Archive for the ‘Habitat’ Category

Monitoring Siskiyou Fritillary at Bearbones Mountain

Jenny taking notes about the Siskiyou fritillary population on the south ridge. The downslope gravel was awash with spring phacelia, Olympic onion, and Menzies’ larkspur.

The old growth forest is quite impressive along the trail. The trail itself is so little used as to be hard to follow if you haven’t been on it before. We had to cross over a number of large logs and small branches (I moved what I could to make the trail easier to follow), but it is worth it to see all the interesting species and beautiful flowers as well as the view from the top.

Middle Fork District botanist Jenny Moore had never been to Bearbones Mountain and had mentioned to me earlier in the year that she’d like to go check it out. After getting an e-mail last week from Chad Sageser that he’d cleared the roads (2127 & 5850) to Bearbones (thank you Chad!!), I suggested we head up there on Wednesday, June 15, the one day of the week that was supposed to have some sun. Luckily, both Jenny and Sheila Klest were able to make time to go out hiking that day. After all the rain we’ve had (yay!), and a trip to the Ochocos the week before, I was really looking forward to getting back to the Western Cascades. This was also my first trip to higher elevations (Bearbones tops out at 4910′).

After missing the trailhead last year (see Return to Bearbones Mountain), I made sure to have the map on my phone ready. Chad had warned me that Road 5850, which leads to the trailhead, had been prepped as a firebreak when there were so many fires in the area last year. The edge of the road was logged, making it even harder to spot the trailhead, and forcing us to start our hike by climbing over a large pile of branches. The blooming dogwoods at the beginning of trail also helped me recognize the spot, and someone (Chad?) had left some red flagging across the road, but if you want to try the trail, having a map and GPS are a must, as there is no longer any trail sign. Jenny was interested in seeing the firebreak as one of the projects of the Forest Service is to figure out how to heal the roadsides after the disturbance and hopefully to replant with natives that are less flammable and lower growing. We all wondered why the downed trees and branches are left to dry out. It doesn’t seem to make any sense to create a firebreak and then leave all the flammable material in place. Maybe I’m missing something. Read the rest of this entry »

Spring Again at Coal Creek Bluff

Looking north across the slope to Moon Point and Youngs Rock. I hadn’t seen such a pretty show of monkeyflower on my past visits.

On Wednesday, May 25, Nancy Bray accompanied me on a trip to the place I named “Coal Creek Bluff.” I had heard that the Forest Service would be further decommissioning the old Road 210 that I use to access the site to protect Coal Creek from further erosion. I wasn’t sure what this entailed, so I was anxious to find out if I would still be able to access this lovely spot, one of our purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) sites in the Rigdon area. The last time I was there (in 2020, see Followup Milkweed Count at Coal Creek Bluff), I couldn’t make it to the last place you can park before a big washout on the old road. I managed to scratch my brand new car trying to turn around after coming upon a fallen tree. So this time, I just decided to park at the old gate where there is a large area to turn around and do the extra walking. I was surprised to find the road completely clear all the way to the final parking area. Darn! We could have shortened our walk. Next time I’ll know. Read the rest of this entry »

A Seepy Spring at Deer Creek

About the only thing blooming well in the large middle meadow was the gold stars sprinkled across the rocks. Snow can be seen on Carpenter Mountain not so far away.

One of the numerous places water cascades down the road banks between the 3 and 4 mile markers on Deer Creek Road.

I’m thrilled that the last month or so has been so cold and damp. It’s been much less stressful than last year’s hot and dry spring. But it has meant that I haven’t gone out botanizing much. Deer Creek Road off the McKenzie Highway is a wonderful place to go when all the small creeks and seeps are flowing off the road banks. And above the road banks, there are a number of rocky meadows above the road west of Fritz Creek. So when we had a break in the rain last Wednesday, May 4, I decided to go check it out.

I had planned to stop at Cougar Reservoir first, to see what was blooming on the cliffs along the reservoir, but the road was closed well before the cliffs. That section north of the reservoir burned in the Holiday Farm Fire two years ago, so they were undoubtedly logging the dead trees along the road. That meant I had a lot more time to spend at Deer Creek Road, so instead of a relaxing walk along the road, it seemed like a good time to climb up to the big meadows above the road, something I hadn’t done since 2017 (see A Return Look at Deer Creek Meadows).

Fritz Creek was gushing with high water coming from upslope. A bird whizzed by me. My first thought was that it must be a dipper, but it turned out to be a rufous hummingbird zipping low above the water.

It was still early, but it looks like it will be a fabulous season, especially if the rain keeps up. The gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) were still blooming well, but some had started going to seed. I spent quite a while collecting seed since that was one of the reasons I chose this destination. I’ve been able to get some blooming on my property every year, but it still isn’t self-sowing well, so if I want to see it at home, I guess I’m going to have to collect some seed every year. There was also Hall’s lomatium (Lomatium hallii), Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii), large-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora), and monkeyflowers (Erythranthe microphylla? and alsinoides) in bloom, but the latter probably won’t be putting on a big show until later in the month.

The most easterly meadow in this stretch is tantalizingly close to the road, but the banks are too steep for direct access.

Menzies’ larkspur and Hall’s lomatium blooming in the rocky meadow at the top of the easternmost meadow. The grayish clump in the middle is northern buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum) coming out of dormancy. The large, bushy, brownish purple one is a hotrock penstemon (Penstemon deustus). It often turns purple in the winter but is green by summer.

The climb up and down the steep 300′ slope to the largest meadow was tricky as always, but it really doesn’t take that long. And I think I’d better come back in a few weeks and do it again when peak season starts. On the way back down, I checked the aerial view on my phone to see if I could get over to the opening to the east. It looked pretty simple, and I’d always wanted to check out that most easterly meadow. The road bank is too steep to access it directly, but when I first arrived that morning, I had checked out the woods right by the edge of Fritz Creek where it goes under the road and decided it might be accessible from that way. But rather than go down to the road and back up again, I went across from the first meadow, easily accessed the top of the eastern meadow, and went back down through the woods. That meadow was quite pleasant, especially because since it is the end of a ridge, it wasn’t as steep-sided. I’ll definitely follow that route again next time.

A nice comparison between the green comma (top and left), hoary comma (middle), and California tortoiseshell (bottom). When they are busy flying around, it can be hard to distinguish them with their similar coloring. Note the green comma has light dots totally surrounded by dark brown on the edge of its hind wings.

This friendly hoary comma is lighter overall with no greenish “lichen” markings below like the green comma and fewer dark spots on the top of the hind wings than the similar satyr comma.

After that, I walked down the road to the most westerly meadow to see if the beautiful shootingstar (Dodecatheon pulchellum) was budding up yet (it wasn’t). On the way, I passed a large gathering of butterflies at a seemingly random spot on the road. There were 2–3 dozen California tortoiseshells and anglewings drinking and fluttering about (no small butterflies, but I saw a few blues, a Julia orangetip, and several Moss’s elfins over the course of the day). My guess was that some animal must have peed there, and the butterflies were enjoying salt and other nutrients left behind. I decided to do a scientific experiment and made a contribution of my own a few feet away. When I came back from checking out the western meadow, there were two gatherings of butterflies—at least 9 were checking out my spot. I’m certainly not the only one to have tried this, check out this article for a more detailed experiment (Butterflies Really Seem To Like Drinking Cougar Pee).

The green of the green comma is more blue in this individual, but it still adds to his camouflage whether on bark or gravel.

I spent a while photographing the anglewings, having already taken pictures of tortoiseshells that had been following me around earlier in the day. There were both green commas (Polygonia faunus) and hoary commas (P. gracilis). The green commas use willows (Salix spp.) as their host food plant, and the hoary commas like currants and gooseberries (Ribes spp.). Both willows and currants could be seen in the area, so it wasn’t surprising to see them there. I really wanted a better photo of an anglewing, so after they got somewhat used to my presence, I got some sweat on my finger (another good source of salt!) and tried to slide my finger under several butterflies. The green comma I tried it with wasn’t interested, but a hoary climbed up on my finger and drank happily while I got some good photos. I’m looking forward to another good butterfly and wildflower day soon, but in the meantime, I will be very happy if it keeps on raining!

2022 Botanizing and Butterflying Season has Begun!

The first California tortoiseshell to land on my hand

This very odd filbert (Corylus cornuta var. californica) catkin caught my eye near the river. Normally the female flowers with their red-violet stigmas are in a small cluster that is separate from the long, dangling male catkin. But this inflorescence had several females mixed in with the males. What happened here?

While it wasn’t a terribly difficult winter weatherwise (though not nearly enough rain), it is always a joy to see the first flowers of late winter and spring. And with them, the reappearance of the first butterflies. On Tuesdays, I often have meetings for my job with OregonFlora, but this past week, my meeting was postponed for a day. That turned out to be very fortunate as Tuesday was the most beautiful day of the week: clear and sunny and the first day of the year to reach 70°. I took advantage of it to head out on what has become my annual first botanizing trip of the year out to Hills Creek Reservoir and the Rigdon area along Road 21. I stopped at all my usual haunts. First along the reservoir to see the gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) blooming. It hasn’t been wet enough for an outstanding year, but they are still such a welcome sight. The paintbrushes (Castilleja) are sending up new leaves that are noticeably reddish. The Sierra gooseberry (Ribes roezlii) was just barely in bloom.

Read the rest of this entry »

Searching for Color on Halloween

This handsome madrone (Arbutus menziesii) is growing on Rabbitbrush Ridge. It was laden with bright red berries. Beneath it is an unusually colorful, low-growing Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana). In the foreground are the silvery stalks of rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa). The species’ abundance here elicited my name for this steep, rocky ridge.

One goal of my outing was to come home with seeds of the very late-blooming autumn knotweed (Polygonum spergulariiforme). I have a small population on my property that I’m working on expanding. Anything still blooming at the end of October is worth having, no matter how small its flowers.

With the days getting shorter and colder and the damp days increasing (I’m not complaining—after this summer I’m so thankful for wet weather!), I was looking for a dry and, hopefully, sunny day for one last trip into the mountains before winter really sets in. While the sun was playing peek-a-boo behind the clouds all day, at least it was dry on October 31, and I was able to head out to the Rigdon area. I decided to stay at fairly low elevation given the clouds and limited time and headed for Grassy Glade, stopping along the way for anything that looked colorful or interesting. And once I got to Grassy Glade and walked down to the end of the road past the meadow, I had just enough time to head down to “Rabbitbrush Ridge” where the last flowers of rubber rabbitbrush were still in evidence. It was a pleasant if unexciting day—hopefully enough to sustain me until the flowers reappear in February and March. I didn’t expect there would be much to photograph, but as you can see, I found plenty of interesting plants on my end-of-season trip. Read the rest of this entry »

Clear Skies at Last on Lowder Mountain

From where the trail first reaches the ridge, there’s a good view of the Three Sisters with fresh snow.

One of the few butterflies I saw, this orange sulphur was sitting on the silvery leaves of Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), while the gorgeous purple leaves are those of sticky cinquefoil (Drymocallis glandulosa). The little flower on the left is Cascade knotweed.

Technically autumn started on September 22 this year. But for all intents and purposes, fall started with the first real rain on September 18. What a relief!! After the seemingly endless hot and smoky summer, following an unusually hot, dry spring, it was hard to remember what rain sounded like. We got at least 2 inches at my house; the patter of raindrops on the skylight above my desk was music to my ears. And finally, with the fires no longer spewing out smoke, I could go out again! It had been four weeks since I’d managed to sneak in a half day seed-collecting trip to Cloverpatch on a relatively clear day. I could hardly wait to get up in the mountains. On Monday, September 20, it was dry—or at least it wasn’t raining. I headed up to Lowder Mountain under clear blue (not dirty brown!) skies. Everything was still pretty wet from the rain, and it was quite cold up there when I stepped out of the car (not that I’m complaining!). My original plan was to bushwhack around Quaking Aspen Swamp, but not wanting to be drenched, I decided staying on the trail would be wiser and headed up Lowder Mountain instead, both trails starting from the same spot. Read the rest of this entry »

Studying Gentians at Warner Mountain

Few flowers are as gorgeous as gentians in full bloom. While most of these were single-flowered, a number of them had three flowers to a stalk. The Cascade grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata) was also coming into bloom, although these three buds hadn’t opened yet.

After several years of bad timing, I finally hit the perfect time to collect milkweed seed at Grassy Glade.

Since the bog gentians (Gentiana calycosa) had only just started on my previous trip to Warner Mountian (see Warner Mountain Botanizing), I was determined to get a better look at them, so I returned by myself on August 9. By this time, the Middle Fork Complex fires had started (after a July 29th thunderstorm went through the district), and finding a day when the smoke wasn’t too bad was difficult. But I was getting tired of being stuck at home, I figured it would only get worse as the summer wore on, and the day seemed like it might be okay. I drove through heavy smoke between Lowell and Westfir, just south of the Gales Fire, and was questioning my plans, but it wasn’t so bad heading south along Hills Creek Reservoir. My first stop was to Big Pine Opening to look for purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) seed, but it had already all blown away, so I continued on to Grassy Glade, a couple of thousand feet higher in elevation. Not only were the milkweed pods still cracking open, but I was above the smoke, so I was very pleased and spent a little while there collecting seeds and wandering around before continuing on to my main goal.

From the end of the road at Grassy Glade, I was above the smoke that had settled into the valleys and over Hills Creek Reservoir overnight, but it continued to rise all day. Warner Mountain is on the upper right of the photo, still above the smoke at this point.

While listening to a pika under the rocks I was standing on, I admired the magenta bracts covering the filberts (Corylus cornuta) from a small shrub above me. I’ve only seen them turn this color high in the mountains. Perhaps it has to do with cold temperatures. I have no idea what the benefit would be to the plant, but I wish the filberts on my property were this beautiful.

Heading up to Warner Mountain, I noticed the road seemed to be in better shape than I remembered. When I came to some road maintenance vehicles parked along the side, I was thrilled that the Forest Service was dealing with the potholes at last. My joy was short-lived, however, as they hadn’t finished the job. The dirt and gravel had been dumped but none of the grading done. It was not a pleasant few miles going over the rough road. I was quite relieved to finally make it past the road work (about at the intersection of the road that connects with 2129 and 2120) without flatting a tire; that had happened to me once when they were grading the road up to Table Rock Wilderness in Clackamas County a few miles ahead of me, and I never want to repeat that. Read the rest of this entry »

A Stowaway from Eagles Rest

Last year, I discovered the caterpillars of dotted blues on barestem buckwheat (Eriogonum nudum) in the lower opening at Eagles Rest (see Butterfly Discovery at Eagles Rest). I had hoped that I would be able to find more there this year, now that I knew when and where to look. But the severe shortage of rain this past spring caused the normally seepy lower tier where the buckwheat grows to dry out much sooner than usual. A trip in early June was rather depressing—a number of plant species seemed to be drying up without ever having bloomed. I saw no dotted blues, adults or caterpillars.

A golden hairstreak up in the chinquapin.

It wasn’t until August 6th that I returned to Eagles Rest to collect whatever seeds I could find while enjoying the short afternoon hike and pleasant view. I managed to collect seeds of paintbrush (Castilleja hispida and pruinosa here, I believe), barestem buckwheat, Rattan’s penstemon (Penstemon rattanii), and a few bulbs. Read the rest of this entry »

Exciting Day at Spring Prairie

A rufous hummingbird nectaring on Cooley’s hedgenettle

An Anna’s blue on a fading lupine. I’ll have to come back when they are in bloom to try to ID the lupines.

On July 25, Nancy Bray and her husband, Herb, invited my husband Jim and me to join them on a trip to Blair Lake and nearby Spring Prairie. It was a bit hazy from fires to the south but otherwise a lovely day. When we got to the intersection of Road 733 that goes up to Spring Prairie, we made a quick decision to go up there first. I was pleased to see the road was in better shape than I remembered (no more trench down the middle of one section) as it had been quite some time since I’d driven up there although I had walked up the trail from Blair Lake last year (see Beargrass Season at Blair Lake).

We drove straight up to the edge of Spring Prairie and parked the car. On getting out, I immediately noticed lots of butterflies flying about in the large, mostly beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) meadow. Other than some fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) blooming farther downhill, nothing was in flower. So what were all these butterflies doing here? Growing among the beargrass was quite a bit of lupine (Lupinus sp.) with immature fruits. The butterflies all seemed to be Anna’s blues (Plebejus anna). If you guessed that they use lupines and other legumes as host plants, you’d be right. They appeared to be mating and laying eggs. I started searching the plants carefully. It took only a few minutes to spot the first egg, looking much like a tiny white sea urchin shell after the spines fall off. I’d never seen one before, but I recognized it from the similar hedgerow hairstreak eggs I’d seen a couple of years ago. What a great start to the day! I continued to look for eggs and found quite a few more, laid on stems and pods as well as leaves. Read the rest of this entry »

Warner Mountain Botanizing

A western white (?) met its demise in this patch of round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia).

An outstanding show of scarlet paintbrush below the lookout. I was surprised there weren’t more hummingbirds fighting over it.

My most exciting day of last year was finding explorer’s (or bog) gentians (Gentiana calycosa) at Warner Mountain (see Hidden Bog on Warner Mountain). I wanted to spend some more time looking at the population there this year, and I also wanted to share the hidden site with some friends, so on July 22nd, John Koenig, Sheila Klest, and Betsy Parry joined me for a trip to Warner Mountain. It was three days earlier than last year’s trip, but with this year’s extreme drought and heat, I was sure the blooming would be quite a bit earlier. I had also decided boots would be unnecessary as it would most likely be drying out. Boy, was I wrong! I was quite astounded, in fact, to find the bog not only still quite wet, and all the little creeks still running well, but the gentians had barely started. It was pretty much exactly the way I had found it on July 25, 2020. Considering it was a month after the awful record-breaking heatwave and no rain for longer than that, I couldn’t believe how fresh and moist everything was. Where was all this water that appears at the top of the bog coming from? The bog is only about 150′ lower than the top of the ridge above it, so it is not like it is getting water trickling down from much higher up. Read the rest of this entry »

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