Archive for the ‘Habitat’ Category

Butterflies and More at Groundhog Mountain

Looking north from “Sundew Road”, you can see haze from smoke, but at least there was some view! Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) was blooming abundantly along the old road.

Painted ladies were abundant everywhere we went. Note the 4 or 5 circular marks along the edge of the hindwing.

The are by Groundhog Mountain has been one of my favorites for many years. What with the roads deteriorating, the oppressive heat, and the awful smoke from so many wildfires, I was afraid I wouldn’t get there this year. But on August 11, John Koenig and I took advantage of a relatively pleasant day in an otherwise nasty month and had a wonderful day up at Groundhog. There were still plenty of late season flowers and a surprising amount of moisture after 2 months of drought. We really enjoyed it and so did the many butterflies and other insects. We spent a long day exploring Waterdog Lake, many of the wetlands, including the shallow lakes up Road 452, and what I like to call “Sundew Road”—what’s left of Road 454 on the north side of the mountain. We saw so many butterflies, moths, caterpillars, bees, dragonflies, as well as hummingbirds, frogs, and toads—too much to show it all, but here are a few highlights from our day. Read the rest of this entry »

Late Season Visit to Monarch Meadow

Purple milkweed going to seed stands conspicuously in the otherwise dried out meadow.

As July ended, super hot weather was predicted for the first week of August. I figured I’d better get out one more time before getting stuck inside for a week (or most of the month, as it turned out). So on July 31, I headed back to what I call Monarch Meadow, southeast of Oakridge, to look for ripe purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) seeds and any sign of monarchs. It was in the low 90’s by afternoon, so I wasn’t up for anything taxing, but a stiff breeze kept me surprisingly comfortable.

The glistening coma (tuft of long hairs) on the purple milkweed seeds and the shapely purple pods add another season of beauty to this lovely species.

A chrysalis hanging from large-flowered collomia. Monarch chrysalises are usually transparent after the butterfly emerges, so I’m guessing either this is a different species or the butterfly did not survive the chrysalis stage.

The milkweed was completely finished blooming, and many of the leaves were drying up, so I didn’t expect to see any caterpillars or adult monarchs. I hoped to maybe find a chrysalis, but that would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. But amazingly enough, some fading flowers of large-flowered collomia (Collomia grandiflora) caught my eye, and there, hanging from a leaf, was an empty chrysalis. While I can’t be sure it was that of a monarch, it was the same shape. There were butterflies in the meadow, and the first time I caught sight of orange flying by I hoped for a second it would be a monarch. Instead, it was one of many California tortoiseshells on the wing in the area. As I’d seen on my trip to Echo Basin (see previous report), tortoiseshells were suddenly arriving in the Western Cascades in great numbers. There were dozens of them flying up and down the river by Campers Flat when I went to cool off at the end of the day. So glad to have them back!

Lots of grasshoppers of many colors were jumping around the meadow. This one perfectly matched the color of the dead, non-native dogtail grass (Cynosurus echinatus).

Western rayless fleabane is not what you’d call a showy species, but the spider in the back attests to the fact that it is of interest to insects as it blooms when most other flowers are gone.

Monarch Meadow was quite dried out, as one would expect at an elevation of 2400′ after 7 weeks of drought, but there still a few flowers in bloom. On my earlier trip here in June (see Hidden Meadow Reveals a Thrilling Secret), I had spotted an odd plant I had guessed was a composite, although it didn’t even have any buds yet. It looked similar to the common leafy fleabane (Erigeron foliosus), but the growth habit wasn’t quite right. After seeing it later in the season at several other low elevation meadows in the area, and finally spotting it in bloom, I had identified it as western rayless fleabane (Erigeron inornatus), a species I’d never even heard of before. In fact, I found it in five different sites this summer. This was my first time back to this site, so I was happy to see it still blooming to confirm my guess that it was the same species as at all the other sites. As a low-elevation species, I’d missed it in the past by always moving up to higher elevations by the time it bloomed.

The tiny flowers of sticky birdbeak (Cordylanthus tenuis) appear quite late in the season. You can imagine a resemblance to the related but much showier paintbrushes (Castilleja spp.).

Sticky birdbeak (Cordylanthus tenuis) was finally in bloom. This species is also uncommon but appears frequently in the Rigdon area and in the other purple milkweed spots. After collecting some seeds of meadow plants, including some of the milkweed, whose capsules were just starting to ripen, I headed back down to Rigdon Road 21 and over to Mutton Meadow to look for more seeds to collect. The sticky birdbeak is also abundant there. A few other late bloomers were in evidence in vernally moist spots in this meadow. The airy white inflorescences of Gairdner’s yampah (Perideridia gairdneri) stood well above the other dried up plants. Their tubers must store a lot of water in the spring for them to send up the leaves and flowers after most everything else has died. The pink-flowered densely-flowered boisduvalia (Epilobium densiflorum) is a late bloomer that can be found in low-elevation seeps and vernally moist meadows. I hadn’t noticed it there before, but again, visiting areas at the end of their seasons can often be quite interesting and worthwhile. All in all, it was quite a pleasant day, even more so a month later as I write this, stuck in the house surrounded by thick smoke and unable to go back there until the rains return and douse the Staley Fire in the Rigdon area.

Chaparral rein orchid (Platanthera [Piperia] elongata), also known as long-spurred piperia, is a late-blooming woodland orchid (in our area anyway). Although uncommon in Oregon, it grows in a number of places in the Rigdon area, so finding it in the forest on the way up to Monarch Meadow wasn’t a surprise.

Unusual Sightings at Grasshopper Meadows

Lovely lilies, lupines, and lovage—a nice alliteration and a good view toward the southeast and Diamond Peak from the top of Grasshopper Meadows! 

On July 21, I went for a hike at Grasshopper Meadows. I figured there would still be some meadow flowers in bloom and plenty of butterflies. My first surprise was seeing another car as I arrived at the trailhead and finding it was fellow Native Plant Society of Oregon member and friend Rob Castleberry and his wife Joyce and their dog Wiley, who had arrived just minutes before me. We were able to walk together across the meadow to edge of the cliffs. On the way, we were surprised by a family of grouse bursting out of the grass in front of us. Joyce wasn’t up to the bushwhack down through the woods to the bottom of the cliff, but Rob joined me. It’s always a pleasure to share one of my favorite off-trail spots. It was too bad Joyce couldn’t come down, but I was happy she didn’t mind being left on her own for a little while. 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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Farther Up “Milkweed Ridge”

Like many openings in the area, the southernmost one in the complex had Oregon white oaks (Quercus garryana) being crowded out by ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa) and other conifers. Enhancing oak habitat has been the main focus of restoration in the area. Hopefully now improving the area for milkweed and monarchs will also be a priority.

Having found purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) and monarchs at Monarch Meadow (see Hidden Meadow Reveals a Thrilling Secret) and at the meadow complex north of there (see A Week of Monarchs and Milkweed: Day 1), the next logical place to check was another complex of openings even farther up the ridge. On July 5, Joe Doerr and I headed up there to investigate. These openings also follow the old road that the middle complex is along, so we felt particularly confident we would find more milkweed. We decided to drive in from the north on an old but (barely) driveable road. I had been on that road several times years ago, to access what Sabine and I call “Gateway Rock Ridge” (see First Outing of the New Year for the most recent trip), but I can’t imagine doing it now. The tire tracks seemed to be sinking down and lots of vegetation was reaching out into the road from the surrounding forest. Thank goodness we were in a Forest Service rig!

Unfortunately, mortality is very high for these tiny monarch caterpillars. Most get picked off by wasps and other predators when they are quite small.

We parked at the top of the old road and saw ground rose (Rosa spithamea) in bloom right by the car. From there we walked south. Before long we came to the first opening, lying right along the ridge. Sticky birdbeak (Cordylanthus tenuis) grew abundantly here along with western rayless fleabane (Erigeron inornatus). These normally uncommon species have been showing up at most of the other milkweed sites, so it was a good sign. There had also evidently been a great display of showy tarweed (Madia elegans), but it was already shriveling up in the heat of the day. We didn’t spot any milkweed at first, but then we started to see it scattered about in several openings. We found monarch caterpillars and eggs as well. Mission accomplished! We walked as far down the road as the uppermost meadow of the middle complex that we’d both already been to on separate trips. So now we knew the area all along the old road and started back toward the car. Read the rest of this entry »

July Blooms at Tire Mountain

The main color throughout the meadows was provided by yellow Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), creamy white northern buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum), and pink farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena), which was just beginning its showstopping display. While some areas were already dried out, others, such as here at the east end of the dike meadow, were still gorgeous.

A few harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida) plants were still in glorious bloom as was this plant down the slope of the first big view meadow.

On July 3, I went to Tire Mountain to look at late flowers and collect some seeds of early flowering plants. I was surprised at how much was still in bloom. I had a lovely day getting to know other wildflower-loving hikers and cavorting with butterflies and did some exploring down the steep slope of the view meadow on the north end, something I’d been meaning to do for quite some time. Along with checkerspots, acmon blues were abundant. Their host food plants are buckwheats (Eriogonum spp.), which were at peak bloom. What was surprising was how friendly they were. Not once, not twice, but three times over the course of the day, an acmon blue landed on my arm and started sipping. It sure makes it easier to get a close up photograph! Here are some of the photographic highlights. 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 »

A Week of Monarchs and Milkweed: Day 1

Monarch in flight

After finding monarchs at “Monarch Meadow” the previous week (see Hidden Meadow Reveals a Thrilling Secret), I could hardly wait to get back to the area to search for more purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) and more monarchs. Molly Juillerat had gone to Monarch Meadow the following day, and on Monday, June 26, she had Crystal Shepherd, her seasonal botanist, go out to the meadow area just north of Monarch Meadow. I had planned to go there myself, so I jumped at the chance to go with Crystal. After I had suggested that as a likely next spot to investigate, Joe Doerr, Willamette National Forest wildlife biologist, had gone up there and found both milkweed and monarchs, as well as monarch eggs. So our job was to do a more careful survey of the area. Read the rest of this entry »

Youngs Rock to Moon Point

While the lower elevation meadows were drying out, this gorgeous area, off-trail just east of Youngs Rock itself, was being fueled by meltwater from the high ridge of Warner Mountain above. Both the monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) and rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta) were outstanding.

The Tolmie’s cats ears (Calochortus tolmiei) were outstanding at Youngs Rock. There was also quite a bit of showy tarweed (Madia elegans), but it was closing up in the afternoon.

On Saturday, June 24, Molly Juillerat and I co-led a wildflower field trip for the South Willamette Forest Collaborative, a group of people interested in restoration of the Rigdon area, southeast of Oakridge. Their previous field trip had been to see the Jim’s Creek area, which has been undergoing major restoration work for a number of years. The Youngs Rock trail starts in the Jim’s Creek area along Rigdon Road 21. We had planned to show people the wonderful trail going up to Youngs Rock starting just above the Jim’s Creek restoration area. We had pre-hiked it with some friends the previous Saturday, June 17, but when the weather forecast showed temperatures soaring above 100°F, we felt that it would be entirely too hot for an uphill climb through dry meadows and rocky habitat. Instead, we moved the trip farther uphill to Moon Point, which connects with the upper part of the Youngs Rock trail. At about 5100′, The snow there had only melted within the last few weeks, and the more or less level trail through damp meadows would be much more pleasant on such a hot day. Indeed it was a lovely day, and other than lots of mosquitoes (not aggressive, however), we had a great time. Here are a few highlights from both trips. Read the rest of this entry »

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