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My first pika of the year! As soon as we reached the talus, I stopped to look for pikas. My husband spotted this one right away. It actually appeared to be running toward us, but I’m guessing it was just looking for its own safe spot. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a clear view before it disappeared under the rocks.

On July 11, My husband, Jim, and I were joined by our friend Peter Gallagher on a trip to Tidbits Mountain. It had been 5 years since I’d been there, but Jim hadn’t been for 20 years, and it had been quite a while for Peter as well.

On our way back to the car, we passed this wasp with an impressive ovipositor (not a stinger!). Apparently, it is a Norton’s giant ichneumonid wasp (Megarhyssa nortoni). According to Wikipedia, they live in the forest, where their larvae are parasitoids of the larvae of horntail wasps.

It was interesting to see how the combination of above-normal winter snowpack and early summer drought manifested in the bloom period. The spring flowers were long gone in most places. As I expected, the gravelly areas west of the summit were completely toasted with only a few species still in bloom. 2012 was also a high snowpack year but followed by a “normal” spring. My trip that year on July 9 (see Off the Beaten Track at Tidbits) was completely different with gorgeous flowers covering the south-facing gravelly slope of what I call “the wall.”

I was surprised, however, that not only were there fresh spring flowers on the north-facing talus slope, there were several patches of snow remaining along the edges of the bottom slope. The trail was also in worse shape than I’ve ever seen it. We had to negotiate many fallen trees. The last section of road wasn’t in great shape either, and we wished we had parked at the bottom and walked after almost getting stuck going up. Still, we enjoyed our hike. No matter the season, the rock formations are always gorgeous. Here are some photographic highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

Fourth Trip of the Year to Mistmaiden Meadow

There were at least five large areas of narrowleaf mule’s ears in the lower half of Mistmaiden Meadow.

I was surprised to see three different blooming clumps of Oregon iris (Iris tenax) along Road 140. While very common at low elevations, this is only the second area I’ve ever found them above 3500′. In eastern Lane County, they usually give way to slender-tubed iris (I. chrysophylla) at about 1500′.

On July 7, I headed back up to the meadow on the west side of Sourgrass Mountain that I’m calling “Mistmaiden Meadow.” My first stop was the roadside along the east end of Road 140 with beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) and other goodies because it had been an interesting spot on the previous trips. As I mentioned in the report on my last trip (see “Mistmaiden Meadow” Still Outstanding), there were a number of butterflies there, so I wanted to see what was flying about at this point. Once again, I saw several pretty bramble green hairstreaks. Also present were silver-spotted skippers and persius duskywings. What do these three butterflies have in common? They all use big deervetch (Hosackia crassifolia, formerly Lotus crassifolius) as a host food plant for their caterpillars. This species likes disturbed areas and is abundant along the road here. It appeared to be attracting a lot of other insects as well. Bumblebees were busy flying from one flower to the next. I found several caterpillars that did not look like butterflies munching through the leaves. New for me were some tiny and strange-looking lace bugs (Corythucha sp.), but they were so small my photos didn’t come out well enough to include. I wouldn’t have thought about planting something as large as big deervetch—and I’ve never seen it advertised by a nursery—but it seems this species is very popular with insects, and it isn’t unattractive, with its reddish flowers and glaucous leaves. Maybe I’ll collect some seeds on one of my return trips. Read the rest of this entry »

Finally Back to Potter Mountain

On the east side of the ridge, the gravel is filled with marumleaf buckwheat (Eriogonum marifolium). This attracted a lot of pollinators.

A spring white caterpillar has just shed its skin to allow it to grow a bit more. I checked most of the rockcress (Boechera sp.) I saw. I found this caterpillar and another smaller one as soon as we hit the rocky area. I only spotted one egg. In the phlox area, I chased a fast-moving adult white who never let me get close enough for an ID, but it might also have been a spring white.

Several years ago, my husband Jim and I tried to get up to Potter Mountain, but the winter storms had left so many branches on the road that we gave up in frustration. I really wanted him to see the beautiful rocks up there, so I had again planned to go up last year, but then a fire broke out right next to the summit—the Potter Mountain fire. Thwarted again. The third time’s a charm, they say, and we did finally make it up there on July 2. It was a beautiful day—though a bit warm—so we had a great view of the surrounding mountains. We bushwhacked north on the ridge as far as the helicopter landing spot—only about 6/10 of a mile from the road. We’d missed most of the early-season flowers, but there were still plenty of things in bloom and enough butterflies to keep me happy. And since we accessed Potter Mountain via Staley Creek Road 2134 (in good shape, by the way), we were able to cool off at the end of the day with a short stop at the wonderful Staley Creek Gorge. Here are some photographic highlights of our day. Read the rest of this entry »

Butterflying with an Expert at Bristow Prairie

Neil Bjorklund at the rock garden all geared up for a day of butterfly photography.

One of the odd cat’s ears (Calochortus sp.) I’ve seen so often at Bristow Prairie. Not only does it have two extra petals, it’s not clear which species it is.

It had been almost 20 years since I’d had the opportunity to go out in the field with butterfly expert Neil Bjorklund. Neil’s website Butterflies of Oregon is the resource for the butterflies of our state, and he was a co-founder of our local chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA). On June 28, we headed up to Bristow Prairie, one of my all-time favorite spots. Neil had been to Bristow Prairie a number of times, but he hadn’t been to the small wetlands that—as far as we know at present—are the northernmost outposts of Sierra Nevada blues. He also wasn’t aware of the south-facing bald I call “the rock garden” or “Lewisia Point,” two other excellent places to see butterflies. Our trip was mutually beneficial—I showed him my favorite spots, and he taught me a lot more about identifying butterflies. Read the rest of this entry »

“Mistmaiden Meadow” Still Outstanding

Rosy plectritis paints the hillside pink as Daniel and Angela climb back up “Mistmaiden Meadow.”

Bramble green hairstreaks are really hard to tell from Sheridan’s green hairstreaks; the former has less green on the underside of the forewing and less conspicuous white markings. The best way to tell is to look around for the host food plant as they don’t travel very far from it. The road here is lined with big deervetch (Hosackia crassifolia), the main host food plant of the bramble. Sheridan’s uses buckwheats, none of which grow there. This is where a botany background really helps in learning about butterflies.

Continuing my periodic surveying of what I’m now calling “Mistmaiden Meadow,” the steep meadow on the west flank of Sourgrass Mountain, I headed back up on June 25. This time I was accompanied by fellow NPSO member Angela Soto and her partner, Daniel. My plan was pretty much to follow what Sheila Klest and I did a couple of weeks before (see Shooting Stars are Stars of a Great Day), going to Mistmaiden Meadow and then on to Elk Camp and Nevergo Meadow. Before we even got to the meadow, we had to stop for a small roadside wet spot on Road 1912 when I spotted devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus) out of the corner of my eye. This striking spiny shrub is not that common in southern Lane County, so I don’t see it too often. I’m not sure how I missed it on my previous two trips, although it probably hadn’t leafed out on my first trip this year (see Early Look at Meadow on Sourgrass Mountain).
This spot was just before the intersection where we turn left onto Road 140. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Butterflies and Moths at Castle Rock and Cougar Reservoir

The gorgeous mountain cat’s ears attracted cedar hairstreaks.

Several Lorquin’s admirals were among the butterflies visiting the dogbane patch.

One of the field trip sites for the recent Native Plant Society of Oregon annual meeting was Castle Rock. It’s a relatively low-elevation rocky knob near Cougar Reservoir. When I checked the list of all my hiking trips, I discovered I hadn’t been there in 10 years. I’m not sure why it fell off my radar because I used to go every year. After so many weeks without rain, I figured it might be really dry and not very interesting, but I decided to check it out anyway, and I’m so glad I did. On June 16, I headed to Cougar Reservoir first. I was surprised there was still water dripping down the cliffs near the dam and into the concrete ditch where there were some tadpoles swimming around. That was also a surprise. I’ve been seeing a few little black and white moths lately, Macculloch’s foresters (Androloma maccullochii), but here they were abundant, nectaring on lots of flowers but especially the abundant weedy daisies (Leucanthemum vulgaris). I was also able to get seeds of Scouler’s valerian (Valeriana sitchensis var. scouleri) a little farther down the road. On my way back from the reservoir, I passed a strip of spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) growing under the railing—a terrible spot to take photos with cars going by but worth it for all the butterflies and moths. Read the rest of this entry »

Shooting Stars are Stars of a Great Day

The population of the seep-loving beautiful shooting star was more gorgeous than I had imagined in “Mistmaiden Meadow.”

Did it just snow? Nuttall’s saxifrage coats the rocks at “Mistmaiden Meadow.”

I was really anxious to get back to the steep meadow on the east side of Sourgrass Mountain after my first trip of the season (see Early Look at Meadow on Sourgrass Mountain). Exactly two weeks after the first trip, on June 13, Sheila Klest and I went to see what was in bloom. We weren’t disappointed. It was even prettier than we expected. As soon as we stepped out into the upper part of the slope, we were greeted with a sweep of pink rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta). There was much more moisture than there had been at nearby Tire Mountain the week before (see NPSO Annual Meeting Trip to Tire Mountain). Tire Mountain is known for similar drifts of color in wetter springs, but this year was rather disappointing. Here, however, the moisture from the above-normal snowpack on Sourgrass was trickling down to the meadow and keeping it fresh in spite of a month with little or no rain. Read the rest of this entry »

NPSO Annual Meeting Trip to Tire Mountain

Mark Turner never goes anywhere without all his photography gear, and he was determined to get us all to pose for a group photo by the beautiful display of deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea)—the classic photo op at Tire Mountain. We grumbled a little, but everyone dutifully stopped, and another helpful hiker ended up taking some pictures of all of us, including Mark.

The west end of the main “dike” meadow had a very good display of Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii). Among them were an unusual number of white- and pale purple-flowered plants.

On the last day of the Native Plant Society of Oregon‘s 2023 Annual Meeting, I took a group of plant lovers to Tire Mountain. It had been a couple of weeks since Molly Juillerat and I did our prehike (see Early Season at Tire Mountain), and it was even drier than on that trip. But I was relieved to see how many perennials were just carrying on as usual, so there was still plenty to see—even if the trail wasn’t up to its usual June splendor. While the rest of the Sunday trips for the meeting were supposed to be only half day, everyone was warned this would be a longer day and could leave early if they needed to. But the weather was just perfect for hiking, and everyone was having such an enjoyable day of botanizing that we all returned to the trailhead together. Thanks to all the participants for being such troopers! And thanks to Willow Elliot and Angela Soto for getting everyone organized in Eugene before meeting me in Lowell. Here are a few highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

NPSO Trip to Grassy Glade

The group checking out the monkeyflower and annual clovers in the areas of Grassy Glade that were still moist.

Someone spotted several morels along the edge of Staley Creek.

On Saturday, June 3rd, I took a group of folks attending the Native Plant Society of Oregon‘s Annual Meeting (first one since the pandemic!) to Grassy Glade and Staley Creek Bridge. We didn’t have as much time as I would like for a field trip as we had to get back to Eugene in time for the banquet and other evening festivities. But it was a perfect day for a field trip, and we had a chance to look at some of the diversity of the Rigdon area, exploring both the meadows and dry forest at Grassy Glade and the wet creekside habitat and lusher forest along Staley Creek. Unfortunately, the purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) that I had hoped to show everyone still wasn’t in bloom, and in fact didn’t look much farther along than it had been the week before on my prehike (see Planning Trip to Grassy Glade). It was new plant for many people, however, and they enjoyed the handsome foliage. Hopefully, everyone found something new and interesting. Here are some highlights of our trip.

White-tip clover (Trifolium variegatum) is a common annual clover of seepy meadows, but it is often quite tiny and easily overlooked.

This interesting looking underwater growth in Staley Creek is Nostoc parmelloides, a cyanobacteria that forms colonies in cold creeks. I hadn’t noticed it on my previous trips but had seen it up in the Calapooyas a few years back (see More Discoveries along the Calapooya Crest). Tiny midge larvae develop in the flattened colonies.

Some of us were lucky enough to spot the dipper in the usual spot right where the water plunges down at the narrowest part of the creek. Unfortunately, it flew off before everyone got to see it. I could not relocate the nest that I had seen on previous years (see More Exploration Near Grassy Glade).

I was happy to see the tiny candelabrum monkeyflower (Erythranthe pulsiferae) was still blooming well. It’s an uncommon plant that most people hadn’t seen before.

Although we were trying to get back to Eugene by 4:30, I couldn’t help making a quick stop to show people all the paintbrush (Castilleja spp.) on the reservoir cliffs. We also saw the lovely pale yellow Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) that has been growing right by the road for many years.

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