Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mount St. Helens.

Yesterday I wanted to go somewhere pretty with the dogs, maybe see a bug or two, somewhere without a ton of people.  Mount St. Helens popped in my head and without doing any research at all I packed a sandwich and my camera and got in the car. 

I followed signs towards Lava Canyon because the name sounded cool and I had never been there.  The road (NF-83) was pretty much deserted and I realized it looked like a fantastic setting for grouse.  About 8 miles down the road I finally saw one...

This lady Sooty Grouse let me pull up right next to her and gawk.  Eventually I realized that just down the hill behind her was another grouse.  And another.  And another.  She was the proud mama of at least seven young!

 Mama talking

Junior grouse

I was getting ready to leave them alone when mama decided it was time for them all to cross the road...

 Mama would stand in the road while the young crossed one or two at a time.  The young bird would take some slow steps about a quarter of the way into the road, then suddenly make a mad dash to complete the crossing. 

This was definitely the sighting of the day! 

We made it to the Lava Canyon Trailhead where I planned to check out the waterfall viewpoint and do the loop trail.  Swainson's Thrushes were singing along the trail and actually let me get a photo for once...

The trail leads down into the canyon and I stopped to check out the waterfall:

We continued hiking down the trail to the loop trail.  A Pacific-slope Flycatcher started calling and I reached for my phone to make note of it.  When my hand returned from my pocket with my phone I found a caterpillar wrapped around my pinky finger.  I still don't get how this happened but it startled me and I flung it, then picked it up and placed it on some moss...

So far my best guess is Biston betularia, or Peppered (or Pepper-and-Salt) Moth.  If you have a better guess, let me know! 

Farther down the trail we found the second end of the Lava Canyon Loop, a crazy awesome suspension bridge I was super excited to cross:

We made it about twenty feet on the bouncy swaying bridge before Jake shut it down.  He wouldn't budge after a certain point.  Ralph was surprisingly okay with it.  But we turned around and went back to solid non-bouncy land. 

So Jake is officially scared of exactly two things:  sea lions and suspension bridges. 

I hiked back up thinking we could try the first bridge over the canyon and see the rest of the loop that way, but even Ralph wouldn't do that one.  The steps to the bridge were made of metal that must feel terrible on dog paws.  Oh well, we enjoyed the views from where we were. 

That was about it for photos from Mount St. Helens.  Oh wait, you probably want to see the actual volcano.  Here it is:

Concealed by clouds the whole time I was there.

Back at home that afternoon I noticed a moth on the greenhouse door:

So rad, it's a plume moth though no idea which species.  Good times!

Sunday, July 26, 2015


All I want to do these days is poke around the yard looking for bugs.  You might remember me dusting off my macro lens a couple weeks ago to photograph some bees in my bird bath.  Well, it's become a bit of an obsession since then.  If you hate looking at bugs you might want to skip this blog for the next couple of months...

I think this is a Carolina Grasshopper, found while digging out a mass of skimmia roots, holly tree roots, and blackberry roots:

While belly-crawling around trying to get a good photo I found a second variety of grasshopper under my rhododendron:


From Jake's kiddie pool, a Western Paper Wasp:

This and several other bugs identified thanks to BugGuide.net

My sunchokes are great places to find bugs, like this Fuller Rose Beetle:

So far it seems like many bugs I have found are actually huge pests, including the above one.  At least they look cool!  This next one was only first recorded in Oregon in 2002:

Known unofficially as Tuxedo Bugs, these guys came over from Europe, Africa, and/or Asia.  They're considered invasive and will get into your house and, well, invade.  A University of Idaho paper on them states this: "Although tuxedo bugs essentially are harmless, sheer numbers make them an intolerable pest."

A few days ago Ralph caught an insect for me, a Common Whitetail dragonfly.  Unfortunately Ralph broke one of its wings rendering it flightless and after watching it flop around I decided the most humane action was to kill it.

On the backside of my house I can often find one these bugs, a Green Lacewing:

They're not only awesome-looking but can also help control aphids!  Win win.

My mint attracts tons and tons of bees, but also little butterflies like the one above.  Cabbage white perhaps?  I also finally got close to a Gray Hairstreak:

Last year I first noticed sweat bees in the yard on my sunflowers and this year I have found one resting on a sunchoke leaf, and later in a flowering artichoke:

My compost bin has its own varieties of bugs inside, like this Black Soldier Fly:

These guys look kind of imposing but they don't sting and are fantastic for composting.  They share the bin with lots of meal moths, many of which perish in spiderwebs.

Rotting orange peels make for a sweet faux-fall-foliage background.

 Sick of bugs yet?  No?  Good, because I have a few more insects from outside the yard to share.  From a failed shorebird-hunt at Ankeny NWR last week:

Without getting a close-up look at this Clouded Sulphur I would not have noticed the sweet pink antennae and lime green eyes.  I caught a few in-flight shots too:

Earlier in the morning I followed a Lorquin's Admiral along the path by Pintail Marsh:

Dragonflies are plentiful at Ankeny, though few sit for photos...

Western pondhawk  (I think)

Common Green Darner (I think)

Okay, one last insect for you, an unidentified damsefly along the Columbia Slough eating some other winged insect:

NOM NOM NOM.  Good times!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Cooper Spur.

On Friday my friend and I hiked up the Timberline Trail from the Cloud Cap Trailhead on Mount Hood to Cooper Spur.  Bird diversity was low (10 whole species) but the scenery and other bits of nature made it a great hike.

It was a bit like hiking uphill on a beach, but instead of sand the trail was all volcanic ash.   My first Oregon marmot made for a good distraction:

Yellow-bellied, I assume, based on range.

 Mountain Bluebird, appreciating the view of the desert to the east

 White lupine!

Cooper Spur Shelter

We stopped to eat lunch by some large boulders that were home to a most pathetic beggar.

See him?

Golden-mantled ground-squirrel says "give me your bread crumbs!"

 Farther up the trail we came across a Horned Lark family with two speckly young birds.

Anyone know what this is?

There are good views of Eliot Glacier from a little side trail:

And downslope from the glacier:

We ended up running out of time to get to the top of Cooper Spur but the hike was still an awesome one.  On the way down we ran into another marmot...

A woman asked what we were looking at and when I pointed out the marmot she called her arguing family over to see.  They quit arguing and started exclaiming how big it was, and oh look it's going over there, and so on.  Marmot saves the day!

Explorer's gentian

We were most of the way back down the trail when a baby bird started peeping loudly.  It took awhile to realize the bird was right in front of us, chest high on a branch.

The yellow on the wings made me think siskin, but it was too big with that big honkin bill.  The bill also rules out solitaire.  Gray Jay?  Clark's Nutcracker?  Any other ideas?   This is at 6000-ish feet

It was a fun hike and sooo nice to be somewhere that actually required a sweatshirt!  Good times!!