Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Chilly Day at Hills Peak

The bright pink alpine laurel by the lake really brightened up the gloomy day. It really seems to love perching on sphagnum mounds.

Another site John Koenig and I are considering taking the Burke Herbarium folks later this month is Hills Peak at the east end of the Calapooyas. I hadn’t been there in 5 years, and John had only been there once, 9 years ago, so it was about time we checked it out. We headed up there on June 6. The day was very cold and cloudy, but it seemed appropriate for a very early-season trip. We had to pass a few snowbanks along the road, and there were more along the edges of the wetlands. We probably couldn’t have gotten up there much earlier. Read the rest of this entry »

Relaxing Day in Rigdon

On Sunday, May 9, I went for my first outing in almost a month—just too much to do at home, and the drought discouraged me from going to my favorite seepy spots that I’d planned on, like Deer Creek. I was really happy to be able to go out with my friend John Koenig, whom I hadn’t seen since last summer. Being vaccinated now is such a relief, and it is wonderful to safely hang out with others who are also vaccinated (if you’re hesitating—don’t!). We decided it might still be too early to try to go to higher elevations, even with all the warm weather, so we headed down to Hills Creek Reservoir and the Rigdon area to check out some of our favorite haunts. We had some vague plans but mostly just played it by ear, stopping wherever looked interesting. We ended up spending lots of time watching butterflies. We also had to warm up our “botany muscles,” trying to remember forgotten names.

At Everage Flat, we spent quite a long time watching butterflies on the Pacific dogwood flowers. This echo azure is enjoying the fresh flowers in the center of the showy bracts.

After a look at the gorgeous silvery lupine (Lupinus albifrons) at the north end of the reservoir and a brief stop to admire the blooming paintbrush on the cliffs along the reservoir, I pulled into Everage Flat Picnic Area (just south of the intersection of Youngs Creek Road 2129) as it occurred to me that we should see if the Howell’s violet (Viola howellii) was still in bloom. I expected it to be a very quick stop, so I even left my (all-electric) car on. But upon seeing that the large Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) in the sunny center of the picnic area was in perfect bloom and appeared to have butterflies flying around it, I parked the car for real. Our 2-minute stop turned into a 2-hour one! Read the rest of this entry »

On the Menu at the Butterfly Café

From the west opening on the bluff next to Sacandaga campground, you can see the snow on the area that burned in the 2009 Tumblebug Fire.

I was so happy to see so many handsome male catkins on the Fremont’s silktassel (Garrya fremontii) next to the bridge and boat ramp at Hills Creek Reservoir. This lovely native plant was accidentally cut down by a Forest Service crew while working on nearby weedy shrubs a few years back. It has been slowly recovering ever since.

One of the best benefits of having a remote job doing layout and design is that I set my own hours. Or in other words, I can usually play hooky when I feel like it! When I saw that the forecast for Oakridge was supposed to be in the 70s (!) on Wednesday, March 31, I dropped everything to see how things were progressing down in Rigdon. And after spending several weeks focusing on butterflies while preparing my slide show on “Favorite Plants of Butterflies of the Western Cascades” for the North American Butterfly Association and the Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council (you can view the recording here), I couldn’t wait to spend a day with some butterflies. Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring a New Bog Near Blair Lake

My favorite part of the bog was a small section of windy creeks and pools along the northern edge. It reminded me a lot of the bog near Lopez Lake that John Koenig and I call Zen Meadow. The white flowers are grass-of-Parnassus

This sphinx moth caterpillar was hanging out on a twinberry (Lonicera involucrata) leaf.

Between finalizing Volume 2 of the Flora of Oregon (see previous post), hot summer weather, and fairly mundane trips to lower elevation sites to collect seeds, I didn’t get a lot of exploring done in August (and being on evacuation alert and smoke during the Holiday Farm fire pretty much nixed any hiking in September). But after finding the wonderful bog on Warner Mountain (see Back to Warner Mountain Bog), I did get the urge to look for new sites to botanize.

I had been planning to go back to Blair Lake to collect some seed anyway, so I took a closer look at the surrounding area on Google Earth before my trip. I noticed several areas that looked like they could be interesting wetlands that weren’t far off roads and could be combined with a trip to Blair. So, on August 9, I headed up to Blair, but when I came to the intersection of Road 733, instead of turning right to follow the sign up to Blair Lake, I stayed on Road 1934 and parked one mile farther up. Heading into the woods on the right (east), it was only about 1/8 of a mile to the wetland, although with tromping over fallen logs and such, it took 15 minutes or so (see Google Map image). Read the rest of this entry »

Hidden Bog on Warner Mountain

What a gorgeous sight! And smell! I had to stop and smell almost every Cascade lily I passed on my way to and from the Warner Lookout.

With the gravel roads lapsing into disrepair the last few years, I hadn’t managed to make it to Groundhog Mountain, one of my very favorite places in the Western Cascades, in three years (see Butterflies and More at Groundhog Mountain), and my friend John had driven on that trip. It was past time to return. While the butterfly group (NABA) has been heading up there lately via Road 2135, I decided to take a slightly longer route up 2129 past Moon Point and the Warner Mountain lookout. That way, if there were downed trees or washouts I didn’t want to cross, I could do the Moon Point trail instead. And I was pretty sure the road would be clear to the lookout since it is used during fire season. The night before I left, I pulled out my iPhone to get the aerial image of the area saved in case I wanted to do any exploring. Just off the road near the beargrass meadows up on Warner Mountain, I noticed what appeared to be a wetland. The telltale dark squiggles of meandering water is a good indication. Hmm. If I didn’t make it to Groundhog, I would have to check this out. It was only about an acre, but you never know what might be there. Read the rest of this entry »

Buggy Day at Bristow Prairie

The wetland by the lake was filled with bistort (Bistorta bistortoides), Oregon checkermallow (Sidalcea oregana), and arrowleaf groundsel (Senecio triangularis). We hadn’t had time to explore this area last trip, but I like to come down here at least once a year. There are too many wonderful spots at Bristow Prairie to see them all on a single trip.

Follicles of Menzies’ larkspur still filled with seeds. Usually when an animal brushes by the plant, the seeds get flung out of the capsules. More than once, I inadvertently kicked a plant as I reached forward to grab the seeds, knocking them out before I could get any. Plants have so many clever ways of distributing their seeds.

After the terrific trip John Koenig and I had to Bristow Prairie earlier in the month (see Still More Discoveries at Bristow Prairie), I decided to return on July 15 to see the next wave of flowers. This trip was not nearly as pleasant as the first because most of the afternoon I was hounded by biting flies. Some looked to be deer flies; others were both larger and smaller, but they were all determined to drive me crazy. At the very end of the day, some house fly-sized ones were actually leaving what looked like bruises on my arms just minutes after they bit me. Luckily they didn’t itch for all that long. I’ve never experienced that before in the Western Cascades, so it was doubly disconcerting. Biting flies were one of the many things I disliked about my short tenure living in the Midwest. Read the rest of this entry »

Beargrass Season at Blair Lake

Beargrass coming into bloom near the trailhead at Blair Meadows.

A rocky area at the edge of Mule Prairie with harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), cliff penstemon (Penstemon rupicola), and Cascade fleabane (Erigeron cascadensis).

On June 25, I went up to Blair Lake. This was another place I hadn’t been to in peak season for quite some time, although I had been up there in late July last year (see Butterfly Day at Blair Lake). Unlike last year’s trip, there weren’t many different species of butterflies, but the flowers were gorgeous, and, for the first time here in years, I got to see the beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) in bloom! Beargrass is an odd species in that the populations seem to either bloom en masse or hardly at all. There are different thoughts about what kind of schedule it is on, but it has been blooming far more often than the “every 3 years” or “every 7 years” and other ideas I’ve heard. Coffin Mountain seems to have a mass beargrass bloom every year I make it there—although I often miss the actual flowering. Although there have been lots of big beargrass years in the last decade or so, Blair Lake doesn’t seem to be on the same schedule as other sites. I haven’t seen evidence of a big bloom year for many years. But this year, it is definitely worth visiting. There were places by the road and patches up at Mule Prairie and farther up the trail at Spring Prairie where there were a great many in bloom, but most are still budding up, so it should be impressive for the next couple of weeks at least. I don’t think anyone knows exactly what factors are required to create a big bloom year, but when there is one, it is well worth the trip to see this impressive sight (and smell, although the strong fragrance of thousands of inflorescences can be a bit overwhelming!). Read the rest of this entry »

More Exploration Near Grassy Glade

The most floriferous spot at Rabbitbrush Ridge is a small draw next to the dike. No doubt this area funnels most of the surrounding moisture to the mass of northern buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum), frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa), varifleaf phacelia (Phacelia heterophylla), bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata), ookow (Dichelostemma congestum), and Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum).

Candelabrum monkeyflower is a delicate annual that prefers openings among shrubs where there’s little competition.

On Wednesday, June 10, we had a day off from the rain (not that I’m complaining about rain in June anymore!), so I took advantage of it to head back to Grassy Glade and check out one more opening I hadn’t been to yet and see how the purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) was doing.

First I made a few stops to collect seeds: silvery lupine (Lupinus albifrons) was ripening on the north side of Hills Creek Reservoir, and there was still some seed of Hall’s lomatium (Lomatium hallii) along the cliffs west of the reservoir. I also got a good collection of seeds of the annual miniature lupine (Lupinus bicolor), which I’d spotted growing abundantly along the road right under the guard rails. In this same area, the paintbrush (a mix of Castilleja hispida and C. pruinosa) was still blooming as was the Oregon sunshine, including a lovely pale yellow-flowered plant I’ve watched for years. I’ll be back for seeds of those later in the summer—Castilleja blooming in an area I’m restoring on my property are the progeny of these plants, growing successfully in mats of Oregon sunshine, some of which were also grown from seed collected here. Read the rest of this entry »

Watching Bees and Butterflies at Medicine Creek Road

Sadly not a monarch but a worn California tortoiseshell on purple milkweed.

On Memorial Day, May 25, I made the long drive down to the North Umpqua to check out the population of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) along Medicine Creek Road 4775. I was a little disappointed to find it was just starting to open. I think the cool weather of late had slowed things down because Big Pine Opening was at about the same stage weeks ago, and although it is lower elevation, it is also much farther north. But although the milkweed wasn’t attracting many insects, there were plenty of plants that were.

A silver-spotted skipper was one of many insects nectaring on silverleaf phacelia.

Read the rest of this entry »

Snow Almost Gone, Flowering Has Begun at Patterson

Springtime means skunk cabbage and mountain buttercups blooming in the lovely wetland at the bottom of the large meadow on the south side of Patterson Mountain.

Still anxious to see early mountain flowers, yesterday, May 23, I headed up to Patterson Mountain. In spite of it being my 29th trip up there, I took a wrong turn on the way up. Last year they started heavy thinning of the surrounding forest, and the main Patterson Mountain Road 5840 is hardly recognizable with the reopening of many old side roads. At one point, both sides of a “Y” in the road look equally well used and the road sign for the side road is in the middle. Hopefully, I’ll remember from now on that the right turn to take is the right turn! Read the rest of this entry »

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