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Birds of Putah-Cache: Lower Cache Creek

John Kemper

Below the diversion dam near Capay, Cache Creek is usually dry in the summer. The sand and gravel mining along this lower stretch provides little wildlife habitat. A major exception to this rule occurs around Cache Creek Nature Preserve, northwest of Woodland, where a subsurface geological structure called the Plainfield Ridge forces water to the surface and produces year-round flow. This section is characterized by extensive riparian growth, forming excellent wildlife habitat.

Many of the birds described for the Putah Creek riparian area can be found here. In addition, lesser nighthawks are observed every summer, and they are believed to be nesting on the sand and gravel beds of the creek. Another bird suspected of nesting on the gravel beds is the spotted sandpiper. The reconstructed wetlands have harbored wood ducks, common moorhens, egrets, and various shorebirds.

No discussion of riparian habitat could be complete without mention of the western scrub-jay. On occasion, the Putah Creek area has had the highest count of scrub-jays of any place in the country. But scrub-jays are not confined to this habitat, and in fact can be found throughout the watershed, including residential backyards. Thus, most people ignore scrub-jays, probably because they are so common. However, this is one of the species that eastern birders want to see when they come west. The western scrub-jay was split from the Florida scrub-jay a few years ago, and now, if easterners want to see a western scrub-jay, they have to come at least as far west as Texas or Colorado to do so. (There is a thousand-mile gap between Florida and western Texas with no scrub-jays at all.)

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