Sunday, June 26, 2016

Cooper Mountain

Many of the wildflower hotspots in the area are a fair distance from Portland, but Cooper Mountain Nature Park is right in nearby Beaverton. We went recently to see what was blooming. White rock larkspur, which is an endangered plant, blooms there in white waves.  The variety in a relatively small area is remarkable. The park is managed by Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation, but luckily it is actually owned by Metro.  This means that the frequent nature education programs that take place there are accessible to all, with no out of district fees for those who live outside of the sometimes cryptic park district boundaries.  We try to always pick a cool day for visits, because the park can get really hot on summer days. 

Yellow parentucellia.
Self-heal.
Oregon grape.
Snowberry.
Douglas's spiraea.
Yarrow.
Vetch.
Oceanspray.
Self-heal with bumblebee visitor.
Grass pink with tiny lacewing visitor.
Bachelor buttons.
Cinquefoil.
Moth mullein.
Bachelor buttons.
Galls on black cottonwood leaf. An insect injects hormones into a plant, causing it to form a gall, where the insect then lays
her eggs. Most of the time the galls we find were made by wasps, but these were made by aphids.
White rock larkspur.
Rabbit's foot clover.
Forktooth ookow.
Red columbine.
When butterflies emerge from their chrysalises, their wings are compact. They must pump fluids into their wings before they can fly, a process that can take a few hours.  We guessed that's what was happening with this tiger swallowtail.
Tiger lily.
Jasper found this piece of torn wasp nest.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Salmonberry Trail

The Salmonberry Trail is what remains of an 84-mile rail line stretching from Banks to Tillamook, which was severely damaged in a storm in 2007.  Plans to restore rail service have been permanently abandoned, but plans to turn it into a hiking and biking trail are still gathering steam. We recently checked out another section of the Salmonberry Trail on the Wolf Creek Trestle hike, one of the accessible portions of the trail which is fairly close to Portland. While returning from the coast, we decided to check out another portion of the trail from the Salmonberry Trailhead.  It was a day when the temperature was in the mid-60s on the coast, in the mid-80s at the trailhead, and in the mid-90s in Portland.  This portion of the trail proved to be in way better shape than the Wolf Creek Trestle section.  Fewer encroaching trees meant less shade and we had to give up after a while.  The river looked very inviting.  The guide book 100 Hikes / Travel Guide: Oregon Coast and Coast Range by William L. Sullivan details where public land begins and where swimming holes can be found. I definitely hope to return to do more exploring in cooler weather.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bob Creek

Bob Creek in Neptune State Park has become a favorite spot to tidepool for us.  At other beaches, we've found it difficult to see much without climbing on rocks which are often covered with tiny barnacles and anemones.  At  Bob Creek, it's easy to cause no damage because many of the rocks jut out of the sand, so you can walk around them and see all the creatures. There is dramatically more to see at a low minus tide.  We explored a month before when the low tide was about -1.5, and found less of the tidepools accessible than we've found before.  We returned for a -1.8 tide, and there was definitely a difference. There are also agates and sea caves to be found here, and the beach is usually all but deserted.  A funny thing about this beach is that it's not sloped on a relatively flat plane.  In fact there are depressions in the beach which allow the tide to go out significantly while many tidepools remain under fairly deep water. 

The path down to the beach is scattered with broken shells.  In fact these are the remains of a Native American shell mound, a significant archeological site.  Shell mounds are ancient garbage piles. Most people aren't too thrilled about garbage piles, but archaeologists most definitely are. They can learn a great deal about the lives and diet of ancient people, as well as chronicle changes to the ecosystem and availability of different kinds of food, going back as much as 3,000 years. It's actually a crime to take artifacts from shell mounds, but most people would never even give this one a second glance.

White pieces of ancient shells line the path down to the beach.
We found the empty shell of a chiton. 
Chitons are mollusks that feed on algae. They don't really have anything
we'd recognize as a head.
Barnacles, mussel and whelk.
One of the sea caves.
Gooseneck barnacles.  Barnacles are crustaceans. 
Giant green anemone.
Under the sand is a tiny snail.  Maybe the reason it's crawling in circles is that it can't see where it's going?
Ochre sea stars. 
Anemones.
Dead mole crabs.
Pink-tipped anemones.
Ochre sea star and gooseneck barnacles.
Smooth bay shrimp.
Smooth bay shrimp.  You can see how perfectly they blend in with sand. They like to bury themselves in order to hide.
Sculpins.
The biggest sea cave.
Marine isopods.