Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

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 »

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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Late Summer Colors at Echo Basin

Alaska cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis)

Giant Alaska cedars (Callitropsis nootkatensis) are one of the highlights of this trail. This ancient tree is at least 5′ in diameter!

On August 17, Sabine Dutoit and John Koenig joined me for a trip to Echo Basin. I hadn’t been there in 6 years (see Late Bloomers at Echo Basin & Ikenick Creek), and it was another site that John had never been to. It’s a great late summer destination as there are lots of late-blooming flowers, and it stays cool and damp later than many other areas, especially those to the south in Lane County where I spend the majority of my time. It was also nice to take a break from all the bushwhacking and walk on a trail for once, although, on the way back, Sabine commented that all the downed trees across the trail in one area made it only slightly easier than a bushwhack. Since it is a relatively short hike, we took our time getting there, stopping to look at rock ferns (Asplenium trichomanes, Woodsia scopulina, Cheilanthes gracillima, and Cryptogramma acrostichoides) growing in the lava areas along Hwy 126, and to Fish Lake to eat lunch and check out some sedges and asters that John and I had seen as the sun was setting on our way home from Pigeon Prairie the previous week.

Fish Lake

On our way to Echo Basin, we stopped at Fish Lake to admire a show of western asters in the now dried out lake bed. While I didn’t recognize it at the time, the view in the distance is of Echo Peak and the ridge just above Echo Basin.

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Pigeon Prairie Painted with Purple

A stunning spread of gentians in a secluded portion of Pigeon Prairie I hadn't seen before

A stunning spread of gentians in a secluded portion of Pigeon Prairie I hadn’t seen before

I spent some time attempting to photograph bees as they pushed their way into the gentian flowers. You have to be really quick!

I spent some time attempting to photograph bees as they pushed their way into the gentian flowers. You have to be really quick!

It had only been two years since my last trip to Pigeon Prairie and Little Pigeon Prairie (see Gentian Season at Pigeon Prairies), but John Koenig had never been there, and after seeing the gorgeous explorers gentian (Gentiana calycosa) on our trip to Bradley Lake the previous week (see Another Look at Aspen Meadow and Bradley Lake), I was anxious to see more gentians. There’s a great show of king’s gentian (Gentiana sceptrum) at both prairies, so on August 10, we made the long drive north to Marion County to spend a lovely day exploring Pigeon Prairie with a short stop at Parish Lake Bog on the way home since John hadn’t been there either. Nothing much new to report except that we saw lots of rough-winged swallows and more cedar waxwings chowing down on a huge gathering of some kind of insect (cranefly?) bouncing around above the surface of Parish Lake. Still, I thought people might enjoy some photos of the gorgeous gentians at Pigeon Prairie. Even non-flower lovers would probably take pause at these statuesque purple beauties! Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Hidden Lake(s)

The sphagnum bog alongside Hidden Lake

The cool sphagnum bog alongside Hidden Lake

Just 4 miles due south of Terwilliger Hot Springs, Hidden Lake has become a popular destination in the Cougar Reservoir area. During the recent NPSO Annual Meeting last month, there were two trips offered to botanize at Hidden Lake. Since I was leading hikes elsewhere (see Field Trip Highlights from NPSO Annual Meeting), I didn’t go on either of those, but I hadn’t been there for years, so I thought it was about time to go back. And after noticing some other wetlands not too far from the lake, I was even more intrigued and headed out there on August 7. Read the rest of this entry »

Another Look at Aspen Meadow and Bradley Lake

Sliver Rock and Crater Lake forest fire

After we crossed over the crest of the Calapooyas, we had a great view to the south of Sliver Rock in the foreground just in front of Balm Mountain and Mount Bailey in the distance. We could also see the smoke spewing from the forest fire at Crater Lake. Most of the foreground is in the Boulder Creek Wilderness, parts of which burned in fires in 1996 and 2008.

After our terrific trip to Balm Mountain (see Another Beautiful Day on Balm Mountain), I really wanted to do some more exploring in the area, so I suggested to John Koenig that we check out the lower part of the south end of Balm. My idea was to go down Road 3810 to where it deadends at the Skipper Lakes trailhead, head up the trail to the small lakes, which I’d only been to once, and climb uphill to look at the rocks below where we’d ended up on our previous trip along the ridge. The roads have been quite iffy in the Calapooyas this year, but our friend Rob Castleberry had been at Balm right after us and had done part of Road 3810, so I had high hopes we might be successful. We headed up there August 4. Alas, we only made it a short ways farther than where Rob had been when we came upon several trees blocking the road. Not again! This has been a frustrating year for road conditions. Read the rest of this entry »

Field Trip Highlights from NPSO Annual Meeting

Thousands of mountain cat's ears blooming among the bunch grasses on Lowder Mountain

Thousands of mountain cat’s ears were blooming among the bunch grasses on the flat summit of Lowder Mountain.

This year was Emerald Chapter’s turn to host the Native Plant Society of Oregon‘s annual meeting, held this year in Rainbow in the McKenzie area. This is my chapter, based in Eugene, so I agreed to lead three field trips. We had perfect weather and great plants for all three days, and a great group of enthusiastic participants who were happy with whatever we came across. It was great having people with different interests and knowledge bases, and they spotted a number of additions to my list—something that always makes me happy. Below are a few highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

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