Monday, April 25, 2011

First Native Orchids of the Year

Today (April 23) was the best day we've had this spring, sunny and warm without a cloud in the sky, a perfect day for an outing with the Washington Native Orchid Society.  The society usually has its first excursion in April and this year was no exception.  We went this year to Washington Park on Fidalgo Island near the town of Anacortes, a park I had visited several weeks ago on my own:

We went, as we always do in April to see the Fairy Slippers, Calypso bulbosa, the earliest of the native orchids to bloom.  When I was there several weeks ago they were just beginning to bloom and I found only a couple that were fully open.  This time we found them all over the place and nearly all of them blooming.  These are the variety occidentalis, a rarer variety that is found only in the west, primarily in the North Cascades and west of the Rockies:

Fairy Slippers (Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis)

The park covers a small rocky peninsula and has a two mile road that loops around the peninsula and follows the shore.  There are also many trails both along the shore and through the middle of the park. I arrived an hour early and found one other member already there, eager to be out and about in the wonderful warmth and sunshine.  We hiked along the road about half a mile and scouted things out before the others arrived, finding locations for some of the plants we were there to see. 

When everyone was there we all hiked together around the park taking plenty of time to explore the rocky shores and woods, looking for Fairy Slippers and other wildflowers, really anything of interest we could find.  We stopped for lunch on a sunny point on the south side of the peninsula, where I managed to get a short nap in the sunshine and where we also saw some Death Camas in bloom.  We finished our excursion at about 3:00 in the afternoon and went our separate ways.

Death Camas

There were many other wildflowers besides Fairy Slippers blooming, especially in the woods between the road and the rocky cliffs that line most of the shore: Shooting Stars, Fawn Lilies, Sea Blush, Spring Gold, Prairie Star and Yellow Monkey Flower among them.  We found several other orchids that were not yet in bloom, some Coralroots, probably the Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata), and Piperias, which appeared to be the Slender White Piperia (P. candida) which I hope to see in bloom at a later date.

Shooting Stars

Fawn Lilies

Sea Blush

Yellow Monkey Flower

Prairie Star

Spring Gold

There were other things to see also, some marvelous views of the San Juan Islands and the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, a lot of pleasure boats and some kayaks, since this was a long holiday weekend.  We spotted a number of birds including an eagle and an Orange-capped Warbler, a new bird for me.  Saw any number of Banana Slugs especially early in the morning, but even without all the things to see it was wonderful to be out in the spring sunshine enjoying such a beautiful day.

I stopped on the way home for a couple of halibut tacos at a seafood market near Burlington and then went on, not hurrying, but enjoying the views of Mount Baker and the Twin Sisters which were awesome in the sunshine.  The only downside to a wonderful day was that my wife and hiking companion was not there to enjoy the day with me - she's away for a few more days visiting family on the other side of the country, including a new granddaughter.

Twin Sisters

Friday, April 22, 2011

Skagit Valley Tulips and Daffodils

The early forecast for yesterday (Thursday, April 21) was for a beautiful sunny day and I worked well ahead so that I could take the day off and make the annual visit to the fields and displays of the Skagit Valley bulb growers.  As the week progressed, however, it began to look less and less like a good day and when I got up that morning it was raining hard and my prospects looked grim.

By 9:00, however, it looked a little more promising and so I headed off, hoping that the skies would clear and the last of the rain would go away.  When I arrived it was still sprinkling a bit at times and the sky was overcast.  I spent the time driving around getting some pictures of the daffodil and tulip fields, though that is increasingly difficult with the parking restrictions that forbid any parking along the roads

Before noon, as the skies were clearing, I stopped at Roozengaarde's, one of the principal bulb growers, but renowned for their massive displays of tulips and other early spring flowers.  After paying the $5.00 entrance fee I spent the rest of the day, until 4:00 in the afternoon in their gardens taking pictures and enjoying the nice weather, since the sun had come out intermittently and the day was quite warm.

The place is a surfeit of color, with every kind of tulip imaginable and it is hard not to go nuts taking pictures.  I believe I took nearly 800 pictures and have posted some of them here.  By 4:00, however, I was weary of it, and had had enough both of the crowds and of the flowers and headed home for a quiet and relaxing evening, some supper and a Canucks hockey game (on television).

Part of the fun of going to Roozengaarde's is that one also has access to some of their fields behind their gardens and can see and photograph the flowers against the backdrop of the mountains, which were never very clear yesterday.  It is also nice to be able to see the tulips close up and to see the amazing colors in side the tulips and their unusual stamens and pistils, in their own way as beautiful as the flowers.