Archive for the ‘Douglas County’ Category

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 »

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 »

Terrific Day at Medicine Creek Road

John exploring the steep slope above Medicine Creek Road. A few purple milkweed plants can be seen in the foreground.

Last year, while camping on the North Umpqua, Nancy Bray and I explored the first few miles of Medicine Creek Road 4775, just east of Eagle Rock Campground (see A Week of Monarchs and Milkweed Day 2 and Day 3). It was the only site for purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) listed on the Oregon Flora Project Atlas. We had a wonderful time looking at milkweed and watching monarchs and other butterflies, and I could hardly wait to get back this year to see the earlier blooming plants.

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Second Butterfly Survey in the Calapooyas

Looking north from the edge of the plateau where Loletta Lakes lie, there’s a good view of the Coal Creek drainage to the right and the hill above the quarry that we visited the previous week on the left. I’ve been to the rocky summit a number of times, but I’m still eyeing the rocky area down the eastern slope. Some day….

One week earlier, we looked for Sierra Nevada blues in the wetlands along the crest of the Calapooya Mountains (see Second Year of Sierra Nevada Blue Surveys) with Willamette National Forest wildlife biologist Joe Doerr. We didn’t find as many as we’d hoped, so thinking that perhaps it was a bit early, we decided to wait an extra week before returning to the area to check out some additional wetlands. So on Tuesday, July 18, Joe, Joanne, Lori, John, and I returned to the area near Loletta Lakes. We were joined on this outing by Matt Georgeff, another Middle Fork district wildlife biologist. Read the rest of this entry »

Gorgeous Day at Grassy Ranch

From the summit above Grassy Ranch, there’s a grand view. Looking southeast, we could see still snowy Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey.Nancy and I saw the burned area in the middle ground when we drove up Medicine Creek Road a couple of weeks earlier. Spreading dogbane was abundant and attracting lots of pollinators.

On Saturday, July 15, John Koenig and I spent a long, wonderful day up in the Calapooya Mountains. After the butterfly survey a few days before (see Second Year of Sierra Nevada Blue Surveys), I couldn’t wait to get back up there. We decided we were going to try to drive up Coal Creek Road 2133 without making very many stops—after all, we just drove by there a few days before. Our destination was Grassy Ranch and Reynolds Ridge, over on the south-facing slope of the Calapooyas. It was a long drive coming from Lane County to the north, and we wanted to have as much time as possible over on that side since we seldom get there. But alas, there were so many beautiful things to see, we just had to make one quick stop, then another, and another, and ….. We didn’t even cross over to the south side of the ridge until after noon. The first stop was for a beautiful sweep of Cardwell’s penstemon (Penstemon cardwellii). Then we had to get out at our favorite area where there is a long, wet roadside ditch filled with wildflowers. Here we discovered a single blooming plant of Sitka mistmaiden (Romanzoffia sitchensis), a species I’d never seen in the area. We surmised it must have come from a seed swept down the creek from a population hidden far up the steep, rocky slope. There were also lots of my favorite clover, King’s clover (Trifolium productum var. kingii or T. kingii, the name seems to go back and forth).

Cardwell’s penstemon seems to prefer gravel roadsides to more natural habitats.

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Second Year of Sierra Nevada Blue Surveys

A male Sierra Nevada blue kindly sitting on my finger for a portrait at Bradley Lake

Last year, Joe Doerr, Willamette National Forest (WNF) wildlife biologist organized several trips to the Calapooyas to survey a lovely little butterfly known variously as Sierra Nevada or gray blue (Agriades or Plebejus podarce), which is at the northern end of its range in the Calapooyas (see More Butterfly Surveying in the Calapooyas). This year, we returned to many of the same areas we visited last year to see how they were doing. Our first trip was July 11. Joe and I were joined by John Koenig, Lori Humphreys, and Joanne Lowden, Middle Fork District wildlife biologist.

Bradley Lake is one of the prettiest subalpine wetlands I know of in the Western Cascades.

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A Week of Monarchs and Milkweed: Day 3

A variable checkerspot straddling the individual small flowers of spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) to sip the sweet nectar. Milkweed species were recently moved into the dogbane family, Apocynaceae. They both share the trait of milky sap in their stems and are both beloved by butterflies as well as other insects.

For the second day of our camping trip, Nancy and I went up to Twin Lakes and what I call the BVD Meadow, both accessed from the same parking spot at the end of Twin Lakes Road 4770. I’d never seen (or felt) the road in such poor condition with many miles of washboard and areas starting to wash out a bit. My van survived without flatting another tire, but on returning to the campground, I discovered I’d lost a hubcap. The flowers were good, though farther along than I expected at the meadow, and we went for a nice swim at Twin Lakes, but both places were buggier than I ever remember. So far, it has been a particularly bad year for mosquitoes in the Western Cascades. Read the rest of this entry »

A Week of Monarchs and Milkweed: Day 2

Two monarch caterpillars sharing the same purple milkweed plant.

Nancy Bray and I had been planning a trip to the North Umpqua for quite a while. I was rather torn between going to some of my favorite places in Douglas County and looking for more milkweed and monarch sites. As luck would have it, I was able to do both. While checking the distribution of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) on the Oregon Flora Project Atlas, I had noticed one record of milkweed on Medicine Creek Road 4775 in the North Umpqua area from 1994. While out with Crystal Shepherd on Monday, she told me she used to work at the Diamond Lake District and had seen the milkweed at that site just 5 years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Weather Woes at Hemlock Lake

Our intrepid group smiling in spite of the rain and snow.

Bunchberry (Cornus unalaschkensis) just getting started. Last year’s leaves remain flattened on the groud, while the showy flower bracts are just developing atop the new year’s growth.

In my last post, I was lamenting about the three weeks of dry weather in May causing the lower elevations to dry out rapidly. So you’d think I’d have been thrilled to finally have some rainy weather. Well, I was, but unfortunately the rainiest day turned out to be Saturday, June 10, the day I was leading a hike to Hemlock Lake in the North Umpqua area for the Native Plant Society of Oregon Annual Meeting. I was really dreading going up there, especially when the forecast included a possible chance of thunderstorms. Since I’d had to shorten my trip the previous week, I didn’t have a chance to pre-hike Hemlock Lake and figure out what we were going to do. The full Yellowjacket Loop trail is over 5 miles—we surely wouldn’t do that in the cold rain. Luckily the president of the Umpqua Chapter had gone up a few days before, so at least I knew the road was okay. Read the rest of this entry »

Ill-Fated Trip up Illahee Road: pt. 2, Illahee Rock

The old lookout still stands on the summit of Illahee Rock. Piles of wood at the base indicate plans for repairs. Frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa) can be seen bloooming in the foreground.

After I left the beautiful roadside meadow (see Ill-Fated Trip up Illahee Road: pt. 1, Illahee Meadow), I went to check on a meadow and rock area I’d never seen before. Just a half mile farther up Illahee Road 4760, there’s a sharp corner. A berm hides an old road, now merely a path, that heads south along Eagle Ridge. I reached a meadow I’d seen on Google Earth in an easy half mile. It was quite disappointing, however. Although there were still cat’s ears (Calochortus tolmiei) and spring gold (Lomatium utriculatum) in bloom along the edges, the majority of the meadow was already completely dried out. A few paltry bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata) were attempting to bloom but were clearly parched. I’m not sure why the meadow I’d been exploring below was in much better shape. I checked out a rocky area beyond the meadow, but it was way too steep to explore, and other than a few pretty bloom cliff penstemon (Penstemon rupicola), there wasn’t much to see. Read the rest of this entry »

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