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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nemsis Bird

For years finding a Barred Owl in Washington State has eluded me.

I have had friends take me to their "cannot miss" spots.


I have had folks on the trail tell me "We just saw one about five minutes up the trail".


I have used tapes during census patrols. Watched looked and listened.

Wednesday after work I visited St Edwards State Park ( see my January 1 2010 entry) for a walk-about.

Climbing a steep hill I heard a raspy squeal from high in a tree. I paused and turned my head up and around.

There , sitting about 20 feet away , an adult Barred Owl!

I was just sitting there, its back to me. I continued to hear a few squeals, which I now knew was likely a juvenile. Behind me I could hear a few soft deep short hoots.

The owl gave a few looks around. It clearly looked at me, looked at the hill above me and was checking out the ravine floor below it.

It is not unusual to see Barred Owls out in daytime. This one likely needed to do extra hunting.

I was thrilled to finally see this bird here at home. Even better, I was able to share the sighting with a few other people passing by.

One woman said, "I would have missed that". SO true, often a lucky glance gets you the prize.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Last Weekend of Spring?

Or some semblance of it. Cliff Mass , in his blog, said Sunday was one of the "gloomiest" days in recent record. He explains the science here...

Saturday I climbed up to Red Top. My hope was to get mushrooms and see the Mountain Ladyslippers I have been watching unfold since early in the month.

Mushrooms were slim but I did find enough coral mushroom to put some away in the freezer and have some for dinner. Spring is still unfolding up high and the consensus is this is a very odd , very delayed season. It hailed while I was hiking. My new packpack is waterproof and my rain poncho works great.

I found my "staked out" lady slippers in full bloom and wandering along the road from them I found a grove with about 20 more, in varied states of bloom. What a treat, so elegant so exotic.

Sunday with the weather no more promising I ventured north to a place on Whidbey Island I read about in a guide book. My friend Ron Hanko has discussed orchids with me and mentioned a spot nearby. I decided to visit this park and perhaps visit the small park if my hunt was not successful.

The woods appeared to be a conventional lowland forest. I quickly noted, however, that there were trees here clearly in the 200+ year old range. They were huge, some easily needing four adults to circle the bottom with arms around. A group hug! The Salmonberry was setting fruit and all over in the woods I could hear song and chatter. I saw feeding Winter Wren and Hairy Woodpecker youngsters. I saw Rufous Hummingbird females squabbling over a particularly flower filled area. Even though the season seems slow, there was ample evidence of a bountiful nesting year.

I picked the first trail I came to and wandered along. I had no idea of where I was heading except to know the park was roughly on a peninsula and there was a trail circling it. When I came to a junction I took the trail that was named CCC. I assume that it was originally put in by the CCC ; Civilian Conservation Corps a relief program from 1933 - 1942 which put men to work implementing a natural resource conservation program. Most of the natural areas in this state were touched , in one way or another, by the CCC.

The center of the park appeared dominated by large trees, a lot of downfall and very little else. Or so it would seem. There was scant fern and greenery...

and everywhere Coralroot orchids.

Thousands of them. Most of them were Western Coralroot. Occasionally I found a Spotted Western Coralroot.

They are easy to spot in these woods. They grow in clusters, looking somewhat like tall red or slightly purple asparagus. Many of them were quite past their prime but it was still a wonderful thing to see.

Walking along I noted this plant. It stood out it was so pale. Simple. Elegant.

This is a Western Coralroot but a very pale and simply marked one.

I considered myself very fortunate to have found such a beauty and was totally content. I backtracked and chose a new trail. I found some Indian Pipe again, this time white. They are still just erupting from the ground.

At the next trail junction I chose straight ahead. Within 15 steps I saw it. I knew it was different. A close exam. I had heard about this flower from Ron. I had read about it, how it was once "lost" then recently rediscovered in a very few spots; mostly in the San Juans and on Whidbey.

Ozette Coralroot. It was a lone struggling spike.

What a thrill. So rare and standing right there near the trail. I wonder if those seeing it really see it when they are in the woods. I wonder how such a beautiful park so close to the busiest park in the state could be so empty. I encountered one person inside the park and it was not until I was walking out at noon that I passes two families.

Perhaps this isolation serves to protect the wonderful plants here. Perhaps having a peaceful place is a good thing. Part of me would wish that others could see and understand these wonders.

To celebrate I stopped at a place I had meant to for some time. Sweet D's Shrimp Shack! Drive up walk up and picnic tables around back. Serving all things seafood and a couple things that are not (alligator , Prime Rib, Pulled Pork )

I had Razor Clam Sandwich, could not say no! Should have had Seaweed Salad to go.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Field Trip : Chumstick Mountain

Sunday I spent a very long day over at Chumstick Mountain with the Washington Native Plant Society.

This area was over run by the Entiat Fire in 1994 and it was very interesting to see the environment and recovery 15 year on.

The main feature of the trip was the Tweedy's Lewisia in abundance and the transition from broken forest to mountain top. Much of the area was over run by forest fire. There are cleared slopes and some slopes appear to have slipped due to loss of timber support. The Tweedy's love this environment.

It was a beautiful day and as we climbed the temperatures dropped. Down in Leavenworth it was a comfortable 80 degrees ,up on the mountain top it was a windy 65. It was easy to be out in the open under these conditions and the hours slipped by.

One member of the trip was a mushroom expert and she was most helpful in teaching me about some basics of the common edible mushrooms. I hope to put her lesson to work this coming weekend with a return to Red Top, if the weather is favorable.

We found puffballs and I brought a couple home. The large one I brought was perfect. Here it is cut open.

The view of the countryside was wonderful. The Stewart Range was in full view, this time from the northeast aspect.

To the east you can see the agriculture areas of the Waterville Plateau. At one point we could just seen a glimpse of the Columbia River.

This picture gives you an idea of the lengths some of us go to to get the shot. It was a beautiful open hillside filled with flowers and bugs.

The ubiquitous unknown little green bug ( in Spring Beauty)

Flower Crab Spider trying hard to stay out of the light

and Swarming Ladybugs at the very top. I have encountered this odd scene before at the 7000 ft level. Ladybugs all over, hiding in every possible place.

A couple who live near Leavenworth invited us to come see the Mountain Ladyslipper and Phantom Orchids on their property. I could not say no and was thrilled to finally see this local beauty in full bloom.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Getting Up and Going

Saturday was forecast to be a great sunny warm day. It was one point shy of "the event of a lifetime" on the Puget Sound Scale. The first 75+ day of the year, on a Saturday after what feels like months and months of dreary rainy weather.

I wanted to get up and out early because I planned to climb Bandera, a solid 1000/1 hike. The slope of the upper mountain is south facing and in solid unrelenting sun (when it is out) I feel if you are not up in that area before 10 you are really going to suffer

and we cannot have that.

When I got to the parking lot of the trail head at 830 I could tell there were many like minded folks. It was full. I even encountered some folks coming down on the early part of the trail through the woods.

I was instantly pulled up short as I noticed a tiny plant by the trail. I knew instantly what it was, even though I had never really met it in real life. Hours of turning the pages of my field guide and my current interest in orchids and other saprophytes has me really primed to see these delights.

This is Heart-leaf Twayblade. The plant no more than 3 inches high, the flower, perhaps 1/4 inch across.

a dainty native orchid already fruiting.

While I was looking and photographing a couple stopped and chatted. They asked me my destination and said they were heading for Mason Lake via a different trail. I had heard of this trail and they asked if I would like to join them.

I took them up on that offer and had a very nice sociable hike with them. The route was through a thick woods paralleling a creek that was running quite heavy.

The ground was mostly boulders, moss and a clear open understory.

I was in saprophyte heaven! We quickly encountered newly erupting Coralroot orchids. I suspect, judging by the colors I could see so far, that they are Western Coralroot, like I encountered Friday night. I pointed them out to my companion and told her that she needs to return in a month to see the full effect. There were hundreds along the high bank. It made me wish to leave the trail completely and see what was further in the woods

After explaining the orchids to her, she mentioned that she had seen Indian Pipe before and I said that yes, that was an elusive saprophyte as well. I had never seen it! It was not but a few steps up the trail when she pointed to a spot where tree roots erupted out of the slope bank. "Is that Indian Pipe?"

It was! Like everything else in this high elevation, just getting starting in their growth cycle.

It was a nice climb, with some added snow in the footing higher up. It felt like we reached Mason Lake in no time. It is stilled iced over.

We sat for a long hour while having lunch and were quickly joined by Gray Jays. These sassy birds are also known as Camp Robber or Whiskey Jack. They know hikers mean food and I don't know of anyone who can resist their charms.

For the return we made our way down via the main trail to the Bandera cut off. That high trail is for another day. Along the way we encountered the magnificent window open to the south

This is zoomed in, I think Mt Rainier is about 35 miles south from here.

I am off today for a field trip to Eastern Washington with the Native Plant Society. It is another glorious day.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fun Weekend Fungus

There is no way that there could have been a more perfect day than Saturday. I knew it was THE day for fine weather. I was thinking I would go over to Mt Townsend and do the climb that was postponed and not restored by the Plant Society. We tried but the long range forecast for the weekend, at the time , was not good.

Saturday would have been perfect and I tried. First step on going to a place I have not been is check some resources for getting to the trail head. I found three different directions and could follow none of them on my map. That in itself is one to keep me away from a solo trip.

I headed over the pass on Hwy 2 bright and early for a trip from my Wildflower book. Chiwaukum Creek is east of Leavenworth and promised a good trail and a chance to be in lovely woods.

It was. The creek, not a dainty gurgling trickle but a roaring plunging furry was a constant noisy companion the whole way. Like the sounds of the freeway, but much more pleasant.

The Pine woods of the east side are my favorite for their scent alone. A warm still day smells the best. The understory in these woods is usually open and easy to get in to. There you find a lot of fun things like mushrooms. Today there were Coral Mushroom erupting everywhere.

As I gained altitude I started finding Morels.

Once again I am reminded about wearing a backpack instead of a hip pack and inside that pack should be a plastic container and a paper bag. Paper for mushrooms, plastic for fruit.

The first 1 1/2 mile of the trail is actually an old road that has been gated. There are a few homes tucked into the private land leading up to the National Forest. There had been a lot of recent disturbance , including some logging. This old log was totally devoid of its outer bark. This pattern shows that a Pine boring beetle had been hard at work making its art, and damage. I somehow remember reading that some species of beetle has their own distinct pattern type. I like this wild artistic pattern.

Many trees were hung with Witches Hair.

I rambled off trail in many places to look about in likely areas for unusual plants. I climbed up rock slopes for Lewisia and other rock loving flowers. Hookers Fairybells were bountiful.

I was thrilled to find Wild Ginger. This has such an unusual flower and on the wet side, if you can find it, the flower is often smooshed small and soggy under the low growing leaves. There the leaves were up and the flowers neatly arrayed for photos.

I occasionally went over to the creek to admire its power and play Pooh Sticks. At one creek side I encountered a small "flock" of butterflies. Many butterfly species sip minerals from wet dirt and mud and this is the time of year it is easy to get somewhat near to observe. I was able to sit down and watch the little blue butterflies but they were too jittery to get good photos.

I continued on until I got to a trail junction the book said was 5 1/2 miles. I had some beautiful views of open sky and canyon walls.

I pulled out my phone and was amazed that I actually had an active screen in this remote area. I also saw that it was 2:50! I had been on the trail 5 1/2 hours.

I knew I best tear myself away. I headed back down trail and tried not to stop... to much

This fine butterfly, a Green Comma, was lazy in the late day sun and I was able to get a decent picture.

I encountered a flock of small blue butterflies that flew up from the ground like confetti. They allowed me to sit down next to the moist spot they were sipping on and I got some nice pictures. They are Spring Azure.

It took me 1 hour and 15 minutes to get back to the car. This does not count the time spent talking to two fellows about the trail and the mushrooms. They convinced me Coral Mushroom is good eating.

Sunday came as promised. Rainy and dreary. After a breakfast of sauteed Coral with egg I headed back east of the mountains. I had a couple places in mind and I would decide when I got there. I figured the rain would be stopped by the time I got to Easton... or Cle Elum...

or not

I threw in the towel figuring perhaps if I went north a ways the rain would stop

or not

I need to add a poncho to the "backpack for every purpose" that should be living in the trunk.

I returned to the Blue Creek Trail that climbs to Red Top. This was a feature write up in the Native Plant Society newsletter. I knew Red Top from a visit last summer and wanted to see Washington Twinpod in bloom. I located some Mountain Ladyslipper orchids that the author said should be in a location. They are not yet blooming. Indeed everything in this area seems to be a few weeks off schedule. On this trail the only flowers open seemed to be the yellow Glacier Lily and violets, very early spring flowers. There was still snow in some of the north facing slopes.

Along the very steep trail I did find some wonderful Ponderosa Pines with lower limbs frosted with moss. I loved the look.

Near the top I did find some Twinpod starting to bloom. I will have to return and get the plants in full bloom to complete my set of photos of this curious flower.

I also lost the trail, which the author said was easy to do. With the clearing of the weather and the dampness of myself I felt done.

I had a good 1000 feet/1 mile stretch of the legs and my pockets were full of Morels. I knew if I left now I could be in range of the NPR station that broadcasts "The Splendid Table" at 200pm. That always puts me in the mood. Sunday there was even a discussion of light red wines for Summer. Getting home by three I had decided I would fricassee the mushrooms with chicken and onion. I stopped at the store form some shallots and a nice Spanish Crianza.

I used a bit too much Rosemary