January Visit (1/27/2017)

After the first very wet winter in a long time, it was deeply satisfying to see Cold Creek full of water and energy.

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Little tributaries to Cold Creek were full of water, and an early wildflower (milk maids, Cardamine californica) was abundant along the trail.

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The leaves of last spring’s foothill mule-ears (Wyethia helenoides) had dried so that only the veins were left, making a delicate lace.

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It appears that toyons (Heteromeles arbutifolia) that resprouted after the fire did not flower their first spring.  A toyon at the place where the trail crosses the creek had not burned and did produce fruit last fall.

I looked at the different patterns of regrowth in gray pine (Pinus sabiniana).

PineRegrowthEtc_2017Jan27_sm

Toyon berries were the primary food in the scat of what was likely a gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), as it was left on a rock in the middle of the trail.  It is possible that the scat was from a coyote (Canis latrans), but because gray foxes are known for finding prominent spots to mark with scat, fox is my first guess.

FoxScatEtc_2017Jan27_sm

Spawning Chinook in Putah Creek

Anadromous fish do not make their way into Cold Creek, but Cold Creek is a tributary to Putah Creek, which does have salmon and steelhead.  Water quality in Cold Creek (including impacts from fire) has a direct impact on water in Putah Creek and on the organisms that rely on Putah Creek.  Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) return to Putah Creek to spawn after spending several years in the ocean, and are dependent on cool, clear water free of contaminants for their survival.

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In November, I watched Chinook salmon traveling up Putah Creek in downtown Winters, just under the old railroad bridge.  I made some sketches onsite:

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And then developed a more detailed depiction of the scene at home:

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Water Quality (12/30/2015 & 1/8/2016)

High-intensity chaparral fires cause increased erosion and sediment transport into streams, and this can be seen in the thick black sludge filling the Cold Creek channel.  On my December visit, with no recent rain, the creek bed was pretty dramatically full of sludge.

December 30, 2015:

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By my January visit, several small storms had contributed to small flows in the creek.  As water washes the runoff from the burned hillsides through the system, ash from the fire as well as contaminants that were present on the hillsides will move through Cold Creek and into Putah Creek.  This creates water quality concerns which will be addressed by future water quality monitoring to be conducted by the Solano County Water Agency.

January 8, 2016:

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