: The most likely way to “see” this nocturnal animal is by looking out for their fleshy footprints in the soft mud. They forage along the banks of the creek and sometimes venture out into human spaces. These carnivores are really more of opportunists, who are happy to hunt for cray fish and forage for berries. Wild turkey European starlings cowbirds  ]]>

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