Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gilson Creek Adventure

I know I need to get back to my third and final report on last Sunday's trip to Bucks Lake, but yesterday's hike to Gilson Creek was too good to wait. We were blessed by just enough cloud cover to keep us cool and to provide good lighting for photos. I had written yesterday morning that the Pennyroyal was blooming and how that always excites me about the impending arrival of the Red-shouldered Ctenucha moths. Then, a couple of hours later, where Gilson Creek crosses the trail, I saw my first one of the season. Too skittish and fast to photograph, but within a few more days to a week, they'll be abundant and so preoccupied with mating that I'll be able to get closer for photos. At least that was the case last year.
Now, as for what I was able to photograph, perhaps I got most excited about finding a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar. I had been pointing out our five species of milkweeds and explained that the Showy Milkweed often hosts the Monarchs. But I found the caterpillar on a Narrow-leafed Milkweed. This species hasn't bloomed yet, but the buds are already attracting a nice variety of attractive bugs. Besides the Monarch, we saw several Small Milkweed Bugs (that's its actual name) as shown in the fourth photo from the top.
We also passed by a patch of Yarrow that I inspect every time and, sure enough, there was a Goldenrod Crab Spider consuming some sort of tiny fly or wasp. In the same patch of Yarrow, we saw lots of Checkered Clerid Beetles.
Also along the path toward Gilson Creek we saw several patches of Scarlet Gilia and Snowy Thistle. These bright red beacons stood out against an otherwise dry landscape. Then, as we approached the creek, there were large gatherings of Lorquin's Admiral butterflies on the wet sand. There were also lots of Western Swallowtails fluttering around, but not landing. Among the lush, green vegetation of mostly White Alder, Cascara Buckthorn, and Umbrella Plant, were some great patches of Leopard Lily and Sierra Stickseed. This little oasis is a treat as the creek flows all summer while the surrounding forest gets very dry and brown. The Gilson Creek crossing is on the public road about a mile past Oakland Camp. The only thing that detracted from the beauty of this place was a pile of old mattresses that were lined up in a way to provide some sort of launching pad into Spanish Creek. It was a disgusting scene, reflecting badly on our community. Oakland Camp visitors actually pick up quite a bit of trash along the nearby trails.

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