Creekside Neighbors

The Putah Creek watershed is home to myriad rare plants and animals and a strong community of people who care about its preservation. Learn about the lives of plants and animals that live among the Putah Cache Watershed.

April 2022
The California ground squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi, is a commonly found and easily observed rodent. While they can be mistaken for a tree squirrel after a quick glance, California ground squirrels have a short tail that is less bushy than a tree squirrel's tail.
March 2022
Putah Creek is a productive and popular fishery for local and nationwide fisherman, but one of the most proficient and impressive anglers of Putah Creek is the osprey.
February 2022
One of the most beloved critters of Putah Creek is the North American river otter. This charismatic, semiaquatic mammal has been spotted all along Putah Creek, from the Putah Creek State Wildlife Area below Lake Berryessa to the Yolo Bypass.
Female rainbow trout in hand
January 2022
California’s trout is a cornerstone of California freshwater angling and we are lucky enough to have a highly productive wild trout fishery right in our backyard in the Interdam Reach!
Oak tree
December 2021
As the giving season approaches, what better trees to feature in our spotlight than oaks, which give an abundance of shelter, forage, and life to our region.
Sandbar Willow
October 2021
Willow species along Putah Creek can be notoriously difficult to identify due to their similar characteristics and what appears to be very minute differences to the untrained eye. Sandbar willow (salix exigua) might be an exception.
Black-Tailed Deer
September 2021
The black tailed deer might not be super common throughout Lower Putah Creek, but spend some time at Lake Solano or in the inter-dam reach and you are sure to see plenty of deer jumping, running, or staring right at you.
Great Blue Heron
August 2021
Often poised on the stream bank standing as still as a statue, Great blue herons are majestic and somewhat intimidating. Whether it be at Lake Solano Park or the South Fork Preserve in Davis, you are sure to spot a Great blue heron somewhere along the creek.
California Blackberry
July 2021
A favorite summer activity for many is swimming along Putah Creek, breaking every once in a while to munch on the blackberries that line the creek. It's hard to resist the sweet flavors of a blackberry, but what kind of blackberries are along the creek?
California Kingsnake
June 2021
Although many snakes are highly venomous and a genuine cause for concern, some species are much more benign and even help with pest control! One of these friendly species is the California King snake.
California Pipevine Swallowtail
May 2021
California is home to a variety of butterflies (about 170 in fact!) but few are as interesting as the Pipevine Swallowtail.
California Wood Duck
April 2021
It’s a beautiful day out at the creek. You’re relaxing under the shade of a cottonwood and you hear a rustle above you, what could it be? You look up to see that it’s no other than the breathtaking Wood Duck! This flamboyant, tree dwelling waterfowl can be found throughout most parts of Northern America, but don’t let its prevalence make you think it’s not special!
Turkey Vulture
March 2021
The sky above Putah Creek is home to an array of beautiful bird species, but there are definitely some that are prettier than others. In the land of beautiful bald eagles and ravishing red tailed hawks, the Turkey Vulture may seem a little — uh — ugly.
Great Valley Gumweed
February 2021
If you’re familiar with California flora then you’re likely to know of the Great Valley gumweed (AKA gumplant): the small plant with daisy-like flowers that seems to grow everywhere in the central valley.
Oak galls
November 2020
As the temperatures drop and the days become shorter the creek will start to show some of its impressive autumn colors. The vibrant, green shades of summer have already begun their transition to the yellows and reds of fall. These colors come from many sources, but the ones we’d like to highlight are the leaves and the galls.
Great horned owl
October 2020
As fall approaches a certain noise will become more frequent around our creek: the deep hoot of the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus).
Creekside ecology
September 2020
Fire is a part of life for the plants and animals of California. Most species have developed special adaptations to live through the periodic cycles of burns and in fact some require it.
Gopher snake
August 2020
Putah Creek is home to one of the region’s largest snakes. The Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer catenifer) can attain lengths up to 8 feet long. Feeding primarily on rodents and other small animals this snake should be considered a good friend.
March 2020
One of our earliest seasonally flowering species is a vine called the "Manroot" (Marah fabaceus). This perennial flowering plant vine is a native cucumber in the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae).
February 2020
Did you ever wonder why blackberries grow right along the trail? Endochory is the term used to describe when seeds are ingested (but not digested) by an animal and then pass the seeds through the intestines.
Praying mantis
January 2020
The Praying Mantis is common along Putah Creek. They get their name from their folded front legs that look like they are praying, but that is deceptive because those praying legs are the deadliest part of this voracious predator.
Pacific poison oak
December 2019
One of the most despised and misunderstood plants of the California landscape might just be Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum).
Oak galls
November 2019
In the late summer and fall you’re likely to see spherical and other oddly shaped growths clustered on the branches of oak trees. They aren’t fruits, or even seeds; these are galls.
October 2019
Ballistochory describes a form of dispersal where seeds are forcefully ejected. Many of our native plant species use this form of explosive mode of dispersal by sending the seeds several feet away from the plant sometimes with an audible pop.
Maple seed
September 2019
Anemochory is defined as wind-aided seed dispersal. It seems that tapping the wind as a source of energy is not new new idea. In fact, with a few modifications, many plants have found the wind provides a valuable service for both pollination and seed dispersal.
August 2019
Achillea millefolium, commonly known as yarrow or milfoil is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in Asia, Europe, and North America. It can be common in a variety of soil types, both wet and dry, along roadsides, meadows, forests, fields and coastal areas.
Datura wrightii
July 2019
Jimson Weed or Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii) is a fairly common herbaceous perennial plant in the nightshade family (Solanaceae). Datura can be found from Mexico, throughout most of the Southwestern United States and up into the upper reaches of Northern California where it grows alongside roads, ditches, and sandy washes from 1,000 to 6,000 feet in elevation.
Narrowleaf milkweed
June 2019
Narrow Leaf Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) is a flowering perennial herb that is found throughout the Western United States. It grows up to 1 meter tall, and has deep green leaves that can be whorled around the vertical stems.
May 2019
The bush monkey-flower or sticky monkey-flower (Mimulus aurantiacus), recently changed to (Diplacus aurantiacus), is a flowering perennial shrub that is native mostly to California but edges north just into southwestern Oregon and south slightly into Baja, Mexico.
April 2019
With over 500 species worldwide, California's native version of the Pipevine (Aristolochia californica) could be of interest to you. It can be found in diverse habitats on almost every continent where it can be an evergreen or a deciduous vine or even an herbaceous perennial.
Gooddings willow
March 2019
Goodding's Black Willow (Salix gooddingii) is a common native tree that grows along wetlands throughout California at elevations from sea level to 2,000 feet.
White alder
February 2019
The White Alder (Alnus rhombifolia) can be found dropping its tiny winged seeds along the banks of Putah Creek during the winter months when it and most other trees are dormant.
January 2019
Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) is an awesome easy-to-grow native shrub, which at 6-10 feet tall and wide can fill a large garden space with year round beauty.
American dogwood
December 2018
American Dogwood (Cornus sericea) is fairly common along streams in this area and can be found growing along Putah Creek in both the upper and lower watershed.
Bigleaf maple
November 2018
A hike along the Putah Creek Cold Canyon trail at this time of year may give you a glimpse of beautiful fall colored leaves from our Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) where both the common and the scientific name hint at the size of its massive leaves.
Wild licorice
October 2018
Many of us have memories or still enjoy eating licorice, but may not know it comes from a plant or the history behind it. Our native licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota) can be found throughout most of temperate North America from Canada down into Mexico.
September 2018
With a name like “Mugwort”, one may not really expect much from our native Artemisia douglasiana. Although it has bright yellow flowers, the tiny flower heads are not really showy being somewhat sparsely distributed along thin upright spikes and often obscured by the bluish green/grey sepals, leaves, and stems.
Western goldenrod
August 2018
Western goldenrod (Euthamia occidentalis) is a multiple-stemmed forb (herbaceous flowering plant other than a grass or sedge) that grows in abundance along the moist edges of Putah Creek.
Pacific aster
July 2018
Pacific aster (Symphyotrichum chilense) is a native plant of the Putah Creek watershed whose range extends along the west coast of North America from British Columbia to southern California.
Baltic rush
June 2018
Baltic rush (Juncus balticus), also known as wire rush, is noticeable for its conspicuously straight and vertical, dark green stems arising from the ground.
Red willow
April 2018
One especially shapely willow tree common to Putah Creek is red willow (Salix laevigata). Red willow is a ​m​edium sized deciduous tree, growing ​up to 40 feet tall from winding trunks.
California buckeye
March 2018
“Early to bed, early to rise..” This part of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote always comes to mind when California buckeye (Aesculus californica) is visible in the landscape.
Santa Barbara sedge
February 2018
Santa Barbara sedge (Carex barbarae) is low-growing and thrives in the flood-prone and shady understory of the forests along rivers and streams. The ecosystem services it provides are numerous.
Foothill pine
January 2018
Foothill pine (Pinus sabiniana), also called gray or ghost pine, is one of California's endemic conifers and a common sight in the Putah-Cache watershed. These conifers are endemic to California - meaning they're only found here - and feature small blooms in February and March.
Coyote brush
December 2017
Coyote brush is a perennial evergreen shrub that blooms in early winter when most other plants are dormant. It provides critical food in the form of nectar for many native species of bees, wasps, butterflies, and flies.
Valley oak
November 2017
The ground around mature oak trees is littered this time of year with the fruits of oak trees, which are known as acorns. Oak trees provide important habitat, and the acorns provide highly nutritious autumn and winter food for birds, reptiles, insects, mammals, and even humans.
California wild rose
September 2017
California wild rose (Rosa californica) is a deciduous shrub that can be found along riparian (close to streams) areas below 6,000 feet of elevation.
California wild grape
August 2017
The California wild grape is native to Southern Oregon and California, and can be found growing along creeks, streams, springs and floodplains in the Coast Ranges, the Central Valley and Sierra foothills below 3,200 feet of elevation. California grape is a deciduous vine (it dies back in the winter).
Blue elderberry
July 2017
What is that big shrubby plant, that puts out big clusters of droopy white flowers in late spring, that turn into deep blue clusters of powder-coated berries in the summer? Is it edible? Is it native to California? Can you really make wine out of it?
Showy milkweed
June 2017
Milkweeds are native to all of California, although today they are mostly found in northern California; from the coast into the Sierra, from wetland riparian habitats to pine and mixed conifer forests.
May 2017
It's snowing again at Putah Creek! It's as close to snow as we're going to get, anyway, thanks to Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii). This tree is a magnificent component of the river forest ecosystem.
April 2017
Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) may know it by its rounded, heart-shaped leaves in the summer, or in autumn when the leaves turn blazing yellow, orange, and red, or perhaps you notice the red-brown dangling seed pods ornamenting bare branches in the winter.