Hills Creek Reservoir

It feels like the season has officially begun with my first trip down Road 21 by Hills Creek Reservoir. It was so gorgeous when I got up yesterday that I decided to head out. Without prior planning, I didn’t have my printed lists or charged recorder batteries, so I scribbled some notes on a deposit slip, and took a lot of photos to try to fill out the sketchy lists I made last year for the Hills Creek Reservoir Cliffs and Youngs Flat picnic area.

Ceanothus cuneatus

Ceanothus cuneatus on cliffs along the reservoir

It’s still early, but there was a lot started. The Crocidium multicaule are gorgeous along the cliffs with a few seeds ripening. The numerous Ribes roezlii are finishing. Lots of adorable Tonella tenella in bloom there as well. The Mimulus are all starting: M. alsinoides, guttatus, and what looks like nasutus with the much bigger leaves. I haven’t heard back from Jennifer Modliszewski, the woman doing research on M. nasutus, on the specimen I sent her from that spot. The very first few Castilleja are starting, but it will be a little longer before there is much color there. The Sedum spathulifolium are in bud with the first Orobanche uniflora blooming among them. I saw (and got photos of) at least one Moss’ elfin flying around and also a pine elfin, something I rarely see, and one Acmon blue. There were also a couple of California tortoiseshells flying around and a couple of checkered skippers, most likely two-banded because there were lots of strawberries and no Sidalcea (the host plant for the common checkered skipper). The shrubs way up on the top of the biggest cliff area were in full bloom. I still think they are Ceanothus cuneatus. They are very early bloomers (none of the other white shrubs in the area are out yet) and the gray twiggy  look is pretty distinctive. I got a look with the binoculars and an okay zoom photo (above), but I’d feel a lot better about my ID if I could get closer. Where’s that jet pack I ordered!

Moss' elfin

Moss' elfin on Lomatium hallii

Then after a stop to photograph all the lovely Romanzoffia californica near the bridge bathroom, I walked around Youngs Flat picnic area. There were a number of fairy slippers in perfect bloom in the woods. I added to the list a lot of shrubs and water-loving plants by the river that I’d ignored last year. When I came back around to the picnic area, I was thrilled to see way more Piperia leaves just north of the picnic tables. The ones we looked at last year were to the south. I stopped counting at 50 and probably saw twice that. The dogwood bracts on the tree in the center are just unfurling. When we stopped by there last year on May 31, it was because the dogwood was in full bloom. That’s when Sabine spotted all the Piperia leaves. There was a stretch of old road near the water that was spotted with bird droppings. A couple of dozen spring azure were feasting on this tasty treat.

My next stop was to Secret Campground, less than a mile down the road. I’d never been there, it is really cute. The habitat is more open or more shrubby (lots of ninebark and Oemleria), and I didn’t find any Piperia. I did see quite a few Fritillaria affinis leaves and 6 or so plants in bud. My big score was a downed cottonwood branch still in perfect bloom. The darned things only bloom near the top, so it has been impossible to see the flowers until they fall to the ground. This was my first opportunity to take good photos of them. They are bright red when fresh and very pretty.

I went next to Mutton Meadows. When I got out of the car, right across from the sign, I went into the woods to the south, thinking the habitat looked similar to the Youngs Flat woods. Indeed there were Piperia leaves there! I did a quick walk around and counted 16 plants scattered about. Also pretty fairy slippers in bloom, fading Erythronium oregonum and some balsamroot leaves… and lots of poison oak. I did a quick zip across the meadow as there was not much in bloom and I had already diddled away most of the day. The Ranunuculus occidentalis were starting to bloom, there were lots of Collinsia parviflora along the bank, and I found several Montia linearis along the ditch and some Montia fontana in the water and one Cynoglossum grande in bloom. The last 3 are additions, to my list anyway. Then I went into the woods again across the road from the far end. More Piperia in there as well. In fact there are some on the mossy road bank not 10 feet from the pavement. I’d bet anything they are transversa and/or elongata, not unalascensis, but we’ll have to go back and check in July to find out for sure.

I made one more check at a random site north of Youngs Flat when I found a pulloff next to a reasonable flat area of woods. No Piperia but lots of Anemone lyallii in bloom and Lilium columbianum leaves. Most of the woods I passed before that were too steep. I’m thinking of going back in a couple of weeks when there is more in bloom. It’s a pleasant, very easy area to botanize.

Leave a Reply

Post Categories
Notification of New Posts