Posts Tagged ‘Deer Creek’

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!

A Return Look at Deer Creek Meadows

The upper meadow in its full glory of monkeyflower and rosy plectritis during a break in the clouds. Looking east where there was still lots of blue sky, we didn’t realize that rain was coming in.

The floriferous roadcuts start just after you pass picturesque Fritz Creek, which was still gushing with water most likely from higher elevation melting snow.

After my earlier trip to Deer Creek Road this season (see Golden-lined Banks of Deer Creek Road), I was anxious to return and see the next stage of bloom as well as to explore the upper meadows we hadn’t had energy to do on the first trip on a hot day. On May 25, 2017, just about 3 weeks after the first trip, John Koenig and I drove out to Deer Creek Road, on what turned out to be a cooler day than we expected but a good one for climbing up the steep meadows.

We started out enjoying the lovely sunny day by walking down the road to see what was in bloom. Thompson’s mistmaiden (Romanzoffia thompsonii) and naked broomrape (Orobanche uniflora) were finishing up; silverleaf phacelia (Phacelia hastata), Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii), and prairie star (Lithophragma parviflorum) were at peak bloom; and the big show of large-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora) was just beginning. We also needed to figure out the best way to access the upper meadows. I hadn’t tackled the eastern meadow since 2010 (see Superb Floral Display Above Deer Creek), so I had forgotten where along the steep roadcut Sabine Dutoit and I had managed to climb up. It turns out we did find the same gap in the rocks, although I didn’t recognize it until I got home and looked at my old photos (for those interesting in checking it out, it’s about 1/4 mile past Fritz Creek but bring an aerial photo as you can’t see the meadow from below). Hopefully I’ll remember the spot the next time I go up there. Read the rest of this entry »

Golden-lined Banks of Deer Creek Road

Monkeyflowers painting the moist banks of Deer Creek Road

On Wednesday, May 3, Sabine Dutoit, Nancy Bray, and I enjoyed the unusually hot (88° according to the thermometer at the McKenzie Ranger Station!) but gorgeous day roadside botanizing in the McKenzie area. Nancy had never been to the beautiful seepy roadbanks along Deer Creek Road 2654, and Sabine and I hadn’t been for 3 years (see Triple Treat up the McKenzie). With all the rain we’ve had, I figured the area would be at its best this year.  Read the rest of this entry »

Triple Treat up the McKenzie

Left) A very fresh brown elfin on a male Sitka willow flower. Right) A echo (spring) azure on a female Sitka willow flower.

Left) A very fresh brown elfin (the purple scales don’t last long) on a male Sitka willow flower. Right) An echo (spring) azure on a female Sitka willow flower.

With the warm spring weather beckoning, Sabine and I headed up the McKenzie Highway on Wednesday (April 30) to see how the bloom was coming along in several favorite sites. Our first stop was to the main wetland at Ikenick Creek. I’d never been there anywhere near this early, and although there were lots of spring flowers on last spring’s early June trip (see The Stars are Shining at Ikenick Creek), I was a bit late for the willows. This year, I wanted to try to catch this area at the very beginning of the season. A few remnants of snow along the north-facing side of the road indicated it was indeed early here. The air was fantastic—so fresh and not hot yet. As soon as we got out of the car, we saw some blooming sitka willow (Salix sitchensis) by the roadside that was serving breakfast to a number of insects, including several brown elfins and echo (formerly spring) azures—an auspicious start to the day! Read the rest of this entry »

Floriferous Roadcut Along McKenzie Highway

On Sunday (May 13), I headed out the McKenzie Highway to do some botanizing. My first stop was to the Castle Rock trail. It is still early there, but there were a number of fairy slippers (Calypso bulbosa) in the woods and many Lomatium hallii and Sierra snakeroot (Sanicula graveolens) blooming in the open rocky areas of the summit. The pretty pink Phlox diffusa was also starting to bloom along with the lovely Viola sheltonii and Micranthes (Saxifraga) rufidula. It only took me around 3 hours to poke around my favorite spots to see how things were coming along, so I decided to continue on east past McKenzie Bridge.

The bright yellow blossoms of Hall’s lomatium (Lomatium hallii) are one of the first things to bloom up on Castle Rock.

Another good spot for early flowers is along Deer Creek Road 2654, just over the border into Linn County, 7.5 miles past the ranger station. The wet springs of the last couple of years fueled some gorgeous displays of seep-loving annuals (see Superb Floral Display Above Deer Creek). While it has been wet this spring until recently and many things are just starting, the sudden change to warm, dry conditions may shorten the show of annuals this year. There were quite a few larkspurs (Delphinium menziesii) in bloom along the road banks along with fading Lomatium hallii and saxifrages (Micranthes rufidula and M. integrifolia). Thompson’s mistmaiden (Romanzoffia thompsonii) was still blooming in a few of the many seeps. The big sweeps of rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta) and blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora) had not yet begun. Read the rest of this entry »

Superb Floral Display Above Deer Creek

Several years ago, Sabine and I discovered a great roadside area for botanizing along Deer Creek Road in Linn County. Head out the McKenzie Highway past the ranger station. Deer Creek Road heads off to the left (west) after about 7.5 miles (3 miles south of Trail Bridge Reservoir). While you’ll start to see nice patches of Cryptantha intermedia pretty soon along the road banks, the real show doesn’t start until you drive past Fritz Creek. Here, between about 2.5 and 4 miles from the start of the road, there are about 13 creeks and seeps spilling down onto the road bank and fueling an amazing show of annuals this year.

Easternmost meadow with sweeps of Collinsia grandiflora

We hadn’t explored the area since 2005, so after a quick trip up Castle Rock a couple of weeks ago, we decided it would be worth checking out. The blue sheets of Collinsia grandiflora were outstanding. Mimulus guttatus was also quite lovely, and many other plants were still going strong—even some Romanzoffia thompsonii I remembered seeing on our original trips. At one particular small creek, I had discovered some Dodecatheon pulchellum back in 2005. At only about 2500′ elevation, it is the lowest site for this variety I know, and I figured it would be finished, but I still wanted to relocate it, and was pleased to find 3 small plants in the creek bed. I remembered finding much more in a somewhat hidden seepy meadow farther up hill. There are several other meadows above these roadcuts I hadn’t investigated yet. Clearly this area was worth a whole day of exploring. Read the rest of this entry »

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