Archive for the ‘Butterflies’ Category

Still More Discoveries at Bristow Prairie

The rock garden is always gorgeous in June and July. The cream-colored hotrock penstemon (Penstemon deustus) was at peak. It was joined by frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa), Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata), and much more.

On July 3rd, John Koenig and I went to Bristow Prairie, one of our favorite places. Due to the pandemic, we drove up separately. Turns out we were both planning to go, so we figured we might as well go at the same time. Two sets of eyes are much better for finding interesting things. And we always seem to find unusual plants and other cool things up in this wonderful area.

It takes a very tiny bee to pollinate the little flowers of Columbia lewisia.

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Beargrass Season at Blair Lake

Beargrass coming into bloom near the trailhead at Blair Meadows.

A rocky area at the edge of Mule Prairie with harsh paintbrush, cliff penstemon, and Cascade fleabane.

On June 25, I went up to Blair Lake. This was another place I hadn’t been to in peak season for quite some time, although I had been up there in late July last year (see Butterfly Day at Blair Lake). Unlike last year’s trip, there weren’t many different species of butterflies, but the flowers were gorgeous, and, for the first time here in years, I got to see the beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) in bloom! Beargrass is an odd species in that the populations seem to either bloom en masse or hardly at all. There are different thoughts about what kind of schedule it is on, but it has been blooming far more often than the “every 3 years” or “every 7 years” and other ideas I’ve heard. Coffin Mountain seems to have a mass beargrass bloom every year I make it there—although I often miss the actual flowering. Although there have been lots of big beargrass years in the last decade or so, Blair Lake doesn’t seem to be on the same schedule as other sites. I haven’t seen evidence of a big bloom year for many years. But this year, it is definitely worth visiting. There were places by the road and patches up at Mule Prairie and farther up the trail at Spring Prairie where there were a great many in bloom, but most are still budding up, so it should be impressive for the next couple of weeks at least. I don’t think anyone knows exactly what factors are required to create a big bloom year, but when there is one, it is well worth the trip to see this impressive sight (and smell, although the strong fragrance of thousands of inflorescences can be a bit overwhelming!). Read the rest of this entry »

A Rainbow of Flowers at Mount June

So many brightly colored species clamouring for attention on the south ridge that it was hard to know where to point the camera. Here paintbrush, lupine, Oregon sunshine, and stonecrop make it into the photo.

Once again, there weren’t as many butterflies as one would expect for all the flowers, but we did see this pale swallowtail nectaring on wallflower (Erysimum capitatum). California tortoiseshells, duskywings, and parnassians were about the only other species we saw.

Mount June was one of the first places I went hiking when I moved to Oregon (back in the ’90s!). I went at least once a year for many years. I guess there are just too many great destinations to explore these days because it had been almost six years since I’d been there and 8 years since I’d seen the area during bloom season. My last report was from 2011 (see Sawtooth Rock Meadow in Gorgeous Peak Bloom)—funny how that seems like it was just a short while ago!

I’d been wanting to show John Koenig the off-trail areas on the south and west, and he was already planning a trip there, so, for my 30th trip there, we agreed to drive up separately and do a socially distanced hike together on June 22. The pandemic has reduced my already limited social life to almost completely absent, so it was nice to be out with a good friend on such a gorgeous day.
 
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A Sea of Blue at Maple Creek Meadow

This photo of the view east was taken from about the same spot as the ones I used in my previous two reports about Maple Creek Meadow—why break tradition? The little opening on the nearest ridge is Rabbitbrush Ridge where I went the previous week (see More Exploration Near Grassy Glade) and which also has purple milkweed, rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa), northern buckwheat, and bluefield gilia, all seen here.

With the forecast predicting warm summer weather on the way, I figured it might be my last chance to get out to see the peak bloom of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) at lower elevation meadows without roasting. I had been wanting to return to what I named “Maple Creek Meadow” as I’d only been there twice before: first on a hot day in July (see Another New Milkweed and Monarch Site!) when most things were finished and the following year on a cloudy day in May (see Surveying Milkweed at “Maple Creek Meadow”) when many plants were just starting. So I was due for a sunny but cool day in the middle of the season and headed out to the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County on June 17.

Two caterpillars eating flower stalks of rose checkermallow. Apparently, their color depends partly on what they are eating. I think both are gray hairstreaks (but correct me if you think otherwise!).

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Long Overdue Return to Cloverpatch

The narrowleaf mule’s ears (Wyethia angustifolia) were at peak bloom in the main meadow. With almost the same shade of yellow orange, at first I didn’t notice the wallflowers (Erysimum capitatum) hiding among them in plain sight. The purple flowers are ookow (Dichelostemma congestum). Definitely a spot to return later to collect seed!

Ichneumon wasps apparently don’t feed much as adults, but since they are parasitoids, perhaps the ones I saw floating about above the herbaceous layer of the forest were looking for caterpillars to lay their eggs on.

The Cloverpatch trail west of Westfir is one of the closest trails to my house, yet I hadn’t been there in five years. And with the many off-trail meadows to explore, I hadn’t been up to the uppermost meadow in nine years (see Cloverpatch is in the Pink), so on June 1, I headed to the trailhead. While the day started out overcast, by the time I got to the first meadows, the clouds were dissipating. The flowers were terrific, and I’m so glad I decided to return. I headed straight up to the uppermost meadow to the east. While there used to be a path leading off the trail near the top, I almost walked right by it. The foliage was so lush, I just barely noticed someone had pushed it down as they walked up there (apparently I’m not the only one who enjoys heading off-trail to that meadow!). So I did manage to get back up to the lovely seepy meadow area. While I missed the blooming of the beautiful shooting star seen in the report from 2011, the drifts of great camas (Camassia leichtlinii) and Tolmie’s cat’s ears (Calochortus tolmiei) certainly made up for it. Here are some of the highlights of my trip. Read the rest of this entry »

Watching Bees and Butterflies at Medicine Creek Road

Sadly not a monarch but a worn California tortoiseshell on purple milkweed.

On Memorial Day, May 25, I made the long drive down to the North Umpqua to check out the population of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) along Medicine Creek Road 4775. I was a little disappointed to find it was just starting to open. I think the cool weather of late had slowed things down because Big Pine Opening was at about the same stage weeks ago, and although it is lower elevation, it is also much farther north. But although the milkweed wasn’t attracting many insects, there were plenty of plants that were.

A silver-spotted skipper was one of many insects nectaring on silverleaf phacelia.

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Milkweed is Up and Dippers are Out

One of the milkweeds was close to the cliff edge above the quarry. Thank goodness for the long zoom on my camera so I could take the photo from a safe distance from the edge.

On Monday, May 4, I headed out to the Rigdon area southeast of Oakridge to check on the purple or heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia). At home, my little seedlings had been germinating, and some of last year’s seedlings were reemerging, so I was pretty sure the milkweed would be up at Big Pine Opening. I was surprised to see how tall some of the plants were, and several even had a few open flowers. I relocated the “chia pet” milkweed plant(s) from last year (see Three Trips in a Row to Rigdon). It was still growing in the same bizarre manner. I’m really puzzled by this odd plant, but I’ll just have to watch it as it develops. I wonder if it will flower eventually.

Last year’s chia pet-like clump of purple milkweed is up again at Big Pine Opening. Comparing it to last year’s photo, it looks like it has fewer, larger shoots, but it is still way more congested than a normal plant.

Big Pine Opening is an open slope at the intersection of Road 21 and gravel Road 2135. On the side facing the gravel road, the hillside was been carved out for a quarry. Unfortunately, the milkweed only grows on the top of the slope on the side above the old quarry. After seeing milkweed growing in the relics of a quarry at “Maple Creek Meadow” (see Surveying Milkweed at “Maple Creek Meadow”), I’d wondered whether the milkweed might be able to grow in the quarry itself at Big Pine Opening. After checking out the milkweed at the top, I went back down to the road and walked partway up the talus in the quarry—I wasn’t up to the difficult task of going high up the loose rock, but, with my binoculars, I was able to spot two patches growing in the gravel along the north side, in the partial shade of a couple of young ponderosa pine. There appeared to be at least a dozen plants large enough to be in bud. One more plant was growing in the main slope. I’m not sure if I can get close enough to the plants for a good count, but I’m just pleased the population is expanding into the quarry side. I suspect there might have been more milkweed on that side before the quarry was created, so maybe they are repopulating below where they once grew. Read the rest of this entry »

Reptiles and Insects Enjoy Spring in Rigdon Area

Coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus) was still in bloom along the Middle Fork of the Willamette. It was attracting numerous tiny flies as well as a small bee. If you haven’t smelled coltsfoot, try it, it has an unusual and pleasant menthol-like scent. That might help it attract so many pollinators.

My first official spring trip to Rigdon was on April 8, a lovely warm day. With the social distancing required because of the pandemic, I was out by myself, but I was certainly not alone. While it was still early in the season, there were plenty of the usual April flowers but also a few butterflies, bees, and an unexpected number of reptiles. Here are some photo highlights.

Just like last April (see Early Trips to Rigdon), the blooming manzanitas at Sacandaga Bluff were attracting lots of insects to the flowers, most of which had been pierced earlier by some nectar-robbing bee. This makes it easier for the other insects, like this echo azure and bee (Andrena?) to access the nectar.

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A Fine Day at Fuller Lake

We came across this amazing display of scarlet paintbrush (Castilleja miniata) along the road and stopped for a while to watch the hummingbirds fighting over it.

We had to stop at our favorite butterfly-watching site along Road 3810 where the dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) attracts numerous butterflies and other insects with its candy-like fragrance. Nectaring here a fritillary and an Edith’s copper.

On August 1, John Koenig and I headed back to the Calapooyas to visit Fuller Lake, just east of Reynolds Ridge. John had never been there before. It was my third trip, but it had been six years since my previous visit, and somehow I’d neglected to post a report on this blog of either of the earlier visits. There’s a short but somewhat rough road down to the trailhead, but surprisingly the trail was in great shape. It’s an old road that leads to the lake, less than a mile away. Sadly, the shelter that was still there on my last visit was nothing but a pile of boards. There was also evidence of an old dock along the lake that was in similar disarray.

The lake itself was as pretty as I remember it. A large talus slope bounds the south end of the lake. We headed down the west side toward the talus. Most of the flowers were finished blooming, but we did come across one exceptional stand of leopard lilies (Lilium pardalinum) in their full glory. It was clear there had been a lovely show of camas (Camassia sp.) a month or so earlier. We even found a couple of stray flowers left. We imagined it must look a lot like nearby Bradley Lake, but although it was already August, this was my earliest trip, so I’ve never seen its spring bloom. Read the rest of this entry »

Butterfly Day at Blair Lake

Quite an array of butterflies and other insects were feasting on minerals from an old campfire. We saw a Lorquin’s admiral, a painted lady, a fritillary, a number of different blues, at least 9 crescents, an interesting wasp, and quite a few ants just in this one spot.

Spiraea x hitchcockii is a hybrid that often occurs wherever the parent species grow together, so it’s not uncommon in Western Cascade wetlands.

On July 23rd, Sabine Dutoit and I went to Blair Lake. Neither of us felt like exerting ourselves, and I hadn’t been there in 6 years, so it seemed like a great choice. I was also hoping to collect a specimen of the hybrid spiraea, Spiraea x hitchcockii, which I’d seen there before. Ken Chambers, professor emeritus at Oregon State University, is working on the treatment of Spiraea for Volume 3 of the Flora of Oregon (although the rest of us are still trying to finish up Volume 2!), so I told him I’d collect some if I made it to any of the sites I’d seen it at before. I was relieved to find it was in fact still blooming, and I was able to compare the hybrid and both its parents and collect some for Ken.

Spiraea x hitchcockii is a hybrid between subalpine spiraea (S. splendens) and Douglas’ spiraea (S. douglasii). Its inflorescences are midway between the rather flattened ones of subalpine and the narrow spikes of Douglas’. Its leaves are also intermediate between the two. Ken wanted to know if there was any pubescence on the back of the leaves because apparently there are two varieties of S. douglasii, one with pubescence and one without, and he wanted to know if the hybrid inherited that. Neither the hybrid nor its parents had any pubescence in the Blair Lake meadows. I’ll be keeping a look out for the hybrid now that it’s later in the summer when I normally turn my focus from rocky habitat to wetlands. Read the rest of this entry »

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