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
Cool as edited – smile./jj
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
JEWELL MEADOWS WILDLIFE AREA 1/18/200