Archive for the ‘Butterflies’ Category

Early Trips to Rigdon

It’s been a busy winter and spring with a lot of unexpected setbacks—snowstorm and broken wrist among the worst. The snow’s long gone, and the wrist is healing, but I’m still not caught up on everything I had hoped to do in the last few months. While I haven’t been out as much as usual, I did make it out to Rigdon several times, so I’ll share some photos from those early spring trips.

 

March 17

My friend Karl hadn’t seen the big show of gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) along Hills Creek Reservoir, so we headed out there on March 17. We only made it out as far as Big Pine Opening because of all the downed trees and remnants of snow on the road, but the show along the reservoir was beautiful.

The first butterfly day of the season! A California tortoiseshell alights on my fingers. Guess they were even dirtier (and tastier) than my cast.

I was pleased to see the Fremont’s silk tassel (Garrya fremontii) by the boat ramp at the south end of Hills Creek Reservoir was actually blooming with its long male tassels. This was once a very large and handsome plant until the Forest Service weed crew cut it down while attempting to remove some non-native silverberry (Eleagnus umbellata) bushes. It has taken years for it to recover, and it is still quite small, but at least it is coming back enough to bloom.

 

April 17

I had some help collecting seeds of Crocidium along the cliffs. This friendly tortoiseshell accompanied me for at least 10 minutes. Unfortunately, this packet of seeds disappeared before I got home, and I had to return the following week to collect some more. Note the cast is now gone and replaced with a brace—what an improvement!

After worrying about all the bad news about insect populations decreasing, it was great to spend a while watching numerous bees and other insects buzzing about some blooming hoary manzanita (Arctostaphylos canescens) in the rocky area next to Sacandaga Campground. Unfortunately for the plants, almost every flower had been pierced so the insects could get at the nectar from the side without actually doing their job of pollinating the flowers.

I stopped at what we call “Ladybug Rock” along Road 21 and was astounded to see close to 100 California tortoiseshells fluttering all over the warm, south-facing rock. There’d been about a dozen when Karl and I stopped there a month before, but on my following trip—just a week later—there weren’t any.

 

April 24

I rarely see pine elfins, so spotting this one stopping very briefly on a Crocidium flower was a real treat. I chased it up and down the road for a while, but it never landed long enough for another good look.

I’ve never given much thought to receptacles, the core part of a composite head that holds the many tiny florets and later, as in this photo, the seeds. They can be conical as in this Crocidium flower head, or flat or convex. This can sometimes be useful for identification. For many months, I have been working on the editing and layout of the treatment of Asteraceae in the upcoming Flora of Oregon, so I’ve read many descriptions of receptacles of late.

An early spring look at the meadow above the quarry less than a mile up Youngs Creek Road 2129. It has some lush seepy areas, rock outcrops, and a nice stand of oaks. In the distance, you can see Bearbones Mountain on the left.

I found purple (aka heartleaf) milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) here last summer as it was drying up, so it was good to see it emerging fresh again. I only found about a half dozen plants, but they had many stalks. Perhaps the smaller plants hadn’t emerged yet.

Another Way Up To Balm Mountain’s South End

On the way up, we stopped for lunch at the top of the quarry. John’s proximity to the edge of the cliff gave me the willies, so I sat farther back.

On October 16, it was a beautiful clear day, and John Koenig and I headed up into the Calapooyas for one last chance to visit this wonderful area before winter set in. We headed down Road 3810 that runs along the west side of Balm Mountain. In the past, John and I had planned a trip to find a way to hike up to the south end of Balm Mountain (which is really a long ridge) through some meadows we could see on the aerial images. All my previous trips were approached from the north end of the mountain. We tried several times to get down to the end of the road in the past, but trees blocked it well ahead of where we needed to start (see Another Look at Aspen Meadow and Bradley Lake). On a previous visit to what we call Aspen Meadow, a wetland along Road 3810, we had driven down the road and discovered the trees were finally cleared, but there was a huge washout—one that I can’t see ever being fixed—about a half mile from where it used to dead end.

The fabulous rock formations near the top of the south end of Balm Mountain

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Further Rigdon Area Meadow Exploration

I’ve been so busy, I haven’t been able to keep up with the blog. I went out another 16 times since my last report in July, but I just didn’t seem to have the time to post. So—now that the year is just about over—I thought I’d try to at least post some photos from the most interesting of those trips—many were just seed-collecting trips to familiar places for the restoration work on my own property.

Looking for more purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) sites in the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County was still one of my top priorities for the year. While I wasn’t able to find milkweed in most of them, I did find some interesting spots.
 

July 6

Purple milkweed dying back at the quarry meadow.

Crystal Shepherd, who worked as a botanist in the Middle Fork district last year, told me about a site where she found “one lonely Asclepius” last year. It was a very small opening above an old quarry along Youngs Creek Road 2129. I decided I’d better check it out it myself. I had looked at the meadow alongside the quarry many years ago in early spring but had never been back, even though it is just above the road that I’ve driven up countless times. I was thrilled to discover there was actually milkweed in the quarry meadow itself. I only spotted 10 plants, but some were already largely collapsed on the ground, so there may well be more than I saw. Before the quarry tore into the meadow, there might have been a much larger population. There were also a lot of other nice wildflowers in this meadow, including tons of tall bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata) going to seed (but not ripe yet—darn!) and quite a bit of blooming western rayless fleabane (Erigeron inornatus), what I’ve come to feel is a regular associate of purple milkweed. Read the rest of this entry »

Searching for Monarchs at Grassy Glade

On June 27, John Koenig and I went to Grassy Glade with Jenny Lippert, Willamette National Forest botanist, to see if there was any more monarch activity. Jenny hadn’t been there for a number of years, so I was quite interested to find out if she thought the population of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) was expanding or contracting. We’ve had a number of discussions about whether this species is moving northward—possibly due to climate change—or if it was formerly more common back when Native Americans kept the area more open by burning and is now decreasing. The answer to this question would be of great help in deciding how best to encourage more milkweed in the Rigdon area. She seemed certain there was more milkweed in the main area by the road and that she hadn’t seen it before closer to the large, open meadow. While anecdotal, this was great to hear.

John walking along Rabbitbrush Ridge. Mosaic Rock and Steeple Rock can be seen in the distance. The light gray-green foliage is rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa).

We found a few eggs but not as many as I was hoping to see. As on my previous trip, a swallowtail and some smaller butterflies were enjoying the lovely milkweed blossoms. Soon, we were joined by a monarch! It was a male, and I wondered if it was the same one I had spotted a couple of weeks before. Where was the female who had laid the eggs? Read the rest of this entry »

Quick Return to Bristow Prairie

A lilac-bordered copper, a snowberry checkerspot, and a pair of mating Hoffman’s checkerspots all sharing the same leafy fleabane (Erigeron foliosus)

I was so excited about finding Columbia lewisia (Lewisia columbiana) at Bristow Prairie (see previous post) that I contacted Molly Juillerat right away. Although she is now the deputy ranger for the Middle Fork Ranger District, her old post as district botanist hasn’t been filled yet, so she’s still the main botanist and the one other local person I know who has been to all the other lewisia sites in the district. I was thrilled that she was able to arrange her schedule to see the lewisia that same weekend, on June 30th. I wanted to get back quickly before the plants finished blooming and became hard to spot again. Read the rest of this entry »

Yet Another Exciting Discovery at Bristow Prairie

Acres of bistort in the wetland by the lake

We always make a stop along the road to see the tiny least moonworts (Botrychium simplex). There were hundreds of them, some only a half-inch tall. Happily, the population seems to be increasing.

John Koenig was disappointed he wasn’t able to join us for the trip to Bristow Prairie (see previous post) and was still hankering to go there. And I hadn’t managed to get to the lake to look for Sierra Nevada blues on either of my earlier trips, so I was quite willing to return to this wonderful area just a few days later, on June 25th. We started out by hiking down to the lake. I had made sure to put my rubber boots in my vehicle, but I had forgotten to transfer them to John’s truck, so I had to walk very carefully through the still fairly damp wetland surrounding the lake. It was quite beautiful, filled with bistort (Bistorta bistortoides), the Sierra Nevada blue’s favorite nectar plant, and we saw a great many butterflies, including a swallowtail nectaring solely on the gorgeous white bog orchids (Platanthera dilatata) and many checkerspots. But where were the Sierra Nevada blues? We both looked at every blue we saw, but although there were many greenish blues and a few other species, I only saw one butterfly that I believe was a Sierra Nevada blue, but it was so low in the foliage, I couldn’t get a very good look at its underside to be sure. Read the rest of this entry »

Southern Willamette Forest Collaborative Hike to Bristow Prairie

Sarah enjoying the riot of color in the rock garden.

We were very pleased to see several Sierra Nevada blues in the wetland. As usual, they were nectaring on their favorite flower, bistort (Bistorta bistortoides).

Earlier in the year, Sarah Altemus-Pope, the coordinator of the Southern Willamette Forest Collaborative, had asked if I wanted to lead another trip in the district after taking some folks up to Moon Point last year (see Youngs Rock to Moon Point). After my earlier trip to Bristow Prairie (see Bristow Prairie Bursting into Bloom), I was anxious to get back up there again and to introduce more people to this beautiful area in the Calapooyas. So on Thursday, June 21, Sarah and two of her kids, Maya and Kris from Walama Restoration Project, and a couple of other gentlemen from the Collaborative spent a lovely day hiking along the north end of the High Divide trail. We also drove over to the main prairie to enjoy the view at the end of the day. The weather was great, the flowers were still fabulous, and we saw lots of butterflies; all in all, it was a great day. Here are some photos from our trip. Read the rest of this entry »

Early Season in the Calapooyas

A last remaining snow bank in the wetland. The mountain shooting stars (Dodecatheon jeffreyi) and marsh marigold (Caltha leptosepala) were still in bloom, so it was probably too early for the Sierra Nevada blues to be out yet.

It was very odd to see a number of cliff paintbrush (Castilleja rupicola) blooming along the edge of the gravel road right beside the wet ditch and moisture lovers such as brook saxifrage (Micranthes odontoloma).

On June 19, John Koenig and I took a trip up Coal Creek Road 2133 to see what was blooming in the high country. This is one of our favorite areas. But first, we stopped by Monarch Meadow to see if there was any activity. There were no monarchs flying around, but we saw a handful of eggs. Then we stopped at many wonderful spots along Coal Creek Road to look at plants and butterflies before ending our day in the wetlands near Loletta Lakes. Thickening clouds right above us along the crest of the Calapooyas kept the butterflies down at the top, but we saw plenty on the way up. Things were still pretty early up there, and we even saw a few lingering glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum) and some snow. Here are a few photographic highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

More Milkweed Near Grassy Glade

Molly and Joe both carried butterfly nets all day, hoping to be able to tag an adult monarch. This Lorquin’s admiral was the only butterfly to make contact with a net. It must have found something tasty on the net and joined us while we ate lunch on the banks of Coal Creek.

On June 15, Molly Juillerat (botanist but now deputy ranger at the Middle Fork District), Joe Doerr (wildlife biologist for the Willamette National Forest), and I went back to Rigdon to do some more exploring. First, we headed out to see the purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) at Coal Creek Bluff. Neither Molly nor Joe had been there before, so I’d been hoping to take them there for some time. We took a relatively short spin around the slope, stopping to check on the milkweed. There was no sign of eggs or caterpillars yet, so I’m still not certain if the monarchs know about this small population. Although the slope was pretty dry, there were plenty of nectar plants to be had if any monarchs did show up. The milkweed was in fading bloom, but fresh northern buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum), Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata), and elegant cluster-lily (Brodiaea elegans) added some color to the mostly brown slope. Read the rest of this entry »

Butterflies Galore at Grassy Glade

The west end of the ridge can’t be seen from most of the ridge, but this is where most of the purple milkweed is found.

After my first look at the rocky slope north of Grassy Glade (see Exploring Near Grassy Glade), I was anxious to get back when the milkweed was in bloom (and the weather was better!). On June 11, I drove to Grassy Glade and walked directly to the end of Road 262 to where I could climb down to what I’m now calling “Rabbitbrush Ridge.” Since the thunderstorm drove me away before I was able to make it to the far end of the ridge on my earlier trip, I headed along the ridge to west end rather than poking around down the steep slope. That turned out to be the right thing to do. After finding a few individual plants scattered along the ridge, I was thrilled to come upon a decent-sized population of milkweed blooming in a scree just beyond the north-south dike I had thought marked the end of the ridge. This area was a bit more protected and more gravelly than rocky, so perhaps more to their liking. Read the rest of this entry »

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