Archive for the ‘Butterflies’ Category

Exploring a New Bog Near Blair Lake

My favorite part of the bog was a small section of windy creeks and pools along the northern edge. It reminded me a lot of the bog near Lopez Lake that John Koenig and I call Zen Meadow. The white flowers are grass-of-Parnassus

This sphinx moth caterpillar was hanging out on a twinberry (Lonicera involucrata) leaf.

Between finalizing Volume 2 of the Flora of Oregon (see previous post), hot summer weather, and fairly mundane trips to lower elevation sites to collect seeds, I didn’t get a lot of exploring done in August (and being on evacuation alert and smoke during the Holiday Farm fire pretty much nixed any hiking in September). But after finding the wonderful bog on Warner Mountain (see Back to Warner Mountain Bog), I did get the urge to look for new sites to botanize.

I had been planning to go back to Blair Lake to collect some seed anyway, so I took a closer look at the surrounding area on Google Earth before my trip. I noticed several areas that looked like they could be interesting wetlands that weren’t far off roads and could be combined with a trip to Blair. So, on August 9, I headed up to Blair, but when I came to the intersection of Road 733, instead of turning right to follow the sign up to Blair Lake, I stayed on Road 1934 and parked one mile farther up. Heading into the woods on the right (east), it was only about 1/8 of a mile to the wetland, although with tromping over fallen logs and such, it took 15 minutes or so (see Google Map image). Read the rest of this entry »

Back to Warner Mountain Bog

Gentians blooming in the main bog.

Alpine laurel (Kalmia microphylla is already in seed by the time the flowers of the late-blooming gentians appear.

Having just discovered explorer’s gentians (Gentiana calycosa) on Warner Mountain (see previous post, Hidden Bog on Warner Mountain), my top priority was to get back to see them in full bloom. I contacted Molly Juillerat, botanist and Middle Fork District ranger, to see if she wanted to come. Luckily, she was free the following weekend. I figured that was enough time for the display to be worth the trip. As it turns out, a couple of other friends, Nancy and Keiko, were already planning to head up to that area as well. So we agreed to all drive up separately and meet by the lookout on August 2. Keiko brought her husband, Daniel, and Molly brought her faithful dog, Ruby. After checking out an interesting rocky spot a short way off the road that I’d noticed on Google Earth (not too many flowers but pikas under the rock pile!), we stopped to have lunch by the lookout. Sadly, the Cascade lilies were pretty much done—I was really fortunate to have seen them the week before. Then we headed over to the bog. Read the rest of this entry »

Buggy Day at Bristow Prairie

The wetland by the lake was filled with bistort (Bistorta bistortoides), Oregon checkermallow (Sidalcea oregana), and arrowleaf groundsel (Senecio triangularis). We hadn’t had time to explore this area last trip, but I like to come down here at least once a year. There are too many wonderful spots at Bristow Prairie to see them all on a single trip.

Follicles of Menzies’ larkspur still filled with seeds. Usually when an animal brushes by the plant, the seeds get flung out of the capsules. More than once, I inadvertently kicked a plant as I reached forward to grab the seeds, knocking them out before I could get any. Plants have so many clever ways of distributing their seeds.

After the terrific trip John Koenig and I had to Bristow Prairie earlier in the month (see Still More Discoveries at Bristow Prairie), I decided to return on July 15 to see the next wave of flowers. This trip was not nearly as pleasant as the first because most of the afternoon I was hounded by biting flies. Some looked to be deer flies; others were both larger and smaller, but they were all determined to drive me crazy. At the very end of the day, some house fly-sized ones were actually leaving what looked like bruises on my arms just minutes after they bit me. Luckily they didn’t itch for all that long. I’ve never experienced that before in the Western Cascades, so it was doubly disconcerting. Biting flies were one of the many things I disliked about my short tenure living in the Midwest. Read the rest of this entry »

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 (Castilleja hispida), cliff penstemon (Penstemon rupicola), and Cascade fleabane (Erigeron cascadensis).

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 »

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