City by the Bay

I boarded a Greyhound Bus in Portland in 1962 to travel to San Francisco for a job interview and I arrived around four in the morning.  I didn’t know my way around the city but I had my trusty street map.  The bus station was close to the bay but my interview was at a hospital located halfway to the ocean.
For lack of a better plan, I walked up over the hill and found the place that I was looking for.  I remember the hill as being quite steep but I don’t recollect going downhill on the other side.  I can still remember the cool mist of the early morning fog and that it was very dark.  The garbage men were out on the street picking up the trash and I found a lot of  comfort in hearing the cans rattling and knowing that I wasn’t the only one on the streets.
I found the hospital but it was still very early.  I searched out the cafeteria and had my breakfast along with a few extra cups of coffee.  After my interview I walked through Golden Gate Park to the ocean.  The park is 1013 acres and it was built on sand dunes.  It is reasonably flat and several worthwhile museums are located there.  I took the street car back to Market Street, found the bus depot and traveled back to Portland.  San Francisco is probably the only city that I have ever walked across, but if there is a next time, I will take a cab.

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Our Friend the Butterfly

Cousin Larry Rea and I did a slideshow on butterflies for the Cowlitz County Master Gardeners. He presented his absolutely gorgeous pictures and I added a little show and tell with my butterfly net. We take pictures of wildflowers in the Pacific Northwest and the butterflies are a bonus.

Butterflies of course are beautiful creatures and we admire them whether they are in flight, displayed in a case or in a photograph. Their erratic flight is fascinating and I don’t know if it is choreographed to confuse their predators or if they are just intoxicated by too much nectar.

The rest of their lives is less entertaining for us and we generally don’t pay much attention to it. They start out as an egg and then hatch out as a caterpillar. They shed their “skin” several times as they grow and each of the intervening periods is called an instar. When they have finished their growth they form a pupa and by some magical process transform their anatomy into a butterfly and that is the reproductive phase of their life cycle.

The life cycles vary for different species. Some butterflies become dormant during the winter and lay their eggs in the spring. Others lay their eggs in the fall and some pass through the winter as pupas or caterpillars. Monarchs on the other hand, migrate to the south during the winter.

Each species of butterfly lays their eggs on particular species of plants. Clodius Parnassians lay their eggs near bleeding hearts and nectar on miner’s lettuce. Milbert Tortoiseshells select stinging nettles and nectar on willows and thistles. Western Tiger Swallowtails lay their eggs on big-leaf maples and alders, and nectar on thistles and honeysuckles. The host plants for the Great Spangled Fritillary are violets and they nectar on thistles and daises. Monarchs of course are hooked on milkweed. Selection of plants for egg laying is fairly specific but nectar plants are more variable.

If you want to raise butterflies, you need to plant specific host plants. If you want to just attract butterflies, plant a wide variety of flowers (and there are lists). There are approximately 25 species of common butterflies in Northwestern Oregon and Southwestern Washington. Butterflies make good neighbors. Enjoy them.

Washington State Fish & Wildlife

Oregon state Extension Service

“Butterflies of the Pacific Northwest” by William Neill 192 pages

“The Butterflies of Cascadia” by Robert Michael Pyle 420 pages

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Butterfly Heaven

Butterfly Heaven
I went to the Malheur National Bird Refuge just South of Burns for a three day workshop on butterflies.  I suspect that not everybody needs a class like that but I couldn’t pass it up.
I bought a butterfly net for the occasion and discovered that the way to use it is hold the end of the net a little higher than your head and position the opening of the net above the butterfly and slowly bring it down over it.  Their startle reaction is to fly up into the net and then they continue on up to the end.  I managed to capture four small blues on my first attempt.
That works very well for butterflies that are nectering or picking up moisture from a mud puddle but when you are trying to net one going down hill with the wind behind it, it is an entirely different story.  The trick for that is to position your net in their wobbly path so that they fly directly into the open maw of your net and that requires either a great backhand or a lot of luck.
The next trick after you catch one is to reach into the net and grasp them at the base of their wings with a small forceps with flat surfaces similar to what stamp collectors use.  Then you put them in a glassine envelope so that you can see both the upper and lower surfaces of the wings.  At that point you bring out the picture books to determine what you have.  Some identifications are fairly easy and others are more of an educated guess.  After all that, we let them go. 
Butterfly are cold blooded creatures and they are most active when the temperatures are above 90 degrees.  It is interesting to note that they use their wings as heat collectors and when they are folded up they position themselves to maximize the collection of the sun’s rays.  A good trick for photographing them is to put them in a cooler and then take your pictures when you take them out while they are warming up.
We took a couple of extended field trips around the refuge and up Steen’s Mountain.  Different species feed on different plants and we looked for patches of thistles, monkey flowers, milkweed, daisies and etc that had water nearby.  Each species seems to have their preferances.  On the first day, we drove along the Blitzen River for about 20 miles on the refuge and stopped to check out the butterflies feeding on the weeds next to the road.
The next day, we drove down to the south side of Steen’s Mountain and drove up the road past the sign that said we needed four wheel drive and due caution.  It was a slow trip up the mountain with a nice view and we made several stops to look for butterflies.  You can drive up to about the 9700 foot elevation and we returned to civilization on the road down the north side which is a highway by comparison.  We had half a tank of gas when we started up the mountain and we still had fumes left when we got back to the refuge.  We were in a two vehicle convoy and there wasn’t any risk of being stranded.
We ended up identifying 30 species of butterflies, a couple of moths and several dragonflies.  This trip was a little off the beaten track but I thought it was very interesting.  There are lots of opportunities to enjoy little workshops but you need to look for them.  Whether they are about writing, butterflies, painting or seashells, they are worth the effort.  You will meet some very interesting people and you might even learn something. 

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Malheur 2009

I drove up to Gresham and transferred my gear to Cousin Larry’s car.  We hit the road at eight and drove Hwy 224 through Estacada to Hwy 22 at Breitenbush and stopped along the way to observe a merganser with her ducklings.  Hwy 22 merges into Hwy 20 and we headed east towards Sisters.  We stopped near Camp Sherman to photograph some white headed woodpecker that at their nest site and then continued on to Bend.  We considered stopping at the new Badlands Wildernes Study Area area just east of Bend to check out the wildflowers but decided to leave that for another day.  We stopped at Chicahominy Resivoir to stretch our legs and then continued on to Burns.
We turned south on Hwy 205 and headed for the Malheur National Bird Refuge.  Spotted some birds in the wetlands along the highway and took pictures of a snipe and a yellow headed blackbird.  The refuge has a number of old house trailers that they use for rentals and we bunked in the one called “Grebe”.  The following morning we discovered that the car had a flat tire and we went in to Burns to have it fixed.  This was a rerun of our experience the year before.
Returned to the Refuge and then drove the patrol road along the Donner and Blitzen River.  Saw some terns, gulls and ibis in the marsh.  Observed a herd of sheep attended by a sheepherder, an Austrailian Shepard and a couple of guard dogs.  The shepherder looked very well weathered and he was carrying an aluminum lawn chair under his arm.  We passed his little trailer on down the road and for lack of a better description, it looked just like a sheepherders trailer.
We went back to our trailer and then stopped by the classroom.  Our instructors were there keying out flowers and we joined them.  After dinner we had a lecture on plant systematics.  The next morning we headed north to Hwy 395 for a field trip to Strawberry Mt.  We stopped along the way to observe a family of burrowing owls and took some pictures.  Checked out the flowers in Devine Canyon, had a brief outdoor lecture and had lunch at Idlewild Campground.  We travelled east on Logan Valley Road in Seneca and headed up Strawberry.  Made several stops to look at flowers but we didn’t go clear up to the top.  I suspect we would have run into snow on the road if we had continued on up the hill.  Stopped to look at a patch of wildflowers on Hwy 395 on the way back to Burns.  We stopped in town and ate dinner at the Apple Peddler before returning to the refuge.
It rained quite a bit that night.  The next morning we drove along the Donner and Blitzen River and we took pictures of a night herons, avocets. stilts, phaleropes and ibis feeding in the mud flats along the marsh.  We drove down to French Glenn and enjoyed a cup of coffee and a cookie.  We drove up the Steens Mt Road and made a number of stops to collect plants for our class.  The gate to the top of Steens was still locked and the weather was rain mixed with snow so we returened to the refuge.  We spent the evening in the class room looking at flowers with binocular scopes until about 11:30.  They use a lot of very specialized terminology to key out flowers.
We left the refuge on Monday morning and just west of Burns we went up the hill to Yellow Jacket Lake and waited there for Chris.  He drove my car over from Gresham and then he continued on to Baker City with Larry.  We were well entertained by about a dozen nighthawks feeding on insects around the lake.  They didn’t pay very much attention to us and sometimes flew within a few feet of us.           

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Cool as edited – smile./jj

On May 14, 2009, at 10:53 AM, Marvin Kellar wrote:

Some folks measure their seasons by the Super Bowl and the World Series but those of us that are more fortunate, mark our calendars by the migration of the Swifts and the Swans and when the Tilliums bloom.

(Make a transition phrase between here and the next paragraph)
If you see a little bird on a wire, it isn’t a Swift.  They aren’t built to do that and the only way they can perch is to grasp a vertical surface and prop themselves up by leaning back on their short stubby tail.  The swifts on the west coast are Vaux Swifts (the “X” is either pronounced or silent) are a cousin to the Chimney Swifts in the eastern United States.  They build their nests in the cavities in large diameter trees hollow trees and collect insects while flying gape-mouthed through swarms of insects (some call them flying plankton)  Nesting pairs feed their young about 5,500 insects per day and 150,000 during the nesting season.

The swifts migrate to Venezuela in September and October for the winter and they go North in late April and early May.  They nest in hollow trees from Venezuela to Alaska.  The birds are brown with a green sheen, about 5″ long and weigh about a half an ounce.  Their wing span is about 12″ and they have been described as “cigars with wings”.  I have seen them only in town, large flocks rapidly spinning around and then funneling themselves down into a chimney to roost the night as they stopover in their migration to and from their winter area.

I have no idea how many there are in these whirlwinds of birds but they probably number in the thousands in Rainier.  Reportedly there are 15-20,000 of them that migrate through Agate Hall in Eugene and Chapman School in Portland.  I never noticed them when I was growing up and I have only recently discovered them.  They don’t appear until right at dusk and I probably wouldn’t have spotted them but I saw them out the window when I was at choir practice and they were spiriling around above the buildings and diving into the chimney across the street.

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Post Office

Who is to say that a trip to the post office to pick up the mail is not an adventure (other than the usual traffic jam of senior citizens at mail time).  The river is probably 50 yards from the parking lot and there is a large Cotton Wood tree in between.  I saw a couple of Bald Eagles in the tree and of course, I had my camera with me.  The females are half again as large as the males and it is fairly easy to tell them apart when they are together.


  I saw a pair of eagles high above Sauvie Island near Portland some years ago and the smaller bird (the male) was dive bombing the female and it looked a lot like a crow pestering a hawk.  Courtship may also involve the locking of talons, cart wheeling, loosing altitude and a timely separation to avoid crashing to the earth.


  This behavior also takes place in aggression/defense of territory confrontations.  Passion and possession are apparently overlapping responses.  Eagles were thought to mate during their courtship flight but fairly recent information indicates that their love life is much more traditional.

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Places to go

In the fall when the geese starting flying, I get restless.  I suspect that there is something in our ancient past that causes me to feel an impending loss when I hear them overhead.  Their calls are lamentations for the passing of the flowers and leaves.  Soon only the firs and the cedars will be left to stand sentinel over what remains.


Now is when I begin to think about going on some final adventures before the cold sets in.  The JapaneseGarden should be prime right about now and the ChineseGarden surprises at every season.  The RhododendronGarden has leaf color and a good assortment of ducks.  There will be lots of bird acivity at the ponds at the Fern Hill Wetland near Forest Grove but you can’t go wrong by stopping by SauvieIsland and the bird refuge at Ridgefield.


Willamette Field Station near Aurora has over a 100 varieties of trees that they are testing for hardiness and they present a great collage of colors this time of year.  Bishop’s Close at Dunthorpe is interesting at every season and the city parks have a lot of potential.  A road trip over the pass to Eastern Oregon to see the fall color of the quaking aspens would be a great treat, weather permitting.


Waterfalls are at their best after the rains set in and places like SilverFalls near Silverton and the falls in the Columbia River Gorge put on a great show.  Storms at the coast are well worth the trip and if you stay for dinner you will see some great sunsets.  And of course, there are lots of water birds that visit after the snow birds have headed south…


Mushrooms also vie for our attention when the rains begin.  The Wildwood Recreation Area, 14 miles up the road from Sandy is a nice area to visit for mushrooms and so is the CapeMearsState Park near Tillamook.  Actually any where there are trees is a good place and that includes my back yard.


If the weather gets too wet or it snows, I can stay home and read a book. There is no shortage of good books to read.  And there is always my friend the computer and I can compile and catalog my photos.  And of course, that would be a great time to plan where I would like to go next year.



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Fort Clatsop

I went over to the Jewell Wildlife Refuge to take some pictures of the
elk but there were none to be seen. Rumor has it that they all went
to Seaside for some sort of convention. I am not easily disappointed
so I drove another twenty miles to the Fort Clatsop National Memorial
just west of Astoria. This is the area where Lewis and Clark wintered
over in the winter of 1805-1806. Erection of the original fort
started on the 9th of December 1805 and completed on the 23rd. A
replica was built 1955 from a sketch in Clark’s journal. This fort
was severely damaged by a fire in 2005 and rebuilt the following year.
The fort was approximately 50 foot square and the captains each had
fairly good sized rooms. The enlisted bunked in relatively tight
quarters. There were also areas for preparation and storage. Lewis
and Clark were at the fort for a total of 186 days and 12 of those
days were without rain but only 6 of those were sunny. It was raining
when I was there and the roof was leaking in the area where the
enlisted men stayed and it was a grim reminder of the cold, damp
conditions of the fort. Apparently it was so damp that their elk meat
rotted before they could dry it. They abandoned the fort on the 23rd
of March in 1806 to begin the return trip to St Louis.

There a spacious administration building that is both warm and dry
with nice gift shop and lots of books. There is a trail that is about
a mile long that leads through the woods to where the corp launched
their canoes in the Lewis and Clark River. They also show an hour or
so of educational DVDs. There is a trail that is just a little over a
mile long that goes to where they launched their canoes on the Lewis
and Clark River. There is also a trail that stretches 3.2 miles from
Fort Clatsop to the ocean. If you go in the summer, you can ride back
on the shuttle but if you go in the fall, you will probably find lots
of mushrooms. It is only about an hours drive from where I live to
Fort Clatsop. I have only been to Fort Clatsop twice and the first
time was about 30 years ago. There is a lot to see and do but it
takes a little initiative.

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Vinegar Hill

I don’t think my Cousin Larry has ever seen a road he didn’t like and that trait has lead us on some very interesting trips.  The road to Vinegar Hill takes off between Baker and PrairieCity near the small town of Bates.  (As an aside, you may want to think twice about staying at the local motel).  The forest road was in reasonably good shape other than the section that had been washed out.  Larry’s truck is a four wheel drive high clearance vehicle and we drove up a dry creek bed for about a hundred yards before rejoining the road.  The hill is fairly steep grade and there was a narrow shoulder on my side but I had a great view.


We ran into snow just before we got to the top and had to back up to find a place to turn around.  We stopped to take some pictures of some flowers on the way back down the hill and somehow the keys ended up locked in the truck.  Triple A doesn’t provide service that high up the hill and they probably would have balked when the got to the washed out road.  


Our only option at that point was to break a window.  Larry broke the window on the drivers side with a big rock and we headed on down the hill.  He drove all the way back to Portland without a window but the cold air blowing in his face keep him wide awake and alert.  He has never been too sure why he broke the window on his side instead of the one on the my side.  I wondered about that at the time but it never occurred to me to say anything until after he did it.


We took pictures of some little yellow violets that had purple on the back side of the petals and leaves that looked like a goose foot.  We stopped a little further down the hill and photographed some small purple monkey flower.  This flower was growing in soil that with a high magnesium content that had originally been ocean bottom and now it is in Eastern Oregon on a hill 8,000 feet above sea level.  Go figure.


After we re-crossed the washout, we stopped at a marshy area where magenta colored elephant heads were in flower. They  individual flowers resemble an elephant’s trunk.  These plants are in the louse wort family, so named because in olden times, they were thought to ward away lice.


The Vinegar Hill Road doesn’t get a lot of traffic but it is said to be the third highest road in Oregon at 8,131 feet.  The highest is SteensMountain at about 9,500 feet and CraneMountain near the Hart Mountain Antelope Reserve is in around 8,400.  Fortunately for me, Larry has taken me places where I would not otherwise have gone.  Vinegar Hill was a trip worth doing but it probably doesn’t warrant a second visit.  The remainder of our trip was uneventful.             


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Jewell Meadows


There were upwards to a hundred cows and calves in a meadow less than a 100 yards from the parking lot.  Some were eating grass but most were just lying down and chewing their cuds.  There were about half that many bulls with antlers in the next meadow down the road (they winter in separate groups).  Access to the meadows is not permitted but there are great opportunities for photos and observations from the parking lots.
The wildlife area provides winter habitat for the elk and supplemental feeding is provided on a daily basis to maintain the herd and to keep them out of the farmer’s fields.   You can sign up to ride the hay wagon out into the field when they feed the elk but you will need to make reservations a long time in advance (503-755-2264).
                                                   The elk at Jewell are Roosevelt Elk and they are darker
                                                   than the Rocky Mountain Elk East of the Cascades (they
                                                   are considered to be a different sub species).  They range
                                                   up to 1000 pounds and were the principle food of Lewis
                                                   and Clark when they were wintered at Fort Clatsop.  “It
                                                   requires 4 deer, or an elk and a deer, or one buffalo to
                                                   supply us for 24 hours (William Clark’s Journal).”
                                                   There were 33 hard working people in their party and I
                                                   suspect they were pretty weak on side dishes.  They
                                                   consumed about nine pounds of meat per person per day
                                                   when it was available but it was either feast or famine.
                                                   The meadows can be accessed from Highway 26 by
                                                   turning off at the Jewell junction just West of the
                                                   Elderberry Inn.  Proceed 9 miles North along the
                                                   Nehalem River.  Turn left on Highway 202 at Jewell
                                                   and go about a mile and a half to the wildlife area.
                                                   Restrooms and picnic tables are available.

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