Posts Tagged ‘Arctostaphylos’

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.

At every stop along the road, I was greeted by California tortoiseshells. When I got to “Ladybug Rock,” there were as many as I’d seen on my previous outing (see 2021 Botany Season has Begun!). I also spotted a Moss’s elfin sitting on its host food plant, broadleaf stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium), high up on the rock. While the tortoiseshell overwinters as an adult and can appear on any warm, sunny day, the elfin overwinters as a chrysalis, so this was the first newly hatched butterfly I’d seen this season—definitely a sign of spring. I climbed up on the rock to get some of the first ripe seed on the still-blooming gold stars (Crocidium multicaule). When I returned to the car, a truck passed me and then backed up to where I was. Usually, passersby are wondering if I’m okay. It turns out this man was so excited about something he had found that he just had to share it with someone, and I was the first person he’d seen (likewise, he was the first person I’d seen in the area all day). He pulled out a massive (elk?) antler with 5 points; it was over half his height!

There were several flower longhorn beetles gathering pollen by burrowing their heads into coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus) flowers along Road 21.

After a few more stops, including Big Pine Opening and the bluff at Sacandaga Campground, I returned to Ladybug Rock. I wandered through the woods by the river (the massive patches of fawn-lilies still weren’t blooming, but the coltsfoot had started) and popped back out on the road about a tenth of a mile west of Ladybug Rock. I decided to check out the little seep on the south-facing bank across the road. I’ve never noticed any interesting plants there, but the moss looks lush and inviting every time I drive by. That turned out to be the highlight of my day. Not only were there lots of tortoiseshells puddling in the wet ditch, but there were also two other butterflies, a Mylitta crescent and an echo azure—both the first of the year for me. 

A ladybug sitting on hoary manzanita (Arctostaphylos canescens) flowers at Sacandaga Bluff. Even though most of the plant was still in bud, some nectar robber had already started poking holes in the flowers just as I’d seen there the last couple of years.

I put my left-hand palm up in hopes of attracting a butterfly. While many tortioseshells were flying around me, none landed. Then I noticed that one had landed on my camera bag and another on my hip. In the heat of this unusually warm day, it was easy to find some sweat to apply to my finger before encouraging one of the butterflies to climb onto my finger. It worked well, so I “scooped” up the second one. Word seemed to have gotten around because more butterflies landed on me. Eventually, I was able to get four on my left hand, and another had alighted farther down my left arm. Others appeared to be landing on my head and back (look for an odd triangle at the top of your shadow if you’re alone and wondering if someone is on your head!). I took as many photos as I could, but at some point, I got hot and tired of standing up, so I sat down with my friends on the road bank.

Four torties sipping sweat on a hot afternoon. Quite the handful!

A car drove by, disturbing several butterflies who flew off my hand, but most returned on their own. Having gotten a taste of salty sweat, I guess they decided it was more delicious than mud. Once again, the car slowed down and backed up. This time it was, in fact, a concerned citizen wondering if I was all right. I guess seeing a woman sitting alone on the side of the road with her hand up in the air might have looked a little concerning! After I reassured him I was okay, the man drove off, and I finally decided it was time for me to leave, too. I walked back toward my car with several torties accompanying me. One walked me almost all the way back to my car (how chivalrous!) and another had landed on my nose. I had thought I was going to observe butterflies, but as it turned out, I was the main attraction—you might say I was the plat du jour at the Butterfly Café!

Reptiles and Insects Enjoy Spring in Rigdon Area

Coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus) was still in bloom along the Middle Fork of the Willamette. It was attracting numerous tiny flies as well as a small bee. If you haven’t smelled coltsfoot, try it, it has an unusual and pleasant menthol-like scent. That might help it attract so many pollinators.

My first official spring trip to Rigdon was on April 8, a lovely warm day. With the social distancing required because of the pandemic, I was out by myself, but I was certainly not alone. While it was still early in the season, there were plenty of the usual April flowers but also a few butterflies, bees, and an unexpected number of reptiles. Here are some photo highlights.

Just like last April (see Early Trips to Rigdon), the blooming manzanitas at Sacandaga Bluff were attracting lots of insects to the flowers, most of which had been pierced earlier by some nectar-robbing bee. This makes it easier for the other insects, like this echo azure and bee (Andrena?) to access the nectar.

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Early Trips to Rigdon

It’s been a busy winter and spring with a lot of unexpected setbacks—snowstorm and broken wrist among the worst. The snow’s long gone, and the wrist is healing, but I’m still not caught up on everything I had hoped to do in the last few months. While I haven’t been out as much as usual, I did make it out to Rigdon several times, so I’ll share some photos from those early spring trips.

March 17

My friend Karl hadn’t seen the big show of gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) along Hills Creek Reservoir, so we headed out there on March 17. We only made it out as far as Big Pine Opening because of all the downed trees and remnants of snow on the road, but the show along the reservoir was beautiful.

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Exploring Shy Creek Meadows Area

A view of the snow on Diamond Peak and the Calapooyas from the manzanita-covered main Shy Creek Meadow

On April 4, I brought John Koenig and Sheila Klest to see the area I’m calling Shy Creek Meadows, several meadows along abandoned forest road 034 near Coal Creek in the Rigdon area of Lane County that I first visited last fall (see Further Low-Elevation Meadow Exploration). While we didn’t find any purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia), we had a great day. Here are some photographic highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

First Flowers at Coal Creek Bluff

After discovering new sites for purple (or heartleaf) milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) in the Western Cascades last summer, my main goal for this spring and summer is to explore these lower elevation meadows in the Rigdon and North Umpqua areas of the Western Cascades for more milkweed sites—and hopefully more monarch sightings. Several weeks ago, John Koenig, Sheila Klest, and I tried to get to what I named “Coal Creek Bluff” last fall on my first visit there (see Final Outing of 2017). We drove across a thin layer of snow on the bridge across Coal Creek but were immediately stopped by a tree across the road. So we changed our plans and went back to “Monarch Meadow” and “Many Creeks Meadow”. John hadn’t been to Monarch Meadow, and Sheila hadn’t been to Many Creeks Meadow. It was an enjoyable day, and things were a little further along than the earlier trips I posted about most recently, but it was still quite early, so not much to report yet.

Gold stars light up the steep slope near the base of the open area. A glimpse of Coal Creek can be seen through the trees below.

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Colorful Wet Meadows at Hemlock Butte

Above the wetlands filled with Jeffrey’s shooting star is the rocky knob of Hemlock Butte.

I don’t usually go out on substandard days—ones where there is a good chance of rain. It’s not just that I don’t like to get wet (some Oregonian I am!), but the flowers are wet and often droopy, so it isn’t the best time for photography. But with five days in a row of wet weather forecast, I couldn’t stand the idea of missing so many days of being out in the mountains. On Sunday (June 24), it was actually pretty sunny when I got up. I figured I could get at least a half day in before the rain started if I was lucky. I headed up to Hemlock Butte to see the lovely roadside wet meadows. If it did rain, I wouldn’t be far from the car. Read the rest of this entry »

Fruits and Fronds at Eagles Rest

Rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) going to seed on the south-facing front of the cliff. The little bumps in the distance are Fuji Mountain and Mount David Douglas.

After a week of rather dreary weather, the weekend turned out to be quite nice. I decided I had too much to do to take the whole day off for a hike, but the clear blue sky Saturday morning (October 8) made it impossible to stay home. My compromise was a quick trip up to Eagles Rest—only a half-hour drive and 1.5-mile round-trip hike. I had thought about heading farther up the road to Mount June, but as I drove up Eagles Rest Road, I could see clouds hanging on the summit. That made the decision to do the shorter and easier hike.

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Knobcone Pines on Bear Mountain Meadows

Bear Mountain Meadows seen in the distance from near Hills Peak. We got as far as the one in the center of the photo.

A couple of weeks ago (see Uncommon Plants in Southeastern Lane County), snow kept me from checking out the series of large meadows on the lower slopes of Bear Mountain (the peak in extreme southeastern Lane County—apparently there are seven in Oregon, two others just in Lane County! As Sabine often points out, people aren’t very creative naming geographic features.) Despite the ominous date—Friday the 13th—this time we were very lucky finding a way up to this intriguing area. It turns out that Molly Juillerat, the Middle Fork district botanist, was also hoping to see this area, as it was on a list of meadows to survey for possible restoration. She and Sabine and I were joined by another intrepid botanical explorer, John Koenig. Read the rest of this entry »

Blooming Begins at Eagles Rest

A male Garrya fremontii blooms with Mount June in the background

At only 3000′, early spring flowers are already decorating Eagles Rest near Dexter. This rocky knob is only a 15-mile drive from my house, so I don’t know why I haven’t spent more time there. I only had a few hours yesterday afternoon (March 31st) to get out and enjoy the warm weather, so Eagles Rest seemed like a good destination. While hikers looking for exercise take the long route up from Goodman Creek or farther up where the trail crosses Road 5833, I wasn’t looking for a long walk (and my leg is sore), so I took the easy path up from Eagles Rest Road.

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A Visit to Stone Mountain

From the road along the east side of Groundhog Mountain, there is a great view of the cliffs at Stone Mountain less than 3.5 miles to the northwest.

Stone Mountain is a popular geographical name, especially back East, but amazingly enough, there is only one Stone Mountain in Oregon. It’s in Lane County, just east of Hills Creek Reservoir. There are no trails, but there is a road leading right to the quarry at its base at around 3500′. From nearby Groundhog Mountain last month, I got a good view of the striking 300-400′ cliffs on the east side above the quarry. With all the great plants I’ve seen at Groundhog Mountain, Moon Point, and Youngs Rock, I wanted to not only check out these irresistible cliffs but also to explore this area just a bit to the north of my usual haunts. Yesterday (November 12), the pleasant dry weather gave us a good opportunity, so Sabine and I drove out to Hills Creek Reservoir south of Oakridge to see what we might have been missing.

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