California Road Trip: Yolano Wandering

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As earlier recounted, Kate and I went up the Delta on Friday, the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend, in search of ferries. After riding back and forth on the Real McCoy II (just outside Rio Vista) and the J-Mack (at a non-place called Howard’s Landing, across Steamboat Slough between Ryer and Grand islands), we started thinking about getting something to eat. We both had the same thought: a hamburger. One place to procure a decent one–OK, everyone’s got their own idea of decent–In N Out Burger in Davis.

So we set out north from Rio Vista, ignored signs that we were trespassing as we crossed onto Hastings Island, then hit state Highway 113 somewhere south of Dixon. My knowledge of the farms roads in that part of the world, earned from cycling on some of them day and night, told me we ought to head east off 113, in the general direction of Davis, which still lay to the north. I turned on Midway Road and at every crossroads looked for names that looked familiar. Pedrick Road–I knew that would take us up to Interstate 80 a few miles southwest of downtown Davis; I kept heading east on Midway. At one corner, I saw a sign for Yolano–my favorite kind of name, a hybrid of two places (Yolo and Solano counties, in this case) and probably right on their border. I headed east thinking there might be a town out there I had never seen. We got to Midway and Yolano roads–farms in every direction (looking at the map now, the hamlet is south and west of this intersection).

Eventually I started to get the feeling I’d driven too far east. Way off in the lowering sunlight to the northeast, I could see some tall buildings that had to be downtown Sacramento. I kept east but decided to turn north at the next opportunity, no matter what road I came across. It was Levee Road, and it was gravel.

I turned, and just north of the intersection with Midway, on the lefthand side of the road, the west side, just at the edge of the right of way, there was a big stand of eucalyptus, maybe a shelter belt for a nearby farm. And there were dozens of turkey vultures in the trees, getting ready to roost for the night. We stopped to take a look. The birds stirred. Then Kate pointed up to a tree that had a pair of big white egrets, right in among the vultures. I grabbed my camera and opened the door to climb out and take pictures. And doing only that much prompted a mass takeoff of the vultures–50, maybe 100 of them, along with the egrets and maybe a stray hawk or two. Some turkeys that were roosting nearby started to gobble. It was a full on big-bird party.

Here’s a snippet of the sound, and after that, a couple more pictures:

Picture above: Vultures (and maybe others) above eucalyptus grove in Yolo County, south of Davis. Below left: turkey vulture at same location. Below right: turkey vulture at same location and airliner far above (I’m having trouble identifying the plane, though: It looks like a four-engine jet, and the colors look like a United scheme; as it turns out, there was a United 747 to Frankfurt passing over the area right about this time, so maybe that’s it.)

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3 Comments

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3 Responses to California Road Trip: Yolano Wandering

  1. Christine Ferreira

    Dan, this takes me back to the many weeks we spent in the Rio Vista area with my in-laws. One of my favorites was Collins Landing, where we found a male and female turkey hanging out in front of a biker bar, and then pheasants along the road, hiding out from a hunting club.

  2. Molly

    Pretty sure that’s a red shouldered hawk in your recording: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-shouldered_Hawk/sounds

  3. Dan

    Molly: Yeah, I think I saw some red-shouldered hawks nearby. Listening on the Cornell site, turkey vultures sound very much like California condors–they can make a sort of grunt or croak, but they don’t have a call.
    Christine: Yeah, there are a mess of birds out there. It almost makes me want to rent a house up in the Delta for a few days to explore some more.

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