Posts Tagged ‘Bear’

Expect the Unexpected

A very happy Siskiyou fritillary on Heavenly Bluff.

Siskiyou fritillaries sure grow well on Heavenly Bluff.

With a week of dry weather and the snow quickly retreating to higher elevations, I wanted to head back to Heavenly Bluff to get another look at the beautiful Siskiyou fritillary (Fritillaria glauca) there. Last year when John Koenig and I went up there (see Siskiyou Fritillary in Lane County ), we were having an extremely dry May, and despite some snow on the road, the frits were past peak. I thought we might have better luck this year since, although things are still early, we’ve had regular rain all spring. So Sabine Dutoit, Nancy Bray, and I headed up toward Heavenly Bluff on May 12, just 2 days later than my trip with John last year. After all the obstacles on the road on that trip, I figured we’d better have a backup plan, so since we were going right by the Bearbones Mountain trailhead, we could go there if we couldn’t make it to Heavenly Bluff.

I was surprised at how good the road condition was for the first half of May—no snow, no logs, and not even a rock out of place. Then we discovered why when we passed a brushcutter along the road. I talked to someone at the ranger station later who said they had no one working up there, but there is a lot of private timber company land in the area, and there was some sign of thinning, so it could be they are getting ready for more logging. In any case, we were able to make it all the way to Heavenly Bluff. Why someone would clear that final deadend spur road, I don’t know. But I was very pleased to be able to drive right to where we could walk easily up through the woods to the opening. Pleased that is until we got out of the car and discovered the tire was flat. Perhaps it was the very short section of the spur road where there were a lot of small, sharp rocks, or perhaps the tire was already leaking as I’d had to inflate it last week when it looked a little low. Whatever the reason, changing a tire had not been on my agenda. I couldn’t face dealing with it immediately, and I was not about to miss out on my botanizing, having come all this way, so we headed up to the bluff. Read the rest of this entry »

Another Great Wildlife Day

I haven’t been posting much lately. Partly, that is due to my winding down my botanizing as the flowers are also finishing their season. The other reason is that I’ve been exploring some High Cascade wetlands. In the last few weeks I’ve visited Gold Lake Bog, Blue Lake, Hand and Scott lakes, and some interesting unnamed bogs near Little Cultus Lake, an area I’d never investigated before. On Friday (September 14), however, I went back to one of my favorite haunts, and the last one I posted about: Hills Peak. I’ve been wanting to show Molly Juillerat (Middle Fork District botanist) the wonderful lake on the east side of the peak because it is home to lesser bladderwort, one of the rare species the Forest Service monitors (see the previous post). Molly was finally free after fires near Oakridge pulled her away from her other duties, and Nancy was also able to join us.

The sphagnum moss on the mounds by the lake takes on a gorgeous copper color as the summer fades.

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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 »

Awesome Day at Groundhog

The area around Groundhog and Little Groundhog Mountains (really two ends of the same formation) is one of my very favorite places. I discovered it 9 years ago and have returned over 20 times. Although it is highly impacted, with many roads and a great deal of the forest logged in the recent past, this is an amazing spot for roadside botanizing and watching butterflies. When Molly Juillerat, the botanist for the Middle Fork district of the Willamette National Forest, asked me to help her lead a field trip to see plants and butterflies, I immediately suggested Groundhog Mountain as the destination.

A multitude of tadpoles filled the water beneath the bur-reed (Sparganium natans?)

Yesterday, (August 9), Molly and I headed up to Groundhog to “prehike” for Friday’s field trip. There are no trails, so we were mainly checking the road conditions and deciding which of the many great sites would be most interesting at this time of year. There are numerous wetlands, several good seeps, excellent rocky roadcut spots, and several small lakes to choose from. Our first stop was Waterdog Lake. This shallow body of water is usually drying out in August, creating mud flats along the edges where specialized plants such as Rorippa curvisiliqua and Gnaphalium palustre appear. I was surprised to see how much water was still there. The Rorippa had barely started as what mud there was had not really dried out yet. The unusual spherical flowers of Sparganium were sticking up above the water. I’m still not sure of the species as they had characteristics of both S. angustifolium and the far less common S. natans. Read the rest of this entry »

Hell’s Half Acre Heaven for Butterflies

Yesterday (August 1), I headed up to Hells Half Acre for what was supposed to be a fairly relaxing day. I’d had good luck with butterflies in August there in the past and thought I might take it easy and just enjoy hanging out in the meadows and not doing any strenuous bushwhacking. Hah! Most of the forest plants such as bunchberry (Cornus unalaschkensis) and queen’s cup (Clintonia uniflora) were on the wane. There were lots of ericaceous plants coming into bloom including Orthilia secunda and some very pretty Pyrola picta. One clump of indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora) was just starting to push through the ground.

An elegant clodius parnassian nectaring on arrowleaf groundsel (Senecio triangularis)

Lots of things were still blooming in the lower meadow area, however. I was disappointed that there were no butterflies in the first two meadows (or sections of a larger meadow if you like), in spite of lingering Senecio triangularis and Valeriana sitchensis, two butterfly favorites. These meadows were quite overgrown with bracken and, as the trail is seldom used, had to be plowed through. The last meadow was a different story. It was much grassier, with very little bracken, and filled with fresh Alice’s fleabane (Erigeron aliceae) and pink owl-clover (Orthocarpus imbricatus). A number of blues were flitting about along with some checkerspots, mylitta crescents, a few parnassians, and at least one hydaspe fritillary. I spent a while trying to photograph them before heading up to Hell’s Half Acre, the much larger meadow at the end of the trail. I was joined by a very nice couple and their sweet dog Pepper who were unsure about where the trail was. For those going up there, the trail is really hard to follow in the meadows, and there is no sign where the trail picks up in the woods on the right-hand side just in front of an enormous noble fir. Read the rest of this entry »

Bears Gone Wild

Perhaps I should have expected a bear-ful day yesterday (June 5), since I was going to spend the day on Bearbones Mountain. As I drove up Bearbones Mountain Road 2127 past Hills Creek Reservoir, a bear dashed across the clearcut into the woods. Seeing a bear once in a year is always exciting—last year I didn’t see any—but this makes 3 bear sightings this year, and it isn’t even summer (officially or weather-wise). A couple of more bends, another clearcut, and this time it was a lone elk. I’m glad they find something good about these hideous clearcuts. Unfortunately, there are a number of private parcels within the Willamette National Forest in this area, and they’ve been pounding them hard over the last few years, not leaving so much as a single tree standing. In fact, there’s a new one at the base of Bearbones just since my last trip there in 2008.

bear damage

The aftermath of a bear’s search for Lomatium roots

When I reached the old lookout site on top of Bearbones, I noticed some bear damage along one side. As usual, they were after Lomatium hallii, evidently one of their favorite plants. The damage grew steadily worse as I headed down the wonderful side ridge. As I followed this bear hurricane along the ridge, I witnessed an increasing number of areas where the rocks were strewn about, and rootless tops of the Lomatium were lying about as evidence of their feeding frenzy. Read the rest of this entry »

A Sunny Day on Lookout Mountain

As I drove south on I-5 on Sunday (May 30), I was thrilled to see the clouds breaking up and an actual sunny day appearing in Douglas County. I was heading to Lookout Mountain near the North Umpqua and didn’t want to miss the almost 360° view—nor did I want to spend one more day dealing with clouds and sprinkles. Enough already!

View east from summit

From the summit you can see snow remaining on Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey and the ridges of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide.

Last year I had tried to get up to Lookout Mountain for the very first wave of plants but had been thwarted by snow on the road several miles from the trailhead. By the time I was able to get back there again, I had missed the early bloomers. The road to the trailhead wraps around the north side of the mountain. This creates a problem, as the south-facing side of the open, rocky summit melts out and starts blooming before the road clears out. But with less of a winter snowpack to deal with and trying a week later, I was game to give it another shot. Read the rest of this entry »

Deception Butte again and a early look at Patterson Mountain

Heading back up to Deception Butte yesterday (May 29), I came upon a gorgeous bear on Rd 5847. This was probably about where Sabine and I saw a bear several weeks ago. Could it be the same bear? I imagine their territories are fairly large, but perhaps it is a related bear. It is always exciting to see a bear but especially exciting to see bears (or the same bear!) twice in one month. The flowers at Deception Butte are a little farther along than my last trip (see Dodecatheon at Deception Butte) but not as far as I expected. While the Dodecatheon pulchellum is finished, the Lomatium utriculatum still looks beautiful. Some little Hemizonella minima has started, and there are beautiful flowering plants of Cerastium arvense down low on the far west end of the meadow.

circumhorizon arc

A circumhorizon arc above Deception Rock

Normally, my eyes tend to be fixed on the ground, looking for plants and stepping carefully across steep rocky areas such as this. Luckily, I looked up in time to see a surprising show of color in the sky. Two prisms of light were hanging along the same line. This really confounded me. It certainly wasn’t the arc of a rainbow, and I’d seen sundogs—they are vertical on either side of the sun. An internet search indicated this was most likely a circumhorizon arc, something I’d never heard of before. It’s part of a very large halo around the sun. It is only seen at certain times of year when the sun is very high. I was in fact looking due south right around when the sun was highest in the sky. I had seen a light halo around the sun as I drove east of Hwy 58 in the morning, so evidently the atmospheric conditions were right for some wonderful optic phenomena. For some amazing photos of circumhorizon arcs and other colorful atmospheric displays, check out Atmospheric Optics. Read the rest of this entry »

Dodecatheon at Deception Butte

Madrone

Madrone (Arbutus menziesii)

Although the promised sunny day didn’t really materialize until after we got back to the car, Sabine and I had a good trip to Deception Butte near Oakridge yesterday (May 12). It was a last-minute decision to head up to this relatively low-elevation, rocky knob after I remembered that there was Dodecatheon pulchellum up there growing in a very similar situation to the ones at Cloverpatch, and I wanted to continue to survey and collect at my known populations. Being a botanist—not an ardent hiker—we headed up to the upper trailhead (accessed from Road 549 off of 5847). This makes the trip quite short, although it is still steep and rocky.

The open rocky slope was not as far along as I’d hoped, in spite of being south-facing and only 3500′ in elevation. Both Lomatium hallii and L. utriculatum were in bloom, along with a few of their close relative, Sanicula graveolens. Lots of things were showing promise of a great bloom in the next few weeks, however, and as we traversed the open area, we found more Delphinium menziesii in bloom along with a few early Castilleja hispida, Romanzoffia californica, and Cascadia nuttallii. The tiny Collinsia parviflora and Mimulus alsinoides were also in bloom. The madrones are gorgeous up there. The ones up at our level were in bud, but we could see them blooming a couple of hundred feet below near the bottom of the open area. Tempting as it was to go down the slope to see what else might be further along, I could imagine how my calves would feel trying to get back up to the top, so I settled for binoculars to explore the lower areas. Read the rest of this entry »

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