Posts Tagged ‘Calapooya Mountains’

Second Butterfly Survey in the Calapooyas

Looking north from the edge of the plateau where Loletta Lakes lie, there’s a good view of the Coal Creek drainage to the right and the hill above the quarry that we visited the previous week on the left. I’ve been to the rocky summit a number of times, but I’m still eyeing the rocky area down the eastern slope. Some day….

One week earlier, we looked for Sierra Nevada blues in the wetlands along the crest of the Calapooya Mountains (see Second Year of Sierra Nevada Blue Surveys) with Willamette National Forest wildlife biologist Joe Doerr. We didn’t find as many as we’d hoped, so thinking that perhaps it was a bit early, we decided to wait an extra week before returning to the area to check out some additional wetlands. So on Tuesday, July 18, Joe, Joanne, Lori, John, and I returned to the area near Loletta Lakes. We were joined on this outing by Matt Georgeff, another Middle Fork district wildlife biologist. Read the rest of this entry »

Gorgeous Day at Grassy Ranch

From the summit above Grassy Ranch, there’s a grand view. Looking southeast, we could see still snowy Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey.Nancy and I saw the burned area in the middle ground when we drove up Medicine Creek Road a couple of weeks earlier. Spreading dogbane was abundant and attracting lots of pollinators.

On Saturday, July 15, John Koenig and I spent a long, wonderful day up in the Calapooya Mountains. After the butterfly survey a few days before (see Second Year of Sierra Nevada Blue Surveys), I couldn’t wait to get back up there. We decided we were going to try to drive up Coal Creek Road 2133 without making very many stops—after all, we just drove by there a few days before. Our destination was Grassy Ranch and Reynolds Ridge, over on the south-facing slope of the Calapooyas. It was a long drive coming from Lane County to the north, and we wanted to have as much time as possible over on that side since we seldom get there. But alas, there were so many beautiful things to see, we just had to make one quick stop, then another, and another, and ….. We didn’t even cross over to the south side of the ridge until after noon. The first stop was for a beautiful sweep of Cardwell’s penstemon (Penstemon cardwellii). Then we had to get out at our favorite area where there is a long, wet roadside ditch filled with wildflowers. Here we discovered a single blooming plant of Sitka mistmaiden (Romanzoffia sitchensis), a species I’d never seen in the area. We surmised it must have come from a seed swept down the creek from a population hidden far up the steep, rocky slope. There were also lots of my favorite clover, King’s clover (Trifolium productum var. kingii or T. kingii, the name seems to go back and forth).

Cardwell’s penstemon seems to prefer gravel roadsides to more natural habitats.

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Second Year of Sierra Nevada Blue Surveys

A male Sierra Nevada blue kindly sitting on my finger for a portrait at Bradley Lake

Last year, Joe Doerr, Willamette National Forest (WNF) wildlife biologist organized several trips to the Calapooyas to survey a lovely little butterfly known variously as Sierra Nevada or gray blue (Agriades or Plebejus podarce), which is at the northern end of its range in the Calapooyas (see More Butterfly Surveying in the Calapooyas). This year, we returned to many of the same areas we visited last year to see how they were doing. Our first trip was July 11. Joe and I were joined by John Koenig, Lori Humphreys, and Joanne Lowden, Middle Fork District wildlife biologist.

Bradley Lake is one of the prettiest subalpine wetlands I know of in the Western Cascades.

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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 »

Another Beautiful Day on Balm Mountain

The rocks at the southern end of the ridge are quite extraordinary, made even more beautiful by a fabulous display of colorful wildflowers, including sulphur buckwheat and skyrocket.

Clustered broomrape (Orobanche fasciculata) was popping up frequently. This particular plant had a reddish blush over the usual pale yellow flowers.

Clustered broomrape (Orobanche fasciculata) was popping up frequently. This particular plant had a reddish blush over the usual pale yellow flowers.

On July 26, John Koenig and I went for a long awaited trip to Balm Mountain. Back in 2011—a big snow year—we had made the trip up there (see Not Balmy Yet at Balm Mountain!), but since snow blocked the road and forced us to walk almost two miles to the parking spot, we didn’t have time to get to the south end of the mountain. We were relieved that nothing blocked the road on this trip or kept us from making it all the way to the south end of the ridge.

Although getting late in the bloom season, there were still plenty of flowers to satisfy us, including buckwheats (Eriogonum umbellatum and E. compositum), coyote mint (Monardella odoratissima), frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa), tongue-leaf luina (Rainiera stricta), and Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum). We saw a gorgeous stand of western blue flax (Linum lewisii) along the road, but by the time we were hiking, all we saw of the many plants on the ridge were blue petals lying on the ground. Their ephemeral petals only last a day. Read the rest of this entry »

More Butterfly Surveying in the Calapooyas

I watched a male Sierra Nevada blue (top) chasing a female around, but she played hard to get, and he never managed to catch her.

After our successful day finding Sierra Nevada blues at Bristow Prairie (see Searching for Butterflies at Bristow Prairie), Joe Doerr, Willamette National Forest (WNF) wildlife biologist, was hot to see if we could find more populations of the rare butterfly within the WNF. Other surveyors had been looking for them on the Umpqua National Forest in the past couple of years, but after I spotted them at Loletta Lakes last year (see NARGS Campout Day 2: Loletta Lakes), just inside the WNF, it seemed likely there might be more spots nearby. The boundary of the Forests is the crest of the Calapooyas, so while the northern Bristow Prairie site is in Lane County, both populations there are just west of the crest, putting them over on the Umpqua National Forest side. So far, this area is the northern end of their limited range, which reaches south to the Sierra Nevada in California. Read the rest of this entry »

Searching for Butterflies at Bristow Prairie

A gorgeous clodius parnassian. Note the transparent wing tips.

An elegant clodius parnassian. Note the transparent wing tips.

On Monday, June 20, I was invited by wildlife biologist Joe Doerr to join a group of wildlife biologists and botanists from the Willamette National Forest on a trip to Bristow Prairie. The goals were generally to familiarize everyone with butterfly species in our area and specifically to search for the Sierra Nevada blue, also called gray blue or arrowhead arctic blue (Agriades or Plebejus podarce—so many names!). Last year I discovered it at Reynolds Ridge (see A Day Full of Surprises) a year after it was first discovered there by Forest Service biologists surveying for it in southern Oregon. I mentioned it to Lori Humphreys who promptly went out and discovered it for the first time in Lane County in the little wetland off of the High Divide trail just north of Bristow Prairie. I saw it the same spot a few days later (see NARGS Campout Day 1: Bristow Prairie). This being the northernmost site so far, it seemed like the nearest place to take everyone to see it. Along with the forest service employees, our group included Lori, Dana Ross, Gary Pearson, and Rick Ahrens, expert naturalists and also non-agency “volunteers”. Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Meadows Below Youngs Rock

Looking south from the lower meadow, there's a good view of Dome Rock and other areas of the Calapooyas, still with some snow.

Looking south across the lower meadow, there’s a good view of the Calapooyas, still with some snow. The bright green shrubs on the rocks are mock-orange (Philadelphus lewisii).

The Youngs Rock Trail in southeastern Lane County follows a south-facing ridge up through a string small meadows and openings. It’s a favorite of mine for both flowers and scenery, and I’d already been on various parts of the trail 23 times. I’d done some exploring off trail, but there were more meadows I hadn’t been to yet. Since it’s still early in the season for most of the flowers in the lower mountains, I thought it would be a good time to do some exploring to see if these meadows would be worth a trip during peak season. No one could accompany me on Saturday, April 30, but that was just as well as I hate to drag my friends out bushwhacking until I know how hard it will be and if it will even be worth the extra effort.

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First Taste of Spring

A beautiful mourning cloak basks in the warming sun at Campers Flat

A beautiful mourning cloak basks in the warming sun at Campers Flat

On Wednesday, February 24, Sabine Dutoit, Nancy Bray, Ginny McVickar, and I took advantage of the dry weather to head out to Hills Creek Reservoir south of Oakridge to look for the first wildflowers of the season. This has become an annual ritual, as it is usually warmer and drier down there, and the flower season gets an earlier start than on my property. While most of the early plants are small-flowered and not particularly showy (though still exciting in February!), the highlight of the trip is always the sheets of yellow gold stars (Crocidium multicaule). I was pretty sure we’d see some in bloom but not so sure the sheets of yellow on the cliffs along the reservoir would have kicked in yet. While the other two have seen this a number of times, this was the first time Ginny had been with us, so we were really pleased that the grand display was starting in one spot. If the rains keep coming, it should be stunning in March and may last for another month or two if it doesn’t dry out. The first Sierra gooseberry (Ribes roezlii) and Halls lomatium (Lomatium hallii) were just beginning. They ought to be quite beautiful in a few weeks, especially if we get more warm weather. 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 »

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