Posts Tagged ‘Rigdon’

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!

2021 Botany Season has Begun!

Our paintbrushes hunker down for the winter, not quite going totally dormant. Now the new shoots have begun to grow, bringing forth the promise of those gorgeous red flowers in a few months. This plant growing on the cliffs along Hills Creek Reservoir might be frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa), but the paintbrushes in this area are quite variable.

One of the small creeks at Many Creeks Meadow was running well.

Just a short post today about my first trip of the season. Sad to say, I’m already way behind on posting as the trip was a week ago, on March 3rd. As always, I started the season with a look at many of my favorite spots along Road 21, in the Rigdon area south of Oakridge. Things were just starting, with only a handful of species in bloom, but it was a gorgeous sunny 60° day, so I enjoyed it thoroughly. In bloom were gold stars (Crocidium multicaule), meadow nemophila (Nemophila pedunculata), snow queen (now with a new name: Veronica regina-nivalis), white alder (Alnus rhombifolia), slender toothwort (Cardamine nuttallii), Hall’s lomatium (Lomatium hallii), and the very first Sierra gooseberry (Ribes roezlii) flower.

I started the day with a quick stop along the north side of the reservoir just east of the dam. Tiny silvery lupine (Lupinus albifrons) seedlings were just sprouting their first true leaves. Even at this size, someone small had spotted this one and taken a few bites out of one of the thick cotyledon leaves.

I made a quick stop at the Oakridge dump, which is right near the Hills Creek Dam, to do some recycling. I was surprised to get this great view of Heckletooth Mountain, where both the west- and south-facing meadows can be seen at the same time.

The goldstars (Crocidium multicaule) that I seeded in my restoration area on my property had begun to bloom, so I was sure they would be flowering along the reservoir, but they still have a while to go before their peak bloom.

“Ladybug Rock” (just west of Camper’s Flat along Road 21) didn’t let me down. One of the sights I’d hoped to see was the first gathering of the overwintering butterflies as happy as I was for such a warm spring-like day. There were as many as a couple of dozen California tortoiseshells and a single green comma (wings open in the upper left) flitting about the south-facing rock face.

The male catkins of white alder (Alnus rhombifolia) were in bloom above the Middle Fork of the Willamette River at Camper’s Flat Campground.

A Sea of Blue at Maple Creek Meadow

This photo of the view east was taken from about the same spot as the ones I used in my previous two reports about Maple Creek Meadow—why break tradition? The little opening on the nearest ridge is Rabbitbrush Ridge where I went the previous week (see More Exploration Near Grassy Glade) and which also has purple milkweed, rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa), northern buckwheat, and bluefield gilia, all seen here.

With the forecast predicting warm summer weather on the way, I figured it might be my last chance to get out to see the peak bloom of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) at lower elevation meadows without roasting. I had been wanting to return to what I named “Maple Creek Meadow” as I’d only been there twice before: first on a hot day in July (see Another New Milkweed and Monarch Site!) when most things were finished and the following year on a cloudy day in May (see Surveying Milkweed at “Maple Creek Meadow”) when many plants were just starting. So I was due for a sunny but cool day in the middle of the season and headed out to the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County on June 17.

Two caterpillars eating flower stalks of rose checkermallow. Apparently, their color depends partly on what they are eating. I think both are gray hairstreaks (but correct me if you think otherwise!).

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 »

Followup Milkweed Count at Coal Creek Bluff

One of the beautiful madrones (Arbutus menziesii) that grace the bluff. Coal Creek can be seen cutting through the forest down below.

From lower down the slope, I got a peek-a-boo glimpse of the small waterfalls upstream along Coal Creek. Unfortunately, a closer look would require climbing down some very steep banks.

Saturday, May 9, was a beautiful day but around 80°—much hotter than I’m used to this time of year. I had hoped to get up to a high enough elevation to be a little more comfortable, and I was really hoping to see the very early mountain flowers. My plan was to try to get up to “Heavenly Bluff” to see the Siskiyou fritillary (Fritillaria glauca), a very early bloomer. I hadn’t been there for 6 years. If I couldn’t get that far, I would go to Bearbones Mountain, which I would pass on Road 5850. It’s another site for the fritillary, though much less floriferous. Unfortunately, right after I turned onto Road 5850, I came upon a number of fallen trees. It was another 3 miles or so to get to Bearbones, so I was not going to add over 6 miles of road to my hike. A little snow in the ditch also made me wonder if there might still be some snow blocking the road farther ahead even without downed trees. The shady section of road on the north side of Spring Butte seems to hold snow longer than the rest of the road. Read the rest of this entry »

Milkweed is Up and Dippers are Out

One of the milkweeds was close to the cliff edge above the quarry. Thank goodness for the long zoom on my camera so I could take the photo from a safe distance from the edge.

On Monday, May 4, I headed out to the Rigdon area southeast of Oakridge to check on the purple or heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia). At home, my little seedlings had been germinating, and some of last year’s seedlings were reemerging, so I was pretty sure the milkweed would be up at Big Pine Opening. I was surprised to see how tall some of the plants were, and several even had a few open flowers. I relocated the “chia pet” milkweed plant(s) from last year (see Three Trips in a Row to Rigdon). It was still growing in the same bizarre manner. I’m really puzzled by this odd plant, but I’ll just have to watch it as it develops. I wonder if it will flower eventually.

Last year’s chia pet-like clump of purple milkweed is up again at Big Pine Opening. Comparing it to last year’s photo, it looks like it has fewer, larger shoots, but it is still way more congested than a normal plant.

Big Pine Opening is an open slope at the intersection of Road 21 and gravel Road 2135. On the side facing the gravel road, the hillside was been carved out for a quarry. Unfortunately, the milkweed only grows on the top of the slope on the side above the old quarry. After seeing milkweed growing in the relics of a quarry at “Maple Creek Meadow” (see Surveying Milkweed at “Maple Creek Meadow”), I’d wondered whether the milkweed might be able to grow in the quarry itself at Big Pine Opening. After checking out the milkweed at the top, I went back down to the road and walked partway up the talus in the quarry—I wasn’t up to the difficult task of going high up the loose rock, but, with my binoculars, I was able to spot two patches growing in the gravel along the north side, in the partial shade of a couple of young ponderosa pine. There appeared to be at least a dozen plants large enough to be in bud. One more plant was growing in the main slope. I’m not sure if I can get close enough to the plants for a good count, but I’m just pleased the population is expanding into the quarry side. I suspect there might have been more milkweed on that side before the quarry was created, so maybe they are repopulating below where they once grew. Read the rest of this entry »

Three Trips in a Row to Rigdon

The mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii) was in full fragrant bloom at Many Creeks Meadow and attracting lots of snowberry checkerspots. I can almost still smell the heavenly fragrance!

On Sunday, June 16, I hiked up the Youngs Rock trail, bushwhacking in from a meadow between Road 2129 and the trail that John Koenig and I named Buckbrush Meadow last year. Then on Wednesday, June 19, I went to Grassy Glade with Maya Goklany of Walama Restoration and two volunteers, Alicja and Sabine. We also explored the lower openings, “Rocky Glade” and “Mock Orange Glade.” Finally, on Friday, June 21, I headed over to “Many Creeks Meadow” for an afternoon of seed collecting before camping at Sacandaga Campground for the weekend (more on that later).

Here are some photos from those trips. Read the rest of this entry »

Counting Purple Milkweed at Grassy Glade

A cedar (AKA juniper) hairstreak waiting for the milkweed buds to open.

Last year we did a lot of milkweed counts, but somehow we never counted the main population at Grassy Glade, even though we all went there many times. So on May 30, Maya Goklany, volunteer coordinator for Walama Restoration, and I went to Grassy Glade to look at the milkweed. Thankfully the road in was fine, and it didn’t look like there was much storm damage there. The purple (or heartleaf) milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) was just barely starting to bloom. Only a few plants had any open flowers, although several cedar hairstreaks were hanging around, hoping for some nectar from these butterfly favorites. Read the rest of this entry »

A Day of Uncommon Ferns and Sedges

Larkspur covered the mossy rocks of Sacandaga Bluff.

On May 3, John Koenig and I went back to Rigdon to check out what I now call Sacandaga Bluff, a wonderful rocky area hidden away between the Middle Fork of the Willamette River and Sacandaga Campground. Last year, Ed Alverson had told us he found a population there of Sierra cliffbrake (Pellaea brachyptera), an unusual fern found more commonly to the south. It is one of my favorite ferns, and I’ve written about finding new spots for it in Lane County several times. I went to this spot a couple of times later year, and once earlier this year (see last report), but I still wanted to see it in its high spring bloom. Read the rest of this entry »

Further Rigdon Area Meadow Exploration

I’ve been so busy, I haven’t been able to keep up with the blog. I went out another 16 times since my last report in July, but I just didn’t seem to have the time to post. So—now that the year is just about over—I thought I’d try to at least post some photos from the most interesting of those trips—many were just seed-collecting trips to familiar places for the restoration work on my own property.

Looking for more purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) sites in the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County was still one of my top priorities for the year. While I wasn’t able to find milkweed in most of them, I did find some interesting spots.
 

July 6

Purple milkweed dying back at the quarry meadow.

Crystal Shepherd, who worked as a botanist in the Middle Fork district last year, told me about a site where she found “one lonely Asclepius” last year. It was a very small opening above an old quarry along Youngs Creek Road 2129. I decided I’d better check it out it myself. I had looked at the meadow alongside the quarry many years ago in early spring but had never been back, even though it is just above the road that I’ve driven up countless times. I was thrilled to discover there was actually milkweed in the quarry meadow itself. I only spotted 10 plants, but some were already largely collapsed on the ground, so there may well be more than I saw. Before the quarry tore into the meadow, there might have been a much larger population. There were also a lot of other nice wildflowers in this meadow, including tons of tall bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata) going to seed (but not ripe yet—darn!) and quite a bit of blooming western rayless fleabane (Erigeron inornatus), what I’ve come to feel is a regular associate of purple milkweed. Read the rest of this entry »

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