Posts Tagged ‘pika’

Autumn at Hills Peak

The fall color was outstanding in the wetland east of Hills Peak, mostly from the vast stretches of bog huckleberries.

A Cascades frog floating in one of the many channels near the lake.

On October 5th, John Koenig and I headed up to Hills Peak at the east end of the Calapooya Mountains. We both wanted to get in one more trip to the Calapooyas before winter, and we were looking for an easy trip—especially after John had injured his knee on our last trip out together (see Butterflying on Coal Creek Road). There are many places of interest around Hills Peak, so we can never see them all. On this trip, we made three stops: a wetland, the top of the peak, and the talus at the north end.

It was a gorgeous fall day. The clear blue sky was heavenly after months of smoke. We headed first to the large wetland east of the peak off of Road 2154, where there is a shallow lake and bog. While there was little left in bloom, the fall color was outstanding. The backlit huckleberries made the area look like it was on fire—but in a good way. Read the rest of this entry »

Return to Tidbits

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 »

A Fine Day at Fuller Lake

We came across this amazing display of scarlet paintbrush (Castilleja miniata) along the road and stopped for a while to watch the hummingbirds fighting over it.

We had to stop at our favorite butterfly-watching site along Road 3810 where the dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) attracts numerous butterflies and other insects with its candy-like fragrance. Nectaring here a fritillary and an Edith’s copper.

On August 1, John Koenig and I headed back to the Calapooyas to visit Fuller Lake, just east of Reynolds Ridge. John had never been there before. It was my third trip, but it had been six years since my previous visit, and somehow I’d neglected to post a report on this blog of either of the earlier visits. There’s a short but somewhat rough road down to the trailhead, but surprisingly the trail was in great shape. It’s an old road that leads to the lake, less than a mile away. Sadly, the shelter that was still there on my last visit was nothing but a pile of boards. There was also evidence of an old dock along the lake that was in similar disarray.

The lake itself was as pretty as I remember it. A large talus slope bounds the south end of the lake. We headed down the west side toward the talus. Most of the flowers were finished blooming, but we did come across one exceptional stand of leopard lilies (Lilium pardalinum) in their full glory. It was clear there had been a lovely show of camas (Camassia sp.) a month or so earlier. We even found a couple of stray flowers left. We imagined it must look a lot like nearby Bradley Lake, but although it was already August, this was my earliest trip, so I’ve never seen its spring bloom. Read the rest of this entry »

More Wonderful Wildlife Sightings at Hills Peak

As I had done on my most recent late season trip to Hills Peak (see Another Great Wildlife Day) in 2012, I stopped at a bridge over the Middle Fork of the Willamette where it is still a small stream to see the salmon. There must have been 50 of them swimming in place together, packed like sardines, you might say.

As I had done on my most recent late season trip to Hills Peak (see Another Great Wildlife Day) in 2012, I stopped at a bridge over the Middle Fork of the Willamette where it is still a small stream to see the salmon. There must have been 50 of them swimming in place together, packed like sardines, you might say.

Having finally seen my first pika of the year on my trip to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide, I was reminded that I had never gotten to Hills Peak last year—my favorite pika-viewing site. With the flowers fading, I decided that would be a good destination on July 23, 2015. I’d also been wanting to try climbing up to the base of the cliffs on the left side of the talus slope for several years, but I’d had friends with me on my previous trips and didn’t want to drag anyone else up such a steep slope or make them wait for me, although hanging out on the lower rocks, watching for pikas is an enjoyable way to pass the day. And in fact that’s what I did for most of the day after I finished checking out the cliffs, where most things were finished except the Scotch harebell (Campanula rotundifolia). I also checked out the small bog and lake to the west, but there were only a few things left in bloom, so I went back to visit some more with the pikas. Since I’m so far behind on my reports, I’ll just share some photos of the wonderful wildlife I saw.

A pika rearranging some thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) leaves in its cache.

A pika rearranging some thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) leaves in its cache.

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Another Great Wildlife Day

I haven’t been posting much lately. Partly, that is due to my winding down my botanizing as the flowers are also finishing their season. The other reason is that I’ve been exploring some High Cascade wetlands. In the last few weeks I’ve visited Gold Lake Bog, Blue Lake, Hand and Scott lakes, and some interesting unnamed bogs near Little Cultus Lake, an area I’d never investigated before. On Friday (September 14), however, I went back to one of my favorite haunts, and the last one I posted about: Hills Peak. I’ve been wanting to show Molly Juillerat (Middle Fork District botanist) the wonderful lake on the east side of the peak because it is home to lesser bladderwort, one of the rare species the Forest Service monitors (see the previous post). Molly was finally free after fires near Oakridge pulled her away from her other duties, and Nancy was also able to join us.

The sphagnum moss on the mounds by the lake takes on a gorgeous copper color as the summer fades.

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A Minor Thrill at Hills Peak

On Thursday (August 23), John Koenig and I spent a lovely day in the area by Hills Peak. I had been looking forward to showing John one of my favorite areas in the Calapooyas, a part of the Western Cascades that is special to him as well. He “adopted” the Dome Rock wilderness area for Oregon Wild (then ONRC) back in the late ’90s when they were trying to assess all the small unprotected wilderness areas in the state. The day was absolutely gorgeous with none of the heat of the previous week or so and no sign of smoke from any of the small fires in the area.

The shallow lake has many pond lilies (Nuphar polysepala) and is surrounded by bog-loving sedges.

We started out the day by walking down the old road to the shallow lake to the east of Hills Peak. I didn’t have time to check it out on my earlier trip this year (see Hills Creek to Hills Peak). Although the majority of flowers were finished, there was still plenty to see. Poking around a small wet meadow beside this old road, we found dozens of one-flowered gentians (Gentianopsis simplex), including a few plants whose petals were twice the normal length. There were also a great many starry ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes stellata). I’ve seen these both here before, but one of these days I’ll come back earlier enough to see what must be a lovely display of mountain shooting stars (Dodecatheon jeffreyi). Read the rest of this entry »

Hills Creek to Hills Peak

On Sunday (July 29), I drove down along Road 21 past Hills Creek Reservoir, yet again. I believe that’s the 13th time this season—and it won’t be the last. It is such a fascinating area botanically with a few good trails and a great deal of roadside interest. I was still tired from bushwhacking around Bearbones Mountain (see previous post Butterflies at Bearbones), so I wanted to avoid any real hiking and to instead check up on some good roadside spots and see as much of Hills Peak, way out past the end of 21, as I had time and energy for. My first stop was to Youngs Flat Picnic Area to see if the piperias were in bloom. What great luck, the white-flowered royal rein orchid (Piperia transversa) was in perfect bloom. Chaparral rein orchid (P. elongata) blooms a little later and was just starting, although I found several in good bloom. As far as I know, it is impossible to tell the various species apart from the leaves. So this was the time to check out some of the areas along the road where I’d seen the leaves but never the flowers. So my next stop was Mutton Meadow. In the woods across the road from the meadow were some scattered Piperia transversa, no elongata. The meadow itself was filled with elegant cluster-lily (Brodiaea elegans), some kind of birdbeak (Cordylanthus sp.)—a rare plant around here, and yampah (Perideridia spp.). I believe I saw both P. gairdneri and P. oregana, but until the seeds appear, I can’t be sure. That’s a tough genus to get a handle on.

Left and middle are Piperia transversa. It has mostly white flowers with long spurs that are perpendicular to the stem. On the right is the mostly green Piperia elongata. Its spurs are even longer and point in any direction.

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Hills Peak’s Wetlands and Wildlife

This western pond turtle wasn’t happy to be “rescued” from the dangerous road.

Another great day for wildlife began before we even got to Hills Peak on Tuesday (August 23). As we drove out Road 21 around Hills Creek Reservoir, both Sabine and I took a double-take at an object on the edge of the road. I backed up when I realized it was a western pond turtle… intent on crossing the road! Picking him up wasn’t as easy as I expected. He squirmed and scratched much the way my cat does when I want to move her somewhere she doesn’t want to go. We were right near where Stony Creek meets the lake, so we brought him down to the water’s edge where he headed straight into the water. Hopefully if he gets the urge to go to the lake again, he can find a way under the road. I’ve never seen a pond turtle out that way, so it was great to see him, especially still alive and not squished on the road. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has posted a Western Pond Turtle fact sheet if you’re interested in learning more about these uncommon turtles in Oregon. Read the rest of this entry »

Hunting for Plants at Hills Peak

Pine white sipping from the tiny tubular flowers of Ageratina occidentalis

Hunting season is one of my least favorite times of the year. I really resent being told it is unsafe for me to be up in the mountains. So I ignore that and go about my business, my only accommodation being that I wear brightly colored clothes. In many years of botanizing in last summer and fall, I’ve never run into a hunter actually hunting. Usually, I see them driving around, and I’ve had conversations with some who are camping or heading back to their cars. Well, there’s a first for everything.

I headed back up to Hills Peak yesterday (September 11), to check out the spots I’d missed on my two previous trips (click here to see previous posts) and to visit with the pikas one last time. Seeing a truck parked by the entrance to the pika slope, I started the day by parking just a bit farther up the road. From here, I walked through the woods to the wetland just south of Road 2153. I checked many of the numerous patches of the larger form of Mimulus primuloides to see if there were any stolons like there were on the small ones at the nearby wetlands and earlier in the week at Echo Basin (see Late Bloomers at Echo Basin & Ikenick Creek). I couldn’t find a single one. There were obvious runners in several patches of the small, hairy form on the south edge of the wetland. I don’t know what it means, but it is interesting, and I’ll keep paying attention to that feature in the future. Read the rest of this entry »

Pikas, and a Coyote, and Monkeyflowers, Oh My!

The first time I went to Hills Peak (see First Trip to Hills Peak) in northeastern Douglas County, I took a look at the top of the peak and three nearby wetlands. But there were several interesting looking spots that I did not have time for, so I decided it deserved a return trip. Boy, was I right! What a wonderful day I had Thursday (August 26), with great weather, interesting and unusual plants (even though most flowers were finished), and some great wildlife experiences, including a terrific hour spent hanging out with pikas.

Pika checking out its hay cache

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