Wonderful Wildlife and More at Warfield Bog

Phantom crane fly (Bittacomorpha occidentalis). Crane flies have a “halter”—something that looks like a pin—where there would be a second set of wings. Although they resemble mosquitoes, they are harmless.

Slender cottongrass (Eriophorum gracile) growing next to a pool filled with Potamogeton alpinus.

After some time off for my first visit to the Olympic Peninsula, I was back up in the Western Cascades on Thursday (August 18). Sabine accompanied me for a trip to Warfield Bog, an interesting wetland east of Oakridge. Last year I discovered a population of the rare swamp red currant (Ribes triste) there (see Unexpected Find at Warfield Creek Bog), and I wanted to do a more careful survey to see how much of it grows there. We relocated last year’s site easily, under a clump of firs growing near the south edge of the bog. The plants had a few unripe berries on them. We crossed the bog and headed to the northeast corner to check on the woods at the edge there. It turns out a photo I had taken there the year before had the currant leaves in them but I hadn’t recognized them at the time. We found those plants creeping along a bleached out log growing with its prickly cousin swamp gooseberry (Ribes lacustre). We actually saw six species of Ribes in the area. When we returned to the small lake by the road, we found three more patches of swamp red currant, all under trees or shrubs fairly close to the water. This is quite similar to the habitat of the ones at Park Creek I’d seen earlier in the month (see Rare Currant at Park Creek). Next year I hope to come back to see them in bloom.

Anyone recognize this strange larva? It was at least a couple of inches long.

When we first got out of the car, we noticed a pretty garter snake swimming around in a puddle in the road where the outlet creek flows from the lake. When we returned to this spot several hours later, he was still there! He seemed reluctant to get out of the water, even though we obviously made him nervous. There were other drying puddles of water just off the road nearby that were filled with tadpoles, some in the process of changing into frogs. It was obvious the water wouldn’t last too much longer, so I moved some of them to a larger area where the water was a few inches deep. It may not be best to interfere with nature, but I couldn’t stand the thought that they might die in that pool when there was a more permanent one only a few yards away. Sabine told me later she saw a spot with a bunch of dead tadpoles where the puddle had evidently dried out before they were able to finish their metamorphosis. We saw a very large insect larva running back and forth across the muddy area that was already drying out. We thought it might be a dragonfly larva, but its face looked wrong, so maybe it was something else. There are so many kinds of insects, and I have so much still to learn. The wildest insect we saw of the day was flying or floating through the air with all six feet held out in a whorl—perpendicular to the ground! It turns out this strange little beast is a phantom cranefly (Bittacomorpha occidentalis). Its black and white coloring breaks up its outline, making it hard to see—like a phantom. It lives in wet areas like this bog, its larvae eating decaying organic matter.

Swallowtails can often be found on columbines. Smaller butterflies are not able to reach into the deep, nectar-filled spurs. This tattered pale swallowtail had seen its better day.

After leaving Warfield Bog, we headed up the road toward Wolf Mountain. Beyond the side road to the towers on the summit, the road starts heading back downhill. There were oodles of skyrocket (Ipomopsis aggregata) here, and when I stopped to take photographs, I could hear lots of chattering hummingbirds. We had to get out for a longer stop when we reached a wet roadside ditch below an open area known as Wolf Meadow. There were lots of colorful wildflowers including western St. John’s wort (Hypericum scouleri, formerly formosum), white bog orchid (Platanthera dilatata), and, best of all, lots of western stenanthium (now Anticlea occidentalis) with its deep red bells in peak bloom. The meadows run much higher than we could see from the road. It will be interesting to explore this area earlier in the season. The butterflies were also abundant here. By the end of the day we had seen a number of blues (mostly Anna’s and Boisduval’s, I think), checkerspots, coppers (both Edith’s and mariposa), several pale swallowtails, Lorquin’s admirals, some parnassians, meadow and hydaspe fritillaries, and a few skippers. The butterfly numbers are finally coming up after a terrible spring and early summer.

Yellow willowherb (Epilobium luteum)

From there we headed over to the wetland at the base of Hemlock Butte (near the Vivian Lake trailhead). One of the rarest plants there is swamp onion (Allium validum), a very tall species with large attractive purple heads. It was perfect timing; they were just coming into bloom. The subalpine spiraea (Spiraea splendens) was also blooming nicely. There must have been a great show of beargrass weeks ago, but it was on the wane. All three bog orchids were still in bloom: Platanthera dilatata, P. stricta, and P. sparsiflora. I was interested to see the fleabane there was Erigeron glacialis (formerly peregrinus) rather than the common Western Cascade species E. aliceae. But it wasn’t so surprising considering this area is right at the edge of where the High Cascades meet the older mountains of the Western Cascades. It was getting late, but we made one more stop on our way back on Road 23 when we both spotted some pale yellow flowers as we passed Pinto Creek. Sure enough, it was a fully blooming population of the rare Epilobium luteum. There’s quite a bit of it growing up on Groundhog Mountain, which isn’t too far away, but I’m still excited to find another healthy population of this pretty plant.

3 Responses to “Wonderful Wildlife and More at Warfield Bog”

  • Kris:

    Hi Tanya, great job at getting a real nice photo of that crane fly! I only see them once in a while and they are gorgeous.

    The strange larva may be a Dobson Fly or a Fish Fly. I’m glad you rescued the tadpoles. The swallowtail is beautiful on that columbine.

    I saw some blooming Epilobium luteum the other day too, but of course I couldn’t remember what they’re called. Now I know! :)

    Kris

  • Jeffrey Caldwell:

    I am wondering if you see Western Tiger Swallowtails visiting Platanthera dilatatum flowers. One source found it popular with them and the California Dogface.

  • Hi Jeffrey,

    I’ve seen and photographed Pale Swallowtails on Platanthera dilatata, but I can’t remember whether I’ve seen Western Tiger Swallowtails on them, although I well may have. The big swallowtails also like Aquilegia formosa and Delphiniums, plants with larger spurs that are too deep for the little guys.

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