Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

First Trip of the Year to Bristow Prairie

An unusual “pink-eyed Mary” (Collinsia grandiflora)!

So far, my botany season has been spent checking out lower elevation meadows in the Cascades. But finally, on June 4, it seemed like it was time to head up to the higher elevation sites. The Middle Fork District office told me that the day before they’d gotten a truck through Road 5850, which rides the ridge near Bristow Prairie, although there was a little bit of snow still along the side of the road. They weren’t sure about the upper part of Road 2125 where it comes into 5850, but I figured if the rest was clear, that part would be too. Thankfully it was, as I really wanted to see the early flowers at Bristow Prairie.

I saw a sawfly (sounds like a nursery rhyme or riddle: “I thought I saw a sawfly fly”) for the first time on Eagles Rock a few weeks ago (photo on right) and found another on this trip in the rock garden area (left). Actually, they are not flies (order Diptera) but are in the same order (Hymenoptera) as bees and wasps, and they fly with their legs hanging down the way wasps do. This one looks like the genus Trichiosoma. Although they are large and look rather intimidating, they don’t sting.

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Counting Purple Milkweed at Grassy Glade

A cedar (AKA juniper) hairstreak waiting for the milkweed buds to open.

Last year we did a lot of milkweed counts, but somehow we never counted the main population at Grassy Glade, even though we all went there many times. So on May 30, Maya Goklany, volunteer coordinator for Walama Restoration, and I went to Grassy Glade to look at the milkweed. Thankfully the road in was fine, and it didn’t look like there was much storm damage there. The purple (or heartleaf) milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) was just barely starting to bloom. Only a few plants had any open flowers, although several cedar hairstreaks were hanging around, hoping for some nectar from these butterfly favorites. Read the rest of this entry »

A Day of Uncommon Ferns and Sedges

Larkspur covered the mossy rocks of Sacandaga Bluff.

On May 3, John Koenig and I went back to Rigdon to check out what I now call Sacandaga Bluff, a wonderful rocky area hidden away between the Middle Fork of the Willamette River and Sacandaga Campground. Last year, Ed Alverson had told us he found a population there of Sierra cliffbrake (Pellaea brachyptera), an unusual fern found more commonly to the south. It is one of my favorite ferns, and I’ve written about finding new spots for it in Lane County several times. I went to this spot a couple of times later year, and once earlier this year (see last report), but I still wanted to see it in its high spring bloom. 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 »

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 »

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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