Looking for Pollinators at Carpenter Mountain

The parking area is worth spending some time enjoying the flowers and the great view of the Three Sisters.

A checkerspot nectaring on bastard toadflax (Comandra umbellata)

Friday (July 22), I went to Carpenter Mountain for the first time in 5 years. It’s a long drive on gravel roads, but the trail is short, and I was really in the mood to just relax and take photos. I arrived to find the road near the parking area lined with flowers. I probably spent an hour just wandering about chasing butterflies, photographing flowers, and enjoying the terrific view. That’s really my kind of a day. There were lots of Castilleja hispida, Calochortus subalpinus, Penstemon cardwellii, Fragaria virginiana, and tons of perfectly blooming sticky cinquefoil (now Drymocallis glandulosa). I noticed some little green flags that appeared to mark some plots. Carpenter is part of the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, so there is a lot of research going on in the area. I wondered how I would find out what the study subject was here, when, lo and behold, a young woman drove up and started checking her plots. How convenient! It turns out she’s an OSU student studying pollinators—one of my favorite subjects—and one I was sort of studying myself when she drove up. I was trying unsuccessfully to photograph a two-banded checkered skipper frequenting the strawberries—also their caterpillar host species. I find it really interesting how many host species are good nectar species as well. I later got some so-so photos of one drinking from fading Arctostaphylos nevadensis but not from the Fragaria. She was having the same trouble I have been, trying to get some work done with all this unseasonably cold and damp weather.

Pretty beetle on sticky cinquefoil (Drymocallis—formerly Potentilla—glandulosa)

After a relatively leisure hike up to the lookout, perched atop its rocky knob, I spent more time chatting with the knowledgeable man staffing the lookout. The view up there is excellent, especially of Wolf Rock below, but also of many of the Western Cascade mountains and snowy High Cascade peaks. Later I compared my photos to ones I took on June 19, 2005, and was not too surprised to see how much snowier it is this year even a month later. There was still some snow on the talus slope below the north side of the lookout and in the forest to the east. Six years ago, the snow was all gone by the 19th of June. I found out more about the ridge just to the east called Bunchgrass Mountain. I’ve been eyeing some meadows and outcrops up there for a few years, and I may have to satisfy my curiosity about that area this summer. The air was quite cold up on the summit, but we watched several hilltopping anise swallowtails. There was a lot of blooming Lomatium martindalei on the summit rocks, but maybe the more likely host plant for this carrot family lover is all the Ligusticum apiifolium budding up all along the road and meadow.

A beautiful western tailed blue

On the way down, I found some lingering snowmelt species I’d missed in the past in the open gravelly area above the trail. The last remnants of Dicentra uniflora, Claytonia lanceolata, and Orogenia fusiformis were still hanging on. There were many cute Lewisia triphylla still flowering in seepy areas that were damp from the recent rains. From there, I left the trail and followed the steep meadow down to the road. The woman from OSU was now netting insects in the meadow. I’d love to hear about what she’s discovering. It was a good place to look for pollinators with numerous bees, flies, beetles, and other insects out and about (no mosquitoes thankfully!). I saw a number of western tailed blues on my way down. There is quite a bit of Lathyrus nevadensis blooming there, a good host plant for these butterflies as are other members of the pea family. The lovely western flax (Linum lewisii) that grows near the base of the meadow didn’t even have buds on it yet, but there were columbines, lupines, and some other flowers coming along.

A beefly (Bombylius major) drinking from pumice sandwort (Eremogone pumicola).

I enjoyed walking the half-mile of road downhill back to the car. There seemed to be lots of flowers and many butterflies, as I had remembered from past trips. There were several places where the snow had just melted out that had a nice display of fresh trilliums and Anemone lyallii. Otherwise, things were farther along here with an amazing number of strawberry flowers and a great many delphiniums. When I finally made it back to the car, I realized I didn’t have enough time to drive over to the pretty lake by Wolf Rock (called Wolf Meadow on the USGS map, but any meadow is underwater now). My GPS said I hadn’t even gone two miles, but with my extremely leisurely pace, I’d spent the whole day doing it. But it was a wonderful, relaxing day in the mountains with flowers and friendly insects and people, so how can I complain?


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