Posts Tagged ‘asters’

Butterflying at Groundhog Mountain

A lilac-bordered copper nectaring on Alice's fleabane (Erigeron aliceae)

On Tuesday (September 6), I returned to Groundhog Mountain to spend more time watching butterflies and seeing what was still in bloom. Groundhog Mountain is my go-to place when it seems too hot to do any real hiking. After stopping several times to photograph some difficult plants like the tiny-flowered spreading groundsmoke (Gayophytum diffusum), I parked in the wide spot where the bottom of Road 452 meets Road 2309. Already there were lots of butterflies including an unusually pale-bordered Lorquin’s admiral and a fresh hoary comma where the water flowed across the road. He kept disappearing on me when he closed his golden wings and his cryptic gray underside seemed to melt into the gravel road. The first of many Anna’s blues were also enjoying the damp soil. Since I only wanted to go as far as the Monardella area, just under a mile up the road, I walked up from here. It’s only 200 feet or so of elevation gain, and there really are flowers all along the road. The goldenrod was still blooming well along with loads of Eriogonum nudum. I don’t know why these weren’t of interest to the butterflies. They all seemed to be much more interested in the masses of leafy aster (Symphyotrichum foliaceum) and Cascade aster (Eucephalus ledophyllus). There were a good many fritillaries, all apparently hydaspe fritilliaries with cream undersides. I rarely see any of the species with the lovely silvery spots underneath. They seemed to be particular about the coyote mint (Monardella odoratissima). Their other favorite foodplant in my experience is horse mint (Agastache urticifolia), which blooms in one of the wetlands nearby but not along the road. There were lots of skippers and parnassians also enjoying the coyote mint, but the coppers never seemed to land on it at all. I did see one duskywing, a very dark individual, so possibly a Pacuvius, but these little guys seem very hard to tell apart.

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Hills Peak’s Wetlands and Wildlife

This western pond turtle wasn't happy to be "rescued" from the dangerous road.

Another great day for wildlife began before we even got to Hills Peak on Tuesday (August 23). As we drove out Road 21 around Hills Creek Reservoir, both Sabine and I took a double-take at an object on the edge of the road. I backed up when I realized it was a western pond turtle… intent on crossing the road! Picking him up wasn’t as easy as I expected. He squirmed and scratched much the way my cat does when I want to move her somewhere she doesn’t want to go. We were right near where Stony Creek meets the lake, so we brought him down to the water’s edge where he headed straight into the water. Hopefully if he gets the urge to go to the lake again, he can find a way under the road. I’ve never seen a pond turtle out that way, so it was great to see him, especially still alive and not squished on the road. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has posted a Western Pond Turtle fact sheet if you’re interested in learning more about these uncommon turtles in Oregon. Read the rest of this entry »

Last Wave of Flowers at Grasshopper Meadows

Yesterday (September 2), Sabine and I spent a relaxing and low-key day at Grasshopper Meadows. No exciting finds or multitudes of flowers, just a day out enjoying the wide open meadows and blue sky above. After a week off for inclement weather and other chores, it was just nice to get out again. It was very different than our other trip in June (see First Wave of Flowers at Grasshopper Meadows). Then everything was fresh and barely up out of the ground. Now most things are fading, the grasses are taking on a warmer tone, and many things, especially the early annuals, are completely dried out. It’s a fun challenge trying to recognize plants at this stage.

Asters put on the last great show of flowers in the meadow.

The foliage was still quite wet from rain the day before but was much drier out in the open meadow where surprisingly strong winds were blowing. It’s aster time in the meadow and little else was blooming. Most of the asters appeared to be western aster (Symphyotrichum spathulatum, formerly Aster occidentalis) with small, even-sized phyllaries, but this often mixes with leafy aster (S. foliaceum) with its much larger outer phyllaries, and there was certainly some variety in the larger sweeps of lavender. I would have expected a lot more butterflies, but the wind was too much for them except near the eastern edge where it was blocked by the trees. Read the rest of this entry »

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