Posts Tagged ‘pika’

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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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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A Minor Thrill at Hills Peak

On Thursday (August 23), John Koenig and I spent a lovely day in the area by Hills Peak. I had been looking forward to showing John one of my favorite areas in the Calapooyas, a part of the Western Cascades that is special to him as well. He “adopted” the Dome Rock wilderness area for Oregon Wild (then ONRC) back in the late ’90s when they were trying to assess all the small unprotected wilderness areas in the state. The day was absolutely gorgeous with none of the heat of the previous week or so and no sign of smoke from any of the small fires in the area.

The shallow lake has many pond lilies (Nuphar polysepala) and is surrounded by bog-loving sedges.

We started out the day by walking down the old road to the shallow lake to the east of Hills Peak. I didn’t have time to check it out on my earlier trip this year (see Hills Creek to Hills Peak). Although the majority of flowers were finished, there was still plenty to see. Poking around a small wet meadow beside this old road, we found dozens of one-flowered gentians (Gentianopsis simplex), including a few plants whose petals were twice the normal length. There were also a great many starry ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes stellata). I’ve seen these both here before, but one of these days I’ll come back earlier enough to see what must be a lovely display of mountain shooting stars (Dodecatheon jeffreyi). Read the rest of this entry »

Hills Creek to Hills Peak

On Sunday (July 29), I drove down along Road 21 past Hills Creek Reservoir, yet again. I believe that’s the 13th time this season—and it won’t be the last. It is such a fascinating area botanically with a few good trails and a great deal of roadside interest. I was still tired from bushwhacking around Bearbones Mountain, so I wanted to avoid any real hiking and to instead check up on some good roadside spots and see as much of Hills Peak, way out past the end of 21, as I had time and energy for. My first stop was to Youngs Flat Picnic Area to see if the piperias were in bloom. What great luck, the white-flowered royal rein orchid (Piperia transversa) was in perfect bloom. Chaparral rein orchid (P. elongata) blooms a little later and was just starting, although I found several in good bloom. As far as I know, it is impossible to tell the various species apart from the leaves. So this was the time to check out some of the areas along the road where I’d seen the leaves but never the flowers. So my next stop was Mutton Meadow. In the woods across the road from the meadow were some scattered Piperia transversa, no elongata. The meadow itself was filled with elegant cluster-lily (Brodiaea elegans), some kind of birdbeak (Cordylanthus sp.)—a rare plant around here, and yampah (Perideridia spp.). I believe I saw both P. gairdneri and P. oregana, but until the seeds appear, I can’t be sure. That’s a tough genus to get a handle on.

Left and middle are Piperia transversa. It has mostly white flowers with long spurs that are perpendicular to the stem. On the right is the mostly green Piperia elongata. Its spurs are even longer and point in any direction.

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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 »

Hunting for Plants at Hills Peak

Pine white sipping from the tiny tubular flowers of Ageratina occidentalis

Hunting season is one of my least favorite times of year. I really resent being told it is unsafe for me to be up in the mountains. So I ignore that and go about my business, my only accommodation being that I wear brightly colored clothes. In many years of botanizing in last summer and fall, I’ve never run into a hunter actually hunting. Usually I see them driving around, and I’ve had conversations with some who are camping or heading back to their cars. Well, there’s a first for everything.

I headed back up to Hills Peak yesterday (September 11), to check out the spots I’d missed on my two previous trips (click here to see previous posts) and to visit with the pikas one last time. Seeing a truck parked by the entrance to the pika slope, I started the day by parking just a bit farther up the road. From here, I walked through the woods to the wetland just south of Road 2153. I checked many of the numerous patches of the larger form of Mimulus primuloides to see if there were any stolons like there were on the small ones at the nearby wetlands and earlier in the week at Echo Basin (see Late Bloomers at Echo Basin & Ikenick Creek). I couldn’t find a single one. There were obvious runners in several patches of the small, hairy form on the south edge of the wetland. I don’t know what it means, but it is interesting, and I’ll keep paying attention to that feature in the future. Read the rest of this entry »

Pikas, and a Coyote, and Monkeyflowers, Oh My!

On my First Trip to Hills Peak in northeastern Douglas County (click here for aerial photo), I took a look at the top of the peak and three nearby wetlands. But there were several interesting looking spots that I did not have time for, so I decided it deserved a return trip. Boy, was I right! What a wonderful day I had Thursday (August 26), with great weather, interesting and unusual plants (even though most flowers were finished), and some great wildlife experiences, including a terrific hour spent hanging out with pikas.

Pika checking out its hay cache

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Visiting with Whetstone Mountain’s Pikas

An adorable young pika (Ochotona princeps) poses for the camera.

Pikas have to be the cutest animals in the Western Cascades, if not anywhere. It always makes me smile to hear their nasal “eemp” sound emanating from under the rocks of a talus slope, and it is a really special treat to actually see them. I hadn’t been to Whetstone Mountain in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness in several years, and I was looking forward to spending some time looking for pikas, as I’d seen them there in the past. Along the drive up, there were great masses of pink rhododendrons and purple Penstemon cardwellii, and this continued at the parking area and much of the trail. The moist woods were also beautiful with a great show of bunchberry (Cornus unalaschkensis), queen’s cup (Clintonia uniflora), and Sitka valerian (Valeriana sitchensis). The foliage covering the forest floor was quite lush with a great variety of interesting leaf shapes, but I didn’t linger too much until I got to my favorite spot—a great talus slope next to a shallow pond. This is prime pika habitat as the rocks are large and stable, and there is plenty of foliage nearby for hay-making. 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. 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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