Posts Tagged ‘birds’

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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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 »

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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Finally a Look at a Hidden Meadow at Tire Mountain

There's a great view of the mountains beyond Oakridge, including Diamond Peak on the right and Fuji Mountain on the left, both still snowy. You can also make out the two west-facing meadows of Heckletooth Mountain.

From the hidden lower meadow, there’s a distant view of the mountains beyond Oakridge, including Diamond Peak on the right and Fuji Mountain in the center, both still snowy. You can also make out the two west-facing meadows of Heckletooth Mountain near Oakridge, to the left and below Diamond Peak.

Last month I went to Tire Mountain to check out a hidden meadow below the trail near the beginning of the Tire Mountain trail (see Off the Beaten Path at Tire Mountain). I wasn’t paying attention, however, and went up the wrong meadow. Having first explored it in the fall of 2012, I still needed to get back and check it out while it was still in bloom. I had also wanted to return to see the yampah (Perideridia sp.) in bloom and hopefully collect some seeds of early blooming flowers. My schedule has been pretty full, so I figured I’d better jump on the first decent day before it was too late. So on Sunday, June 19, I headed up to Tire Mountain hoping to accomplish at least some of my goals. Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Beaten Path at Tire Mountain

Harsh paintbrush in bloom, looking south across the large east-facing meadow near the beginning of the trail.

Harsh paintbrush in bloom, looking south across the large east-facing meadow near the beginning of the trail.

This yampah has highly divided and irregular lower leaves as described for Periderida bolanderi, but the upper leaf has only a few lobes, and looks much more like one would expect for P. oregana.

This yampah has highly divided and irregular lower leaves as described for Periderida bolanderi, but the upper leaf has only a few lobes, and looks much more like one would expect for P. oregana.

Tire Mountain is one of my favorite spots and one of the premier wildflower destinations in Lane County and in the Western Cascades. Yet I have very few reports on my blog. That is because I had already been to Tire Mountain so many times before I started my blog that I haven’t been very often in the last few years, and it had been 5 years since I’d been during flowering season—far too long! I never had gotten back to check out the lower meadows that I explored in fall of 2012 (see Forensic Botany at Tire Mountain), and I also needed to go back to look at the suspicious yampah that might be Perideridia bolanderi. I was on my own for the day, so it seemed a good opportunity to do some more exploring, and there’s so much to see at Tire Mountain, both on and off the trail. Read the rest of this entry »

More Discoveries along the Calapooya Crest

Cascade gras-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata var. intermedia) is one of my favorite wildflowers and a wonderful bonus this late in the season.

Cascade grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata var. intermedia) is one of my favorite wildflowers and a wonderful bonus this late in the season.

Ever since our early June trip to the meadow along Road 3810 on the south side of Loletta Peak (see Another Exciting Day in the Calapooyas: The Sequel), John Koenig and I had been planning to return to see the later blooming plants, especially the Cascade fringed grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata) that we found there. Just before we had planned to go, Ed Alverson e-mailed me about the quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) we had discovered there. He’s been studying the scattered populations on the west side of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington. The timing was perfect, as we were able to take Ed along on August 12 to see the population in what we were now calling “Aspen Meadow.” We had been somewhat concerned with all the fires down in Douglas County, especially the Potter Mountain complex burning just east of Balm Mountain (thankfully not actually on Potter Mountain). But other than some drifting smoke above, we had no problems reaching our destination and enjoying what was an otherwise lovely day. Read the rest of this entry »

More Wonderful Wildlife Sightings at Hills Peak

As I had done on my most recent late season trip to Hills Peak (see Another Great Wildlife Day) in 2012, I stopped at a bridge over the Middle Fork of the Willamette where it is still a small stream to see the salmon. There must have been 50 of them swimming in place together, packed like sardines, you might say.

As I had done on my most recent late season trip to Hills Peak (see Another Great Wildlife Day) in 2012, I stopped at a bridge over the Middle Fork of the Willamette where it is still a small stream to see the salmon. There must have been 50 of them swimming in place together, packed like sardines, you might say.

Having finally seen my first pika of the year on my trip to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide, I was reminded that I had never gotten to Hills Peak last year—my favorite pika-viewing site. With the flowers fading, I decided that would be a good destination on July 23, 2015. I’d also been wanting to try climbing up to the base of the cliffs on the left side of the talus slope for several years, but I’d had friends with me on my previous trips and didn’t want to drag anyone else up such a steep slope or make them wait for me, although hanging out on the lower rocks, watching for pikas is an enjoyable way to pass the day. And in fact that’s what I did for most of the day after I finished checking out the cliffs, where most things were finished except the Scotch harebell (Campanula rotundifolia). I also checked out the small bog and lake to the west, but there were only a few things left in bloom, so I went back to visit some more with the pikas. Since I’m so far behind on my reports, I’ll just share some photos of the wonderful wildlife I saw.

A pika rearranging some thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) leaves in its cache.

A pika rearranging some thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) leaves in its cache.

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NARGS Campout Day 2: Loletta Lakes

Juan found a nice shady spot under some willows next to an amazing display of monkey flower (I'm not sure if this is now Erythranthe guttate or not) in the wetland near Loletta Lakes.

In the wetland near Loletta Lakes, Juan found a nice shady spot under some willows next to an amazing display of monkey flower (I’m not sure if this is now Erythranthe guttata or not) where he could stay cool and perhaps enjoy the display.

For the second day of our NARGS annual campout (June 20), we headed up Coal Creek Road 2133 to do some roadside botanizing. We pretty much retraced the two earlier trips John Koenig and I did several weeks earlier (see Another Exciting Day in the Calapooyas and Another Exciting Day in the Calapooyas: The Sequel). One of our usual participants, Kathy Pyle, had arrived the night before accompanied as always by her cute little dogs, Juan and Paco. We were also joined for the day by Sheila Klest, the proprietor of Trillium Gardens, a local native plant nursery. Read the rest of this entry »

Park Creek Coming Into Bloom

Last year, when Mark Turner was looking for places to photograph shrubs for his upcoming Shrubs of the Pacific Northwest book, I suggested he visit the Park Creek Basin near Three Pyramids. There are lots of interesting shrubs growing within a short distance of the roadside. Not only was he successful photographing the shrubs he was looking for, he also discovered a very rare one: Ribes triste, known as swamp red currant or wild red currant. I located the plants later in the summer (see Rare Currrant at Park Creek), but was anxious to see them in bloom. I also wanted to see the flowers of some odd little willows I’d found on that trip.

Snow remains on Three Pyramids beyond Park Creek.

I decided to head up there on Wednesday (June 6). Sabine accompanied me. I was concerned about the timing, as I hadn’t been that far north yet this year, and there’s no telling where the snow level is in a cool spring like this. Last year, Mark saw them in perfect bloom on June 23, but in 2011 we were about a month behind “normal”. It’s been cool and damp this spring but not as extreme as last year, so I figured I might hit it right. I used to be quite good at figuring out when a particular plant might be in bloom, based on spring weather, winter snowpack, and past experience at a variety of locations. But the last few years, the nasty springs had really thrown off my phenology radar. It seems I might be back in business—my timing was perfect! Read the rest of this entry »

Singing the Blues at Tidbits

Explorer's gentian (Gentiana calycosa) growing out of a crack in the rock face at the base of the "east Tidbit". Seeing this same plant well over a decade ago was what first made me wonder if these rock-loving gentians were really the same species as those that grow in wetlands in the High Cascades and elsewhere in the West.

On Friday (September 23), Nancy Bray, Ingrid Ford and her adorable dog Bogy, and I headed up to Tidbits to see the gentians. I had planned to get up there early in the season to see the many great plants that grow on the massive rock formations, but there are just too many places to visit. But although it was actually the first day of fall, there are still a few things to see. Thank goodness for the gorgeous gentians. They are somewhat like dessert after a great meal, saving the best for last, the final sweet treat that lingers with you and tides you over until the next flower season. There are not very many species of Gentiana in the Cascades, and they are never terribly common. Tidbits is one of the few places in the Western Cascades with a good show of gentians, so it is always worth a late season trip. Read the rest of this entry »

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