Friday, May 27, 2011

Derby Canyon

Out and about on Friday, May 13th, we left Ellensburg after finishing our hike at Manastash Ridge and headed for the area of Leavenworth, Washington.  Leavenworth is a faux Bavarian tourist town that is of no interest at all to us, though we have been through it hundreds of times, but the area is worth exploring.

We went first to Derby Canyon near Peshastin, Washington, a favorite spot for wildflowers and were not disappointed.  Hiking one of the ridges in the area we found few wildflowers in bloom besides the Balsamroots.  One plant we were looking for, the Western Peony was in bud but not in flower.

Derby Canyon has some interesting rock formations, part of the Chumstick formation which also includes Pinnacles State Park.  This strange sandstone monolith is at the top of the ridge we climbed and walked looking for wildflowers.  It stands about 20 feet tall and dominates the ridge line.

As we were leaving, however, my wife spotted several clumps of Lewisia tweedyi growing on the rocks of the ridge high above us.  We climbed up and took quite some time admiring and photographing them and then moved on to a lower area where we found Trillium petiolatum in bloom.

As is evident from the photos, the Lewisia is one of our most beautiful wildflowers and the Trillium one of our most unusual.  Those two made the whole trip worthwhile, though we would have liked to have seen in the Peony, a six inch high clump of feathered leaves, in flower.

Our last stop was near Plain, north of Leavenworth, where we were looking for several plant including a rare Lady's Slipper.  We did not find what we were looking for in bloom, but found the forest floor carpeted with the Oregon Anemone, Anemone oregana.  The Glacier Lilies were there, too, but they were past their prime.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Medical Lake, Washington

Thursday evening, May 12th, after supper and some games of chess with our son, we went for a ride in the area to the west of Medical Lake, a small town west of Spokane.  These are some of the pictures we took.  The Osprey was on a nesting pole and was not about to move.  The Yellow-headed Blackbirds did not really come close enough for good pictures and there were few flowers blooming.  We had hoped to see a marshy field of Common Camas in bloom, but they were not open yet.

The following pictures are from May 6th last year and show the Camas in bloom and the Osprey in flight.  I posted some pictures at that time:, but these are pictures from 2010 that I've not previously posted.  I've included the Camas pictures to show the difference between this year and last.  Eastern Washington, if anything, is further behind than we are here in Western Washington.

Note: the Yellow-headed Blackbird was photographed by my wife.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Manastash Ridge

After visiting our son in Medical Lake we left early in the morning, May 13th (3:00 am) and headed for Ellensburg and one of our favorite hiking areas, Manastash Ridge.  We were not sure how much we would see because of the cold weather and delayed flowering of many plants, but discovered to our delight that there was plenty to see and photograph.  In fact, though we had come for the wildflowers, the birds were as much of an attraction as the plants and the scenery was spectacular.

The days was sunny and warm and the birds were everywhere, especially the Mountain Bluebirds.  We managed to get some shots of them, one on a nest box, and also of a Winter Wren, a Fox Sparrow and a female Robin with a beak full of nesting material.  The Mountain Bluebirds were delightful, singing on every shrub and were very obviously in the middle of courting and mating.

Some of the wildflowers, especially the Bitterroots were not yet in bloom.  In fact, we saw no sign of the Bitterrrots which appear almost like magic out of the stony soil of the ridge.  We did see, however, many old friends as well as wildflowers that we had not seen before, some of which are shown below.  The highlights of the hike were the Bonneville Shooting Stars and the Giant-head Clover.

The Balsamroots were blooming everywhere and we noticed three different species, the Arrowleaf Balsamroot which seemed to prefer the foots of shrubs and trees, the Hairy Balsamroot, which we found only in very rocky open areas, and the Puget Balsamroot, which we found in more grassy but open areas.  They all have similar flowers but very different leaves.

In addition to these we saw the Sagebrush Violet, a tiny plant with yellowish-green growths and flowers that I think is a Spurge of some kind but cannot identify further, the Fernleaf Lomatium or Chocolate Tips, Leafy Bluebells, Dagger Pod, Western Groundsel, the Large-flowered Brodiaea, and the Upland  Larkspur, the names of which are given in the same order as the pictures.

Leaving Manastash Ridge after hiking the Ray Westbrook Trail up and the Boy Scout trail down, we headed out and were fortunate to see three pelicans coming in to land in a pond near Ellensburg and then fly away again when we disturbed them by getting out of the car to take pictures.  They certainly were one of the highlights of the day.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, and so we headed to a few other favorite spots in the area of Leavenworth, but that's another post.  As for this one let it be noted that the identifications of the birds and flowers are sometimes tentative.  If anyone knows better I would very much appreciate the correction.  Also, some of the pictures were taken by my wife.