Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Return to Grassy Glade and Many Creeks Meadow

While most of the milkweed is in some openings in the woods, a small number of plants grace the north end of Grassy Glade. Parts of the large meadow were already dried out, while others remained green and floriferous. Remnants of a forest fire can be seen on the hills to the south.

I suggested we look for seedlings of milkweed, and Sasha quickly spotted this clump. You can see the purplish, long-petioled cotyledon leaves still evident at the bases of the tiny plants.

In spite of not receiving a Monarch Grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Fund this year, Walama Restoration Project is still working on collecting data about the milkweed and monarch sites in the Rigdon area. Hopefully, they’ll have better luck next year. Maya Goklany is the volunteer coordinator for Walama and has already started taking volunteers out to count purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) at Monarch Meadow. We had been wanting to go out to Rigdon together sometime to survey the milkweed and finally had a chance on Sunday, May 27. I invited Sabine Dutoit along, and Maya brought her friend Sasha. How wonderful to hang out with a great group of plant-loving women! It was a gorgeous day to be out botanizing. It was also a great day for Memorial Day Weekend camping trips, and there were more people along the lake and in the general Rigdon area than I think I’ve ever seen before. We even ran into other folks up at Grassy Glade, our first stop. But most of our day was spent enjoying the peace and quiet with only the pleasant company of each other and the butterflies, birds, and bees. Read the rest of this entry »

Purple Milkweed Emerging on Milkweed Ridge

Purple milkweed is tinged with purple as it emerges, and its inflorescence is already well developed.

With my showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) at home emerging from the ground, I hoped the purple or heartleaf milkweed (A. cordifolia) would be up in the Rigdon area in southeastern Lane County. On May 2, I headed down to see if I could find the first plants. I started out by climbing up the hill at Big Pine Opening, the one site visible from Road 21 and the lowest elevation site in the area at 2300′. The milkweed is only in the northeast corner, above an old quarry, but it is a very healthy population. Sure enough, they were up! Having never seen them this early in the season, I was quite surprised to find the flower heads already formed as they emerge. They must be in a hurry to bloom! The plants come up quite dark, their glaucous leaves suffused with red-violet. This makes them quite easy to spot against green grass but hides them well in bare soil. They are often found in very rocky areas, but sometimes they seem to be happy enough in meadows with no rocks but perhaps gravelly soil beneath. I’m still trying to get an idea of their preferred habitats, but they certainly seem to want to be in well-drained soil. Read the rest of this entry »

First Flowers at Coal Creek Bluff

After discovering new sites for purple (or heartleaf) milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) in the Western Cascades last summer, my main goal for this spring and summer is to explore these lower elevation meadows in the Rigdon and North Umpqua areas of the Western Cascades for more milkweed sites—and hopefully more monarch sightings. Several weeks ago, John Koenig, Sheila Klest, and I tried to get to what I named “Coal Creek Bluff” last fall on my first visit there (see Final Outing of 2017). We drove across a thin layer of snow on the bridge across Coal Creek but were immediately stopped by a tree across the road. So we changed our plans and went back to “Monarch Meadow” and “Many Creeks Meadow”. John hadn’t been to Monarch Meadow, and Sheila hadn’t been to Many Creeks Meadow. It was an enjoyable day, and things were a little further along than the earlier trips I posted about most recently, but it was still quite early, so not much to report yet.

Gold stars light up the steep slope near the base of the open area. A glimpse of Coal Creek can be seen through the trees below.

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Final Outing of 2017

With the continued warm weather of late October, I made one final trip to the Rigdon area south of Oakridge to look at another interesting spot. During my many trips up Coal Creek Road 2133 to get up to high elevation sites in the Calapooyas, I had often caught glances of an open slope on the far side of Coal Creek. I’d wondered for years about this intriguing spot, so it seemed like the right time to figure out how to explore it.  On October 31st, I followed the route of my previous trip (see http://westerncascades.com/2018/01/27/further-low-elevation-meadow-exploration/previous post) but turned south off of Road 200 onto Road 210. I’d never been down this road before, so I wasn’t sure whether it was even driveable. It actually was in good shape for a while, and a gate across it was open, but I decided to park at the gate anyway as it didn’t look as though it was well driven. As it turned out, there was a tree blocking the road farther along, and there were other spots where it was clearly growing over from disuse. But it made for a pleasant enough walk until the road was bisected by a creek. At this time of year it wasn’t too hard to ford the creek, jumping from rock to rock, but when the water is higher in the spring, it might be necessary to head upstream to find a narrower crossing than I took. Not too long after traversing the creek, the slope on my left went uphill, rather than downhill toward Coal Creek as it had done until then. I knew this meant I’d come to my destination at last!

Looking north across the rocky slope.

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Watching Fires from Coffin Mountain Lookout

I hadn’t been aware of the Milli Fire, which had started the day before, so it was quite a shock to see this impressive plume of smoke just north of the Three Sisters. There’s quite a variety of conifers on the summit, all kept unusually short by wind, snow, and rocky conditions. (Left) the normally ground-hugging common juniper (Juniperus communis), (center) a very squat subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), and (right) a shrubby Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia).

A young harrier was among several soaring high above the sloping meadows. I’m used to seeing them alone, flying very low just over the ground, so I didn’t recognize them at first, in spite of their distinctive white rump patches.

I’m finally attempting to catch up on everything that I fell behind on over the last few months. I wanted to post some photos from a trip to Coffin Mountain I took on August 16 but didn’t get around to. Somehow I just couldn’t get to writing about the late summer trips, even though I was stuck inside most of the time, avoiding the smoke for much of August and September. It’s a little odd writing about those awful hot, dry, and smoky months while I listen to the steady rain outside. At the time, I couldn’t wait for rainy season to come and put out the fires and clear the air. It was hard to imagine the drought and fires would ever end. And now the rain is here—and I’m already dreaming about next year’s sunny summer days!

Earlier in the year, an old friend of mine, Charles, who had been living in Germany for a number of years, contacted me and said he and his daughter Lucia would be vacationing in the Pacific Northwest and were planning to stay at Breitenbush for a while in August. I hadn’t been to Coffin Mountain in several years, and as it is near Breitenbush and one of the best trails I know in the Western Cascades anyway, I suggested we could meet up there for a hike.

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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. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Quick Trip to Pyramid Rock

Spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) was abundant and at its peak bloom.

Last week I went down to the North Umpqua for a few days of exploring. The Native Plant Society of Oregon Annual Meeting is this coming weekend in the North Umpqua, so I wanted to check out what trails might have melted out at this early date and to prepare for leading a hike during the meeting. 

Menzies larkspur (Delphinium menziesii), Hall’s lomatium (Lomatium hallii), and frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa) added lots of color to the scene.

After several days waiting for the weather to cooperate fully, I decided to go down on Thursday, June 1, even though it was still quite foggy and miserable at my house. I stalled until the road cameras indicated the sun was breaking through far better down in the Roseburg area. Unfortunately, all my dilly-dallying in the morning meant that I didn’t get on the road to Pyramid Rock until mid-afternoon. I wasn’t at all sure I could even get there, so my motivation was somewhat lacking. Indeed, I hit snow right at the trailhead for Bullpup Lake, where the road turns to face north briefly. I calculated I had a mile and a half of easy road walking and enough daylight to spend an hour on the rock, so I headed down the road on foot. There were a few small trees down, so it was just as well that I couldn’t drive any farther. The only problematic thing was finding the access to bushwhack out to Pyramid Rock. You can’t see it from the road, so I always clock the mileage to find the correct curve in the road. On foot, I wasn’t sure of my exact mileage, and there were several very similar curved spots in the road. But eventually I found the right spot and was able to climb down through the woods (across a rock pile with peeping pikas hiding below!) and out to the rock. Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring the Meadows by Hills Creek Dam

A couple of weeks ago, Sabine Dutoit and I spent a little while along Kitson Springs Road 23, just east of the dam on Hills Creek Reservoir (see Late Start to a New Year of Botanizing). I hadn’t ever been to several meadows hidden from the road, so I decided that would be a good trip to do May 8 after getting a late start getting out in the morning—no gravel driving and relatively close to home.

From the meadows above Road 23, there’s a wonderful view to the south of a very full (!) Hills Creek Reservoir. 

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Late Start to a New Year of Botanizing

Wasp enjoying the flowers of Hooker’s fairybells (Prosartes hookeri)

With the rainy, cold winter transitioning into a rainy, cold spring, I’ve barely done any botanizing off my property this year. What few fair weather days we’ve had, I decided to stay home and protect my own wildflowers by removing blackberries—addictively satisfying work. My one break from the rain was heading down to the California desert for a few days in March (95° almost every day!) to see the “super bloom” at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Joshua Tree National Park (click on those links for my Flickr photo albums).

Enough wildflowers are popping up now that Sabine and I decided it was finally time to head to our favorite place to start the botanizing season. On Friday, April 28, we drove down to Hills Creek Reservoir and followed Road 21 as far as Mutton Meadow before heading back. It was a lovely day though crisp until the morning clouds eventually burned off. It’s still quite early, with almost nothing in bloom in Mutton Meadow, but we found plenty to see and enjoy.

This rocky oak-covered meadow area is just north of the reservoir. More meadows are hidden behind the ones along the road.

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