Insect Watching at Grassy Glade and Nearby

As soon as I arrived at Many Creeks Meadow, I spotted this pale swallowtail nectaring on the first mountain thistle (Cirsium remotifolium) flower heads.

I believe this is a Hoffman’s checkerspot—or maybe it’s a northern—I still can’t sort them out!

Although I’d already been to Grassy Glade twice this year (see NPSO Trip to Grassy Glade and Planning Trip to Grassy Glade), I hadn’t seen the purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) in bloom yet. On June 21st, I headed back out to Rigdon to stop at some of my favorite low-elevation spots. I started the day at “Many Creeks Meadow,” hidden away just a little way up Youngs Creek Road 2129. There were still patches of moisture to keep the wildflowers and butterflies happy. The showy tarweed (Madia elegans) was quite lovely, and there were some Oregon geranium (Geranium oreganum), narrowleaf mule’s ears (Wyethia angustifolia), and rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta) still in bloom. I had hoped to find ripe nutlets of Pacific hound’s tongue (now Adelinia grandis) as this is one of the best places I know to find it. Although a number of inflorescences had been eaten, there were still plenty of nutlets to collect, so I was off to a good start to the day.

I started my day with a stop at Many Creeks Meadow because I knew the showy tarweed would be closed up if I waited until the afternoon. A number of species of composites close up in the afternoon.

A pair of snowberry checkerspots among the showy tarweed and rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta). Some of the tarweed flower heads are already curling up for their afternoon nap.

Next, I made a quick stop at Mutton Meadow along Road 21. None of the seed I was interested was ripe, and I only found a couple of flowers of ground rose (Rosa spithamea) in bloom, so I headed over to Big Pine Opening. As I suspected, most of the purple milkweed was already finished, and there wasn’t any sign of monarch eggs or caterpillars. However, my timing was perfect for seeds of spring gold (Lomatium utriculatum), which are abundant at the top. I also saw quite a few ground rose in bloom. According to the Flora of North America, ground rose is adapted to burning and may not burn for a number of years until it is burned. Both Mutton Meadow and Big Pine Opening are control-burned regularly by the Forest Service for restoration purposes. FNA is wrong, however, about it only occurring as far north as Douglas County—I have seen it in a number of places in the Rigdon area, all in Lane County. I also discovered some blooming woodland phlox (Phlox adsurgens) across the road from Big Pine Opening. I’d never noticed it in that area before and still wouldn’t have had I not been trying to find a place to park in the shade.

This grasshopper was relaxing in the lovely flower of ground rose at Big Pine Opening.

Now I was ready to head to Grassy Glade. I was relieved to find the milkweed at peak bloom—it’s over 1000′ higher in elevation than Big Pine Opening—and being enjoyed by lots of butterflies and other insects. I pretty much bee-lined (pun intended!) to the main milkweed spot and spent over an hour and a half watching and photographing all the activity. Every time I got up to leave, some other interesting pollinator would appear in front of me.

Bumblebees enjoyed the purple milkweed as much as the butterflies.

I haven’t noticed silver-spotted skippers very often in the past, but I have seen a number of them this year, for some reason. Their caterpillar use legumes, so they ought to be pretty common. Apparently, they prefer lower elevations, so maybe I just miss much of their season once I start going up higher in the mountains. Their “silver” spot is quite reflective if you catch them at the right angle.

While there were still no signs of monarchs, I did see lots of checkerspots, a field crescent, pale swallowtails, cedar and gray hairstreaks, several silver-spotted skippers, MacCulloch’s moths, and lots of bees. The most exciting one for me was a hummingbird moth (or perhaps there were two—it’s hard to tell as they are constantly on the move). I’d seen several already this season, but they had all disappeared very quickly. With all the nectar-rich milkweed in a fairly small area here, this one just kept circling back to the same plants. I chased it for ages until I was sure I had at least a few decent photos. I imagine a video of me following it around would have looked pretty amusing. Although I stayed within an area around 50′ in diameter for over an hour, I probably got quite a bit of exercise! Moths of the genus Hemaris are called hummingbird moths because of the way they fly and hover while they nectar, but I could also hear a similar humming sound when it flew right past my head.

As usual, on the way back from Grassy Glade, I stopped at the Staley Creek Bridge. There was still a lot of water in a side pool that was filled with tadpoles. If only I’d remembered this spot when I found the tadpoles in a drying-out puddle at Mutton Meadow on my first trip. I had checked the spot I left them at earlier in the day, and it was dried out, but I didn’t see any sign of dried tadpoles, so maybe they developed in time. Another thing I checked on was a strange-looking monocot at the edge of the creek. It sort of looks like a lily, but the leaves aren’t in clear whorls like our species. I relocated it, and it had a very small bud starting—still no idea what it could be. Guess that means I will be back again!

At last, I was able to get a few halfway decent photos of the snowberry clearwing (Hemaris diffinis), a beautiful species of hummingbird moth, when I waited for it to return to the same spot and set my camera speed very high. I’m used to photographing stationary plants or at least insects that settle down for a few seconds, but these charismatic moths feed in flight, like a hummingbird, so they are quite a challenge. Above is a low quality video in slow motion so you can see the flight better. Notice how it grabs the flower with its front legs while it is hovering.

4 Responses to “Insect Watching at Grassy Glade and Nearby”

  • Stu:

    Great moth video!

  • Kathryn Merz:

    I love the video. Hummingbird moth! What an exquisite little creature, was not even aware if it’s existence. Thanks!

  • Leigh Blake:

    HI!! WOW!!! Checker spots..EGADS!! So many!! Thousands ( well maybe thirty) on our thyme… Little guys chasing the BIG girls!!! On that wonderful MOTH…I caught a photo of this years ago and called it a Bumblebee MOTH…LOL!! Well…you can se why…Didn’t see any again until this summer when I had TWO chasing each other…NO…I didn’t get a photo..BUt yours is perfect!! Now I’ve got to go back and read the rest!! Hugs to you//Fabulous!!!

  • Jill:

    Love the hummingbird moth photo/video! Two times I’ve been witness to their presence in our garden, both at dusk on a summer evening, as a moth entered an open day lily, disappeared into it then emerged again felt like being touched by magic!

Leave a Reply

Post Categories
Notification of New Posts